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Dealing with Stubborn Children
Some children are more stubborn than others. All children display stubborn behaviour at some time or the other. The instinctive reaction of any parent is to react with anger, as they feel that their child's behaviour is a challenge to their authority. However, they do not realize that anger only adds fuel to the fire.

Stubbornness in children has been viewed as a negative trait, but may be one should look upon it more positively. A child's stubbornness may be his way of demonstrating that he can think for himself and he can assert his thoughts and beliefs.

If the issue is not serious, there is no harm in negotiating with your child and arriving at a compromise, at times, it is even surprisingly effective to let go. However, if the battle is on an issue of values or safety, there should be no compromise on the parent's part.

Tips for Parents on Handling Rebellious Children :


Avoid over reacting : A child who wants to provoke a reaction will endure almost any unpleasantness, just to get a rise out of his parents. Instead of shouting at him, explain your point of view, calmly to your child.


Teach your child polite responses : As soon as your child can communicate verbally, he can learn to say "Please" and "Thank you". Explain that you would rather help him when he is polite to you, than when he orders you around. Say "Please" and "Thank you" regularly to your child, so that he will learn it as a part of normal communication.


Demonstrate respectful behaviour : Give your child respect. Our upbringing makes us equate respect with fear.


Set limits : One of the best ways to demonstrate respect, is to be both kind and firm in your discipline. Being kind shows respect for your child and being firm shows respect for what needs to be done.


Cool off and talk later : Sometimes the best way to handle disrespectful behaviour is to discuss it with your child. Talk to your child after both of you have had a chance to cool off.


Praise respectful behaviour : Reinforce your child's impromptu displays of politeness as much as possible. The praise should describe the behaviour in detail, for e.g. "Thank you for knocking at the door before you came in". Be explicit and your child will learn quickly that his efforts are worthwhile and are being appreciated.

Case Study

Past History :
Sunny, a 10 year old boy of standard 5 came to the counsellor for help. He was referred by his parents as an emergency case.

Their daily complaints were that, he is always fighting with his younger brother at the dining table and that he loves to pull his hair. In school, he is always picked on by his teachers and sent outside the class as a punishment. He throws rubbish from the window. He loves to ring the doorbell of his neighbour and when very angry, will bang the telephone on the ground or even spank his younger brother. His parents were greatly embarrassed by this kind of behaviour, when he revolted badly and spoke in an abusive way in front of others.

On questioning, it was found that Sunny was not able to control the intensity of malevolence, he felt. He was also unable to control his hostile impulses. He felt very competitive with his peer group in class and lacked self-esteem. He was suffering from a low inferiority complex and always felt "used" and felt that he was taken for granted. Whenever he needed help from his parents in his homework, he always felt shunned by them and his brother got the extra attention showered by them.

Treatment :
Group catharsis by play-acting was used a lot in Sunny's case. The boys produced and acted their own plays and group discussions were held afterwards with the counsellor. Individual interviews were conducted to understand each actor.

The subject's chosen were illustrative of the boys who were mainly aggressive at home, at school and in peer groups. There was a release of feelings and inhibitions, which were more freely expressed in the presence of others, and a realization was produced that other children have similar feelings. Sibling rivalry was also dealt with.

Sunny was a growing child with maturation levels, which needed to be understood and dealt with as they arose. An effort was made to bring him to where he was capable of arriving at a new level of social adaptation. Counselling with the teacher and parents, made them more aware of Sunny's growing phase. The mother was instructed to be responsive to Sunny's co-operative behaviour but to ignore his commanding behaviour completely. It was shown to Sunny that his behaviour was more self-defeating and this only made him more unpopular.

He was shown respect for all his good behaviour and acknowledged for all his right actions. In this way, his confidence was strengthened and his weaknesses were reduced. Sunny was not able to relate in a non-aggressive manner. He needed someone with patient hearing. Love, praise and encouragement helped Sunny more and more. Positive growth was seen in an ascending order.


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