More often than not these days, I amfaced with the oddest resistance from my seven year old. From not wanting to doher homework at the time I suggest or refusing to eat her rice with peas in itor wanting an ice-cream just when she wants it, the situations can range from thesimple to the most complex. When she decides to dig her heels in, it feels likenothing can make her budge! At these times I often catch myself wondering – isit me and my style of parenting or is it something universal that each one ofus as parents are facing? So I decided to explore this a little further.I’m sure, each one of you reading this blog will find some solace in thesewords.
What I am facing is a classic caseof a stubborn child. Experts suggest that stubbornness is a common trait amongchildren. All children display stubborn behavior at some time or another,degree of stubborn behavior can vary. While stubbornness is defined as thetrait of being difficult to handle or a resolute adherence to one’s own ideasor desires, it does not necessarily need to be looked at as a negative. Thefirst step to dealing with stubborn behavior as parents is perhaps a betterunderstanding of it.
A child’s stubbornness could behis/her way of asserting independence of thinking, which in turn boosts mayhis/her self-esteem. It could be an irrational fear to change or just plain andsimple rebellion. Whatever be the case, it is important to first understand thenature and degree of the stubborn behavior and tailor one’s reactionaccordingly. These tried and tested tips can be helpful –
- Seek the solution jointly. If you make your child an accomplice in seeking a solution, you will cease to be seen as a figure of authority and your child may feel that you are both on the same side.
- Remain calm. Dealing with an angry child with anger can only escalate the situation. It is important to be the authoritative voice in such a situation and not loose control by letting your anger get the better of you.
- Be fair. In case you are dealing with more than one child, it is important to be fair and not play favorites. While you may need to deal differently with each child, the punishment for bad behavior should be the same.
- Pick the right battles. It is important to deal with stubbornness depending on the gravity of the situation. If the battle/issue is one of values or safety for example, you could decide to not budge from your stand and make clear the consequences of disobedience. If the issue is a trivial one on the other hand, it may be better to let go.
- Be kind, yet firm. Just as you would reward your child for good behavior, it is equally important to be firm when your child is misbehaving. Bending the rules may only send mixed signals to your child, it is therefore important to be consistent. Similarly, when you do ask your child to do something, be assertive by making clear the consequences of non-compliance.
- Avoid conflict. If you want your child to do something, try to time your request so that it does not interrupt your child in the middle of something he/she may already be doing. In such a case it would naturally be difficult to attract your child’s attention and to get him/her to agree with what you want done.
Like every other issue that you arefaced with as parents, dealing with stubborn behavior is a balancing actbetween trying to teach your children to think for themselves while at the sametime helping them to not trip over their own willfulness! If you would like toshare your own balancing act story, we would love to hear from you. Maybe yourexperience helps another hapless parent in a similar situation!