Child and adolescent, Family Therapy

The Long and Short of Dealing with Defiant Children

The Long and Short of Dealing with Defiance in Children.

This post is written for parents as I accepted the Therapist Blog Challenge by Julie Hanks, LCSW

I often hear from parents statement like  “he just won’t listen”,  “he refuses to do homework”, or  “He just throws fits, what am I supposed to do”.  The best chance you have is to introduce as much structure and consistency as possible. This is going to take work and a lot of it. How you change as a parent has both long and short term implications for you and your child.

The short term plan is develop an age appropriate behavioral plan.  Younger children use things such as a sticker chart or for toddlers immediate rewards for the desired behavior. Older children a check box or point system may be more effective. I stress short term as this is sometimes is the easy part. This was game board we used for our 5 year old for catching him being good…


For each time he got caught being good we moved him up a space. The most difficult part, but the part that makes a plan most successful, is making it long term. A lot of the time, and I am guilty of this myself, behavioral plans  are abandoned.   You just don’t have the stamina to keep up or you feel not working after several weeks. The worst thing you can do is give up. This will cost you in the long term. Attempt to make modifications but don’t give up.

I highly recommend that your short term behavioral plan become a long time routine. It is normal for a defiant child to test and to challenge the plan. However if you give up on the plan the power you are trying to take back is lost as well. By keeping a plan short term, you have not taught your child anything.

When thinking about changing your child’s behavior it will be work. Professionals will be there to coach you, but it will be long term work on you part. When thinking about behavioral plans, don’t give up and make them short term.  The hard, long term work should pay off. I would encourage you to discuss this with your child’s therapist and feel free to comment below.

Sean Erreger, LCSW

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