How to Win Over Stubborn Children
Read our tips for dealing with stubborn behavior (Hint: All it takes is a little reverse psychology to get an obstinate kid to see things your way.) Plus, get more discipline tips.
Bath- & Bedtime Battles
The power struggle: Your child knows that getting out of the bathtub means bedtime is close, so no way is she leaving the water willingly! As for bedtime, she fights it every pajama-clad step of the way. It's becoming a nightly sparring period for your family.
Tune in. Steal a method that stores and movie producers employ all the time—using music to influence people's moods. Calming tunes subliminally puts Kellie Pease's three children into bedtime mode without her ever saying a word. Each child has a favorite disc that the Derby, CT, mom pops into a CD player during bath- and storytime to help them wind down. This works especially well with strong-willed kids, who may have a hard time relaxing enough on their own to be ready to go to sleep.
Play the “yes” game. Try this clever strategy from Stiffelman: Ask your child questions that will prompt her to answer “yes” at least three times in a row, such as “Wow, you're having a great time playing with those bath toys, aren't you?” (Yep!) “What about bringing your swimming goggles into the bath with you next time? Would that be fun?” (Hey, yeah, that's a good idea!) “Does that dinosaur float? Can you show me?” (Sure I can! Just watch this!) The “three yeses” help break down your child's resistance, and she also feels like she's been heard and understood.
Offer options. Gently guide her toward the next step with two choices, such as “Do you want to dry yourself off with the towel or should I help you?” Don't announce that bathtime is over; simply start the process. Move seamlessly through the getting-ready-for-bed routine, offering two options at a time along the way, such as “Which book should we read before bed—X or Y?” If your child balks at the choices—“Neither! I'm not going to bed!”—respond calmly, “That wasn't one of the choices. Did you want this book or that one?” Repeat calmly as needed. Stiffelman says stubborn kids hate hearing parents sound like broken records, and they usually give in. If they don't, simply say “Okay, I guess you've chosen not to have a book tonight. Good night, sweetie! We'll try again tomorrow night!” Lights-out. And don't give in, even if your kid puts up a fuss. Sticking to your word practically guarantees you won't have a repeat episode tomorrow night.
Establish a connection. Before actually moving your kids toward the bedroom, use a technique psychotherapist Susan Stiffelman, of Malibu, CA, calls “Connect Before You Direct.” Take a few minutes to sit beside your child and show interest in the game he's playing or TV show he's watching. Ask a few well-placed questions or say something supportive like “I can see why you like this show—it's really funny!” When kids feel connected to you, they're much more likely to do what you ask next, says Stiffelman, the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm, and Connected.
Negotiate a new bedtime. Bigger kids' sleep habits are starting to change as they head toward tweendom. If you prefer your child be in bed with the lights out at 8:30 p.m., but he swears he's not tired until 9 p.m., strike a deal that he must be in his room and quiet—not coming out repeatedly to bug you—at 8:30. Then he can stay up and read or play quietly, and you'll trust him to put himself into bed when 9 p.m. rolls around. Strong-willed kids see this kind of deal as a “win” on their part because it gives them an added measure of independence. But be clear that if your child breaks the deal—by being loud, coming out of his room, or ignoring the new curfew—you'll go back to the earlier lights-out time.