Dealing With Defiance
Make a deal
When power struggles with my daughter Annie started when she was around 3, I decided to cut a deal. I agreed to keep the hall light on so she could sit in bed and look at a book as long as she promised to stay there and "rest." She won a little, and I won a little. And she'd fall asleep within 20 minutes every time.
Another name for deal-making? Bribery. It's frowned upon by some, and you'd be wise to use it sparingly and only for annoying (but predictable) behavior, rather than out-and-out misbehavior. But it can stop a brewing storm in its tracks. Georgia McNamara of San Francisco recently had trouble getting her 5-year-old son to listen to her and get ready to leave a store. Tensions were starting to mount when she suddenly remembered she had something in her pocket that was bound to interest him. "I flashed him the M&M's in my pocket, and he was holding my hand and heading out the door in a flash," she says.
Unfortunately, as every parent knows, hunger and exhaustion (or, worse, both) can render your child immune to any discipline technique you have. What do you do then?
Sometimes, not a thing. Jennifer Greenberg of Portland, Oregon, was stuck in traffic with her newborn and preschooler when 3 ½-year-old Solomon demanded a lollipop to top off his snow cone. He hadn't slept well the night before and it was a sweltering 100-degree day, so when Mom said no way, it sent him over the edge. She considered every one of the above-mentioned discipline tricks, then realized the best she could do was stay calm and get everyone home safely. "It wasn't like I could pull over in traffic and give him a time-out."
Finally home, she carried her thrashing, shrieking child into the house under her arm and plopped him in the time-out chair. When she returned to him a few moments later, her little monster had fallen sound asleep where he sat, slumped in the chair. Sometimes, it seems, kids deal with their defiance all by themselves.