Dealing With Defiance
This is the gold standard of defiance busting. When the going gets out of control, simply swoop in and physically leave the store, take her out of the sandbox, end the playdate, and head home. In order for this to work, there must be no hesitation on your part. "Don't do any cajoling, begging, or convincing," says Valerie Hedrick, a Concord, California, mom of three. "Pick her up and leave. Your child's banking on her outrageous behavior to score some points in the form of an emotional reaction from you. If there isn't one, then she gets no payoff." Just say in very clear language why you're taking action ("You didn't stop throwing sand when I told you to, so now I'm taking you out of the sandbox.") This is bottom-line, no-nonsense discipline, and it makes the most sense when used with obviously egregious behaviors.
"Of course your child won't take you seriously if you just threaten and don't follow through," says Linda McGivern, a mom of three, in Rollinsford, New Hampshire. Once, when Abby, her oldest daughter, was 4, she had a fit in a store because she couldn't have the toy she wanted. "I told her to stop and that we would leave if she didn't stop," she said. "She didn't quit her crying, so I put away the items I wanted to buy and left the store with her screaming under my arm. When we got home, she had a nice, age-appropriate time-out, and that behavior never happened again."
Keeping your cool is as important as consistency. "March out calmly, with an air of command," says Jennifer Ingle, a mom of two, in Conover, North Carolina. "This lets spectators know you have the situation in hand. It's much better than sputtering apologies." This attitude isn't lost on the child, who's also noting that you're the one in control. Removing her from any "audience" may quell further defiance as well.
When the misbehavior isn't so site-specific, or when you can't just leave, or you're at home, you've got to find a threat that matters to your child. And as his or her mom, you're uniquely qualified to find her Achilles' heel. After all, one child's time-out is another child's excuse to daydream. When Ingle's 5-year-old daughter, Sarah, hit her, part of her punishment was to help write, then sign, an odious list of punishments, to be used for only the most outrageous behavior, such as hitting or lying. It included first a spanking, then no TV for the day (forcing Sarah to miss Animal Planet!), and finally, horribly, she'd have to call her dad at work and tell him how she'd been misbehaving. "She's never gone past number two," says her mom.
Removal of a privilege also fits in this category. When Dawn Blanchfield's son Kyle won't put his shoes on for school in the morning, he loses his video-game privileges that afternoon. "He ties his shoes real fast so he can redeem himself," laughs the Sacramento, California, mom.
Consequences that are directly tied to the misbehavior in question are the best. When her two boys won't get into bed, Cathy O'Brien of Durham, New Hampshire, doesn't move bedtime. She calmly tells them, "The longer you delay, the fewer stories I have time to read to you." This usually works, she says.