Got A Bratty, Defiant Kid? 4 Ways To Teach Them Respect Without Crushing Their Spirit

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Does your child think he knows better than the adults, including you? How do you reason with defiant kids and get them to listen to you?

Parents who see their child's defiant social behavior are often baffled. Their child will get on their hind legs and speak back to authority figures.

The parent insists that this is not how the child was raised and that their siblings don’t behave in this manner.

Yet, in another email, their child’s teacher details another troubled interaction. He had, yet, another outburst from your child, who insisted that they know better and was unable to self-soothe or settle down.

Parent-teacher meetings are held, with and without the child, as well as numerous discussions at home. But, nothing changes.

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"I wasn’t talking out of turn. My teacher just doesn’t like me."

How do you parent a defiant kid, teaching them respect without crushing their spirit or their sense of independence? 

Try as you might, your child remains oblivious to their behavior. In their mind, they were just stating facts. When the teacher asked them to settle down, they felt that their opinion would be ignored.

Consider that your child’s perspective doesn’t take into account stepping into their teacher's shoes and understanding how the teacher feels.

It’s about perspective. Your child doesn’t have the capacity to understand how they come across.

Perspective into our own behavior and choices allows us to recognize social cues. Their intentions are good, but they don’t really know how to tune in and "walk in the other person’s shoes."

Your child has no reason or desire to be "bad" or uncaring. Their intentions are good, but they can struggle with interpreting social cues.

If you have defiant kids, here are 4 techniques for reasoning with them.

1. Ask open questions.

This coaching technique eliminates a lot of unnecessary friction.

Rather than telling your child, "You need to stop arguing with your teachers", ask, "How do you think your teacher feels when you speak out of turn? What impression did you mean to make? What made what you had to say so important? How can you say this without seeming to argue?"

This allows your child to consider others’ thoughts and how their behavior can negatively or positively affect others.

Open-ended questions use the words who, what, when, where, how, and why. It can be beneficial to have your child look at your face and interpret what you're currently feeling.

No matter what the answer is, even if it’s a shrug and an "I don’t know," continue to ask your child, "What was the appropriate behavior?"

This helps the child think about what the unspoken social rules were and what they are expected to do in the future.

On an ongoing basis — like in a moving car — and on the spot when the child is rude or dismissive, ask them open-ended questions that allow them to reflect on their actions and how they might make other people feel.

2. Be a social observer.

To help your child stop arguing and build awareness, introduce the concept of the social spy.

Social spies observe people in different settings and then record their observations about social cues including, vocal volume, tone, eye contact, physical presence, interrupting, arguing, etc.

Here's how it works: Go to a public place, hotel lobby, book store, mall. Watch and notice the social cues and identify what unspoken rules the environment dictates.

Discuss both of your observations and create an image of positive social behavior to navigate towards.

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3. Play Polite Pretend.

Your child may dislike being "bored" and may act out in the classroom, leading to outbursts or just checking out altogether. Some will provoke and argue with the teacher to be funny or get a reaction from friends.

Rather than lecturing your child, ask them what happened in the specific situation. Start by saying, "I’ve noticed that you sometimes struggle to stop arguing with your teacher and I understand you don’t mean to be disrespectful."

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Remain neutral and calmly discuss why pretending to be polite is necessary. Talk to them about things that do not interest him and this dilemma of being polite.

Rather than just telling them, work together to discuss the benefits of being polite and figure out polite ways to react when a conversation feels boring or when they're too tired to participate in the conversation.

Be sure to also work on tone to avoid sounding dismissive and argumentative.

4. Teach them how to read the room.

In each environment, there are expectations and unspoken rules. To present the best face to the world, you have to decipher those expectations by reading the room.

Before entering a room or gathering, help your child pause, observe and tune into the participants, energy, and discussion before jumping in.

You can even build your child's social skills at home!

Children who can’t stop arguing and, therefore, tend to dominate conversations, can learn to be able to interpret and consider the feelings of others.

It’s a journey, and consistency is the key. Parents should find comfort in knowing that all children benefit from patient and nurturing parents.

Open-ended questions are well suited to parents who wish to help their children turn social struggles into positive outcomes.

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Caroline Maguire, ACCG, PCC, M.Ed. is a personal coach who works with children with ADHD and the families who support them. For more information, visit her website.

This article was originally published at carolinemaguireauthor.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.