If you have a child who is defiant you usually know it. Your child’s defiance may be that thing which keeps you up at night wondering, “Why doesn’t my child listen?” or “Why is everything such a struggle with him (or her)?” Other people may tell you about your child’s defiant behavior including family, school teachers, other parents, and even strangers in the supermarket. It can be emotionally and physically draining to deal with your child’s defiant behavior. You may feel like that is all you do all day is struggle with behaviors. What behaviors are we talking about? Every child is different so you are going to see a great variety of defiant behaviors with individual children. Yet there are some common elements to defiance that we can pinpoint.
Defiant behavior can be seen on a spectrum of severity. If the behaviors are extreme and consistent over time some children will be diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder .
The symptoms of this disorder include:
• Problem with adults and other authority figures
• Often has hard time either making friends or sustaining friendships
• Anger problems, loses temper easily
• Consistently blames others for their own mistakes
• Annoyed easily
• Can be vindictive
• Frequently in trouble at school
Your child’s defiant behavior does not need to be extreme for you to do something about it, however. It is good to nip behaviors in the bud before they get to the stage where they are much harder to manage.
Here are some things you can do:
1. Get help and support. If you are the parent of a child who is frequently defiant or disobedient, it can seem that it is you against the world. It doesn’t have to feel this way. Ask for help from the child’s school, other family members, or even mental health professionals. One way to find a therapist or counselor for your child is to ask your child’s pediatrician for a referral. Also the CHADD Professional Directory is a good place to start to find medical and/or mental health professionals to help your child. The National Resource Center on ADHD (a CHADD program) also lists resources for finding professionals to assist you in dealing with your ADHD child’s behaviors. Why try to do this alone when there is help?
2. Take a look at your child’s life stressors . Most behaviors do not occur in a vacuum. Are there any life circumstances or stressors which may be contributing to your child’s behaviors? Is there conflict in the family? Any marital problems between you and your spouse? Has there been a separation or divorce? Have you moved recently or changed your child’s school? Has there been illness or a death in the family? Is your child being bullied at school? There are so many life events which can create stress for your child, and for some kids they will react by acting out and being defiant as this is a way to gain some control. If there are extenuating circumstances such as these it may be a good idea to have your child receive some mental health counseling.