Monkey See, Monkey Do

Parents often come to me asking how to get their kids to listen to them.  I tell them to listen to their kids first to set a good example.

So often parents go into the lecturing role and get stuck there.  Then they can’t figure out why their kids are ignoring them and lecturing back. “Because that’s the example you set for them to follow!”

My 21 year son is very loud, outgoing and talks to people everywhere he goes.  I was talking to my daughter about this one day saying I don’t know where he gets that from.  She looked at me in disbelief and suggested I look in a mirror.  Huh … how could I have missed that?!

‘Defiant disorder’ or just stubborn?

Q: I am having a really hard time with my six-year-old who is easily frustrated when trying to learn new things. She starts out whining, which turns into a tantrum. Then I tell her she needs to go to her room to cool down and come back when she’s more relaxed. Usually doesn’t go over well because in order for me to get my point across I have to raise my voice over her tantrum. She is very strong-willed and I admit I don’t always know how to deal with that. I have even had my mother suggest that she has Defiant Disorder! Is this possible? I am worried that I am doing something terribly wrong with her or something not right. I sometimes feel like I am the only mom that feels this way.

A: No, you’re certainly not alone. All us moms second-guess ourselves at times. That’s just part of the motherhood package.

Funny that your mom suggested your daughter may have ‘Defiant Disorder.’ If it’s an actual condition, I’ve never heard of it. What I have heard of is lots of children with stubborn, impatient streaks who are quick to temper. I just call them Firecracker Kids. Those kids often turn into the dynamic leaders of tomorrow but sure provide a challenge for their parents while growing up.

So, what do you do about your little firecracker? You stop jumping off the cliff with her by no longer raising your voice over her tantrum. Instead, just quietly say, “Time for a break” and get up and walk away. That’s how you get your point across without raising your voice. Your daughter doesn’t even need to hear you, she can see you get up and leave and is old enough to figure out it’s because of her tantrum. Don’t give a tantrum any attention whatsoever as that’s just feeding it.

Go back and try the lesson again when things are calm, but not before. Kids only do what works and if having a tantrum only leads to being ignored, your daughter will learn to find other ways of coping with her frustration, anger, etc. It will take time but she’ll eventually figure it out.

By the way, if you discover that Defiant Disorder is real and that there’s a pill for it, could you please let me know. I have a bunch of clients who would love to get their hands on it. In the meantime, I’m still in business.


(I believe this was one of my columns in The Province but their link drops out after about a month so here it is.)