Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ah defiance...

I've dealt with  my fair share of kid shenanigans.  I've swum in, treaded water in, and floundered in some fairly tricky parenting waters.  I feel like I've earned a few parenting badges (and lost a few other parenting badges) along the way thus far.  Some things I've dealt with more gracefully than others, let's be clear, but I always seem to at least have an inkling of what direction needs to be taken in most situations.

But the outright defiance, that has me flummoxed.

Lately, we've embarked upon the "No.  I won't do that."  And because my children (yes, both of them, god help me) have a particular flair for the dramatic, Boy-o's actual refusals sound something more like: "NO!  I will not never, ever, not ever do that!"  Sometimes, it's just kind of funny.  Like "No, I will not ever, never, not ever drink that water!"  (Heard in my home just yesterday.  Lasted exactly until he got thirsty).  In these situations,  one can easily say: "Alrighty then," and move along.  You don't like water?  Don't get thirsty, then. 

But sometimes, the defiance is a little more complex.  Keeping in mind that I actually want to be sensitive to his need to assert himself (within reason) and making him do things by force 1) is trickier than one would think when one's 3 year old is extremely tall and over 40 lbs, and 2) isn't really my cuppa tea.   So what then?  You have a stand-off.  Do you wheedle? (Sometimes).  Bargain? (Sometimes).   Ignore? (Very difficult to do with my child).  How do you ignore "No, I will not ever take a bath"  or "No, I will never go to bed" or the like.   These are things that of course have natural consequences.  But unfortunately the consequences of an overtired, stinky, dirty child are more difficult for me than him.  So that tack doesn't really work. 

And how, pray tell, do you resist the omnipresent urge to say "Oh yes you will, you little pipsqueak or so help me god I will squash you and your defiance like a little, tiny bug?"   Or, if like me, you are sometimes unable to resist this urge,  how do you go about said squashing when you know darn well hitting only teaches kids violence and mistrust, time-outs are useless when you have a child that won't actually stay where you put them, threatening doesn't work and mostly makes you look like a total jack-ass, and yelling makes the kid cry and you feel guilty?  Squashing, it seems, may just be an overrated instinct.  Doesn't seem like anyone in our house has benefitted from it, anyways. 

So I'm dedicating this weekend to hopping off the grid (see you in October, friends) and cracking a copy of Mary Sheedy Kurcinska's "Kids, Parents and Power Struggles: Winning for a Lifetime."  Some of you may recognize the name as the author of the very excellent "Raising Your Spirited Child," which was a breakthrough book in this household.  I shall report back with any exciting findings *please let there be exciting findings* next week.

Here's to hoping I get a few new tricks to share about squashing rebellion without squashing my kids... 


  1. I hear ya on this because 3 is a whole lot of defiance. I've heard the same words come out of Riley's mouth and she often says "I will go in my room and shut the door." yesterday I was not allowed to go to her birthday party (in February) but bedtime she invited me again. Oh, the drama.

    I'm reading "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk" and it's got great advice. I posted some on my blog (do you have access).

    For the bath, you could try saying, "Do you want your bath now or in 5 minutes?" or "What cool toy could we bring into the bath tonight? who can find a really fun thing to play with in the water?" or "Would you like to help me get the things we need for the bath?"

    Or tell him, "Everyone has baths so they can get clean. If we don't clean ourselves we can't ."

    The other option is to figure out why he doesn't want to go in the bath. "You don't like the bath? You want to keep playing and you don't want to stop and have a bath, right? Sometimes it's hard to stop what you're doing and get yourself clean. Maybe we can find something fun to do in the bath."

    Just know what works for your kid. I find just telling your kid that you understand and hear them really helps, whether they'll get their way or not.

  2. It took out what I said on this line:

    Or tell him, "Everyone has baths so they can get clean. If we don't clean ourselves we can't ...(put something in here that you know he'll want to do)."

  3. We're finding that 3 is a very difficult age too. So much defiance. Everything has to be their way. Erik also tells us he will NEVER do things. "Erik, time to brush your teeth." His response is "NEVER!" Ugh.

    I've been trying out some of the strategies that Stacey has been posting on her blog and I've found a couple that really work with my kid, especially trying to sympathize with how they feel, and offering choices right off the bat before you get in an argument. (Instead of saying, "Time to brush your teeth", say, "Do you want watermelon toothpaste or grape toothpaste?")

    We also offer choices when he won't do what we want, like, "I can see you don't want to get ready for bed. You can play for five more minutes but then we will only have time for one book instead of three. It's up to you."

  4. The No Cry Discipline Solution is a good reference... not specifically about power struggles. Aside from that, daytime gin always helps. :)