10 Ways to Deal with a Child's Defiance and Non-Compliance

How to Get Your Child to Follow Directions the First Time You Speak

Non-compliance is a common behavior problem among children.
Image Source/Image Source/Getty Images

At one point or another, almost every child has likely looked at his parents and said, "No!" when he's been told to do something. As frustrating as that can be to hear, non-compliance can be party of a healthy child's development.

When your child tests limits or asserts himself, he's trying to be more independent. And while budding independence is healthy, an ongoing pattern of defiance isn't. 

Whether your child says, "You can't make me!” when you tell him to pick up his toys, or he simply pretends he can't hear you when you tell him it's time to come inside, take action that will motivate him to start listening better.

1. Give Daily Doses of Positive Attention

Non-compliance can be a great way for kids to get lots of attention. And even though it's negative attention, some kids crave it anyway.

Ward off attention-seeking behavior by giving your child daily doses of positive attention. Play a game together, spend time talking, or go for a walk. Just a few minutes of positive attention can go a long way to reducing defiance.

2. Praise Compliant Behavior

While it can be hard to notice good behavior when your child is constantly refusing to listen, it's important to find a good behavior to praise. You may even have to give your child some simple requests for the sole purpose of praising her compliance

At the dinner table, you might say, “Please hand me the pepper." Then, as soon as you complies say, "Thank you for handing that might right when I asked you to." This will begin sending the message that you appreciate compliance.

3. Give Effective Instructions

Make sure the defiant behavior you’re witnessing is actually defiance. If your child didn't hear you or he's too distracted playing his video game that he isn't listening, you may need to change how you give directions.

Establish eye contact or put a hand on your child's shoulder to get his attention before you speak. Turn off the background noise and make sure your child is paying attention so you he can absorb what you're telling him to do. 

4. Offer Choices

One of the best ways to combat defiant behavior is to offer two choices. Then, your child will feel like she has some control over the situation.

Avoid questions like, "Do you want to get dressed now?" because a defiant child will automatically say, "No!" Ask a questions like, “Do you want to wear your red shirt or the yellow shirt?” Just make sure you can live with either choice.

5. Use Grandma's Rule of Discipline

Grandma’s rule of discipline can be one of the best ways to encourage compliance. When used regularly, your child will see that she has some control over when she earns her privileges.

So instead of saying, "You can't play your video game because you haven't cleaned your room," try saying, "You can play your video game as soon as you're done cleaning your room." That slight change in your message can motivate your child to get to work.  

6. Create a Reward System

Create a reward system that gives your child an incentive to be compliant. Provide frequent positive reinforcement and consider creating a token economy system to keep your child on track.

For example, you might reward your child with a token each time he listens to your instructions without arguing. Then, allow him to exchange tokens for bigger rewards like, time with his electronics or an opportunity to go to the park. 

7. Establish a Behavior Contract

Behavior contracts remind children that they can earn more privileges once they show they can behave responsibly. Set up a behavior contract that will help your child show you when he’s ready for more privileges. For example, agree to allow him to stay up 15 minutes later after he can go to bed on time for one week without arguing.

8. Avoid Power Struggles

Avoid getting into a power struggle with a child who is non-compliant. It will only make the defiance worse. Instead, use a warning such as an if…then statement to turn the behavior around. Offer one warning only and follow through with consequences when necessary.

9. Logical Consequences

Each instance of non-compliance should be addressed with a negative consequence. Time-out, or a logical consequence, such as a loss of privileges, can be effective ways to discourage defiance. Consistent discipline is the key to reducing defiant behavior.

10. Seek Professional Help

Although extreme defiance can signal a more serious problem, such as oppositional defiant disorder, occasional defiance and non-compliance are normal child behavior problems. If you are concerned that your child may have a more serious problem, or if your discipline strategies aren’t working, talk to your child's pediatrician.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources