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How to Curb Disobedient Behavior With Your Child


If counting to three evokes nothing but giggles by the time you reach two and a half and a stern no gets you nowhere, you might start feeling pretty frustrated as a mom. Disobedience is an unavoidable part of parenting - no child is born with five-star listening skills and the ability to tell right from wrong. However, by the time your little ones reach ages 4 to 6, you might start feeling greater pressure to curb defiant behaviors. Here are some tips to keep the peace with your kids:

"Respect is a two-way street."

Keep your cool

As tempting as it is to return your son or daughter's screams of defiance with yells of anger, you'd be better off composing yourself instead of letting loose. True, this task is easier said than done, but the extra effort to bite your tongue may prove well worthwhile in the long run.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, respect is a two-way street. If your first instinct to an act of disobedience is to shout, your child may respond with the same reaction. Similarly, how you treat other family members, like your spouse or other kids, can also influence how your little one behaves. Albeit, this process takes time - being calm once won't make your child a totally obedient angel. However, if you are consistent in your tranquility, your son or daughter should pick up that same habit.

Praise positive behavior

Never miss an opportunity to tell your son or daughter that he or she is doing a great job. Dr. Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale University Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, follows the principle that attention to good behavior increases its occurrence.

Speaking with ABC News, he advised that parents dealing with an especially defiant child make an extra effort to give praise when praise is due. Moms and dads should recognize even the smallest acts of politeness or obedience. Being specific and immediate in your response is also an integral factor for this strategy to work.

For example, if your little one is playing nice with a friend or sibling, saying something like, "Good job at playing so nicely with your sister." When your daughter puts her toys away, you might mention how proud you are of her putting her toys away while smiling. Remember, these positive interactions are made more effective with consistency, specificity and enthusiasm.

Similarly, you don't want to put attention on bad behavior. That is, only make a request once, as repeating instructions can actually make the situation worse, according to Kazdin. Additionally, when your child throws a tantrum, literally ignore the situation by walking away or continuing with whatever activity you were doing before it was interrupted. This will show your little one that negative and disobedient behaviors get them nowhere.

Mom cooking with daughter.Immediately reward positive behavior in kids. 

Give some wiggle room

The idea of granting a 4 or 5-year-old independence may seem unorthodox - they are still children that need your guidance, after all. However, there are certain rules that can infringe on their personal identity development that they may be more prone to break. As a result, being more lax on certain expectations can avoid some of those defiance behaviors.

Researchers, whose findings were published in the journal Child Development, tested different role-playing scenarios on children between the ages of 4 and 7. The study authors presented situations in which a parent made a rule for a child character based on morals, such as don't hit or steal. The adolescent participants predicted that the characters would obey these rules and feel good about it - a much more positive response than their younger counterparts.

Meanwhile, they noted the child characters would not follow the rules in stories where the mom or dad set limitations on the child's personal domain. That is, the parents said the child could not wear a favorite outfit or was forbidden to hang out with certain friends.

These results indicate that kids in this age group understand the difference between moral and personal decisions. To avoid conflict in the home, you may benefit from granting your little one the freedom to make choices about who they play with or what they wear. You'd probably rather have your daughter wear a tutu to school than steal another student's lunch money, right? Of course, it's all a delicate balance of knowing where to draw the line, but in general, rules regarding personal identity evoke more conflict than ones based on being a good person.

Trying to combat disobedience in children is difficult and frustrating. Unfortunately, natural reactions to these situations - like anger or yelling - are counterproductive. While the process to promote positivity at home will bring its challenges, focusing on good behavior and ignoring defiance can work. Just be consistent and patient - and always schedule a girls' night to vent with fellow moms!

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