I work with three year olds during the day…three year olds who come from a variety of backgrounds—defiance is one of the issues I face regularly. How would you handle a child who defies you?
Just this morning in the gym, I said, “All right friends, let’s all sit against the wall so that the balls don’t hit you.” Up popped one of my little active ones, and back and forth she ran across the room. “XR, let’s sit down now, please.” She just stood there and looked at me. “XR, sit down, please.” She put her hands behind her back and shook her head. I knelt at her level in front of her and asked one more time, “XR, I’m waiting for you. Can you sit down please?” She shook her head again.
What would you do?
When your child defies you, refuses to comply or actually says no, here are a few things to remember:
1. See it from the child’s viewpoint. Tell him you understand that it’s fun to run around, but that he needs to sit down or he might get hurt. Tell him about consquences that he can understand. Setting a bad example may be above the understanding of a toddler or nursery child, but getting hurt is a consequence he understands. Think from his viewpoint.
2. Set reasonable limits and hold the child to them consistently. If the gym room rule is “Sit down during lesson,” at no time should you allow a child to be running around unengaged during your lesson time. It is normally sufficient to tell them, “Remember the rule in the gym? We always sit during lesson. We will run around after the lesson, but not now.” Be gentle, but firm.
3. Empower the child. Don’t just tell him what he cannot do. Tell him what to do to replace the unacceptable behaviour. Instead of “don’t run/no running,” tell them, “please walk.” Instead of, “don’t throw the ball,” “please hold the ball with both hands until you reach your seat.” It is empowering for children to know how to behave acceptably–and when they know what is expected, they tend to behave better.
4. Choose your battles wisely. Some things are not worth making a big fuss over. If your child chooses to eat the cucumber before he finishes the rest of the sandwich, it’s not the end of the world… and it might not be worth making a scene about. Save the intervention for things that matter—where morals, health and safety are concerned. Other than that, give the child some leeway for individual choice.
Remember that discipline is not about controlling children; it’s about teaching them to control their own behaviour.
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