A Discipline Makeover for Curbing Violent, Defiant Behavior
Before: You pick up your child at a friend's house, and say, "It's time to leave. Would you please put the toy back on the shelf?" Your child continues to play with the toy. You repeat yourself, a little louder. He continues to play with the toy. You say, "I'm counting to three, and if that toy is not back on the shelf, you won't be able to play with Johnny again." Your child hugs the toy closer. You grab the toy and put it on the shelf, and your child starts to cry, kick, and yell.
You're embarrassed, and, to calm him down, you say, "OK, you can play with the toy for two minutes, and then we have to leave." You turn to Johnny's mother and make plans for next week's play date. In less than a minute, you have taught your child that if he throws a fit, he gets what he wants. By not following through on a consequence, you have undermined your authority.
After: You say, "It's time to leave. Please put the toy back on the shelf." You wait five seconds for him to comply, but your child doesn't move. You say, "If you don't put the toy back on the shelf, you will have to sit in time-out." You wait five more seconds. Nothing. You say, "Because you didn't do what I told you to do, you have to sit in time-out." Your child rushes to put the toy on the shelf. You take the toy from your child's hands, put it back on the floor, and repeat what you said: "Because you didn't do what I told you, you have to sit in time-out." Then you bring your child to a time-out area, and say, "Stay there until I tell you to get up."
Three minutes later, you ask your child, "Are you ready to put the toy on the shelf?" If your child says yes and does it, the time-out ends. If not, the time-out continues until he is ready to do it. When he finally does it, you say, "Fine" or "OK," but do not praise him. Immediately after this encounter, give a command that is easy to follow, something like, "OK, now please get your coat." If your child does it without being asked again—as most children will at this point—say, "Thank you for listening the first time. I'm very proud of you." Then give him positive attention, so that he can see your relationship has not been damaged.
The time-out must end with the same command by which it started, so your child knows he has to do what you want eventually.
Resources for Parents of Violent, Defiant Children
What Is Oppositional Defiant Disorder?
Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADD/ADHD in Children
ADD/ADHD and ODD: Parenting Your Defiant Child
No More Childish ADD/ADHD Outbursts!
7 Quick Fixes for ADD/ADHD Meltdowns
Help for Kids Who Hit
Anger Management for ADD/ADHD Children
This article appears in the Spring issue of ADDitude.
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