When children transition from an age where fantasy and reality are often confused to a more concrete world where rules and ideas become permanent, challenging behaviors such as disobeying are often observed by parents. All children misbehave for a variety of reasons, sometimes simply to test how far they can go or to get the attention they crave. Believe it or not, disobeying can be seen as a healthy indication of children seeking independence. Unfortunately some parents either blame and doubt themselves for being incompetent in parenting or as a deliberate manipulation by children.
Why does it occur?
Not complying or disobeying is mostly common and a part of the normal developmental of children. They are testing and learning their new world where rules are expected to be followed. However, occasional disobedience results in long battles and power struggles that may teach children to continue to resist most adult requests and commands. Some children persist in disobeying only because they live in an environment with not enough rules, too many rules and harsh discipline or parents usually fail to follow through with saying no to them.
What to do?
- Reinforce positive behavior by praising compliance. Often children get attention from adults only when they misbehave. This can result in learning negative attention seeking. Express pleasure and approval when they comply.
- Set up reinforcement programs. Involve your children with making a program that can reinforce positive behavior. You can use incentives in the program to support them with being more compliant. Make it fun and exciting.
- Choose your battle and reduce your commands to those that are most important. Parents need to decide in advance which commands are really necessary. Too many commands results in frustration and disobedience in children.
- Give clear, specific and positive commands. Make sure you know what positive behavior you are expecting and be clear and specific with what you are asking them. Short and to the point.
- Be respectful. Avoid giving vague, negative and critical commands such as: “ shut up”, “stop eating like a pig”. Make sure your commands and expectations are realistic and age appropriate for the age of your children. Avoid nagging.
- Give them time. Some parents expect immediate obedience. It is difficult for children to disengage abruptly from an interesting activity. Give them reminders and warnings then a time frame for them to comply.
- Follow through. When you decide to give a command, be sure you are prepared to follow through until children comply. Set consequences in advance so they know what to expect.
- Avoid Manipulation. Don't motivate your kids to comply by telling them how their behaviors are emotionally impacting you. It makes them think that it's their job to manage your emotions and it's not!
- At last, modeling compliance between the parents and other adults in front of the children is the key. Expect testing and be patient. Ignore minor protests and focus on the important ones to avoid power struggles and arguments.
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