Parenting a defiant child can be frustrating, stressful and difficult. The good news is that parenting a defiant child is not impossible. There are things a parent can do to successful deal with their defiant child and have a great parent child relationship at the same time. To help understand common mistakes parents make when disciplining their defiant child and what parents can do to successfully deal with their defiant child, I have interviewed psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a child and family psychologist with over twenty years of experience. I am also a father of three teenagers. I have made plenty of my own parenting mistakes and my drive to overcome them along with my private practice experiences led me to write 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child. Other books I have also written are Liking the Child You Love, 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child and Why Can’t You Read My Mind?”
What are common mistakes that parents make when disciplining their defiant child?
“Yelling and overreacting are the biggest mistakes. Yelling emotionally floods the child and influences him or her to become overtly defiant, shutdown, or become defiant in a passive aggressive way.”
“Parents of defiant children also unwittingly fan the flames of defiance in their children by having a punishment mindset (this usually leads to power struggles resulting from trying to win) versus a collaborative discipline mindset (this is about teaching in a connected way versus trying to win).”
What type of impact can these mistakes have on the parent child relationship?
“Parenting relationships take a big hit in regard to trust from the child to the parent. Trust goes out the window. Resentments build and children are more likely to lie as a means to avoid being punished.”
What are some tips you can give parents to help them successfully discipline their defiant child?
“Be calm, firm and non-controlling to bypass the child’s emotional reactivity. Lead with understanding. I can’t emphasize enough the value of understanding our children. I mean think about it. How many adults reflect on their past childhoods and actually complain that their own parents were too understanding? The day an adult complains to me that they were too understood as a child will be the day I quit my job! Speak calmly and don’t yell. Be aware of your own toxic thoughts (e.g., “this child is sucking me/our family dry.”). Reinforce to your child the positive exceptions to their defiant behavior. Help catch them doing things right versus wrong.”
What type of professional help is available for parents who are having a difficult time disciplining their defiant child?
“Seeing a licensed mental health professional with experience working with defiant children and their families can be of immense benefit. It is important that the therapist works with both the child (to teach coping skills) and the parents (to educate them about the emotional immaturity and limitations of defiant children).”
Thank you Dr. Bernstein for doing the interview on disciplining a defiant child. For more information about Dr. Bernstein or his book called, “10 Days to a Less Defiant Child” check out his website at www.drjeffonline.com.
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