Monday, October 20, 2008

Defiance: Where does it come from?


Dear Jane:

My daughter is 7 3/4. This morning, she left the house and walked to school without saying a word. What is an appropriate disciplinary action for this? I feel that the issues are:

1) Anxiety: in me & her Kindergarten Brother - every morning we walk to school as a family, she snuck out the back door and headed to school. Meanwhile, my son and I were calling around the house, and looking around our property for her. We walked to school hoping that she would be there. My son was worried that Madison would be afraid if we're at school and she was still home. I knew she would be there, but in the back of my mind I did have worry about her safety.

2) Defiance: I believe part of her sneaking out without saying anything was an act of defiance. Earlier she had hit her brother and taken his Pokemon cards away. I had previously told her not to touch his cards while they were getting ready for school - we have a rule about no playing with toys while getting ready or they get taken away and put in my room. After the incident I asked her to give me her Pokemon cards - which she said were lost. I then asked her to think about what else of hers I could hold on to until she figures out how to stop hitting her brother and playing with cards while getting ready.

I was thinking that one angle might be to talk to her about what it means to be in the family, including the privileges; pack up some of her "things", and give her the opportunity to act like a part of the family and earn her things back.

Looking forward to your insight. Jill


Hi Jill,

A new theme of Positive Discipline is "Connection before Correction." The first thing you need to do is make a connection with your daughter. There are several ways to do this.
  1. Make sure the message of love gets through: Honey, I really love you and I need your help to figure out how to solve this problem.
  2. Validate her feelings: Sweetie, I'm wondering if you are feeling angry about what happened this morning? I wonder if it hurt your feelings when I yelled at you and you wanted to hurt me back by leaving without telling me.
  3. Name what is going on and take responsibility for your part: I think we are in a power struggle or a revenge cycle and I'm wondering what I have done to create this. Maybe I'm being too bossy and focusing on punishment instead of having faith in you to work out solutions.
  4. Try a hug.

Okay, you may be wondering, after the connection--then what? After a connection has been made, children (and adults) exit their mid brain mentality (fight or flight) and enter their rational minds where positive learning can take place. During this time you can focus on a solution instead of a punishment (even if it is called appropriate disciplinary action): Honey, I really would like to hear your version of what happened this morning. I saw you hitting your brother and I'm wondering, and I'm wondering what happened before that. This is where it is important for you to just listen. Don't interrupt and give your explain your point of view. Don't tell her she shouldn't think of feel this way. Just listen and then validate her feelings. Then you can ask, "Would you be willing to hear what happened for me and why I was so upset?"

Children will listen to you AFTER they feel listened too--so long as you don't get into the lecture mode that include blame and shame.

This could be followed by focusing on solutions where both of you can figure out what will work. You might ask if she would like to brainstorm together for solutions right now, or put the problem on the family meeting agenda where the whole family can brainstorm for solutions.
First let me teach you about some preventative methods. If she is feeling defiant, are you willing to take a look at your part in creating that defiance?

It sounds to me like you are talking too much. You do a lot of telling instead of asking. Please look at the two lists below and decide which one might invite defiance if you were a child, and which one might invite cooperation and the opportunity for you to feel capable and responsible?

Telling Parent
Go brush your teeth.
Don't forget your coat.
Go to bed.
Do your homework.
Stop fighting with your brother.
Put your dishes in the dishwasher.
Hurry up and get dressed or you'll miss the bus.
Stop whining.
Pick up your toys.

Asking Parent
1. What do you need to do so your teeth will be squeaky clean?
2. What do you need to take so you will be warm outside?
3. What do you need to do to get ready for bed?
4. What is your plan for doing your homework?
5. What can you and your brother do to solve this problem?
6. What do you need to do with your dishes when you have finished eating?
7. What do you need to do so you catch the bus on time?
8. What words can you use so I can hear you?
9. What do you need to do with your toys when you are finished playing with them?

I hope you did find Positive Discipline A-Z so you can look up "Fighting" for many more ideas on how to deal with sibling rivalry. Please keep one thing in mind. You don't know what your son may have done to provoke your daughter. By taking sides you engage in victim/bully training. You son gets to feel loved by being the victim (and will master this role and learn more ways to provoke so he can get sympathy) and your daughter gets to feel like a defiant bully (and will master this role). Instead, try using the words "kids" or "children." "I have faith in you kids that you can work out this problem. Let me know when you have found a solution."

I hope you will start having regular family meetings so your children can learn many valuable social and life skills that will help them develop a sense that they are capable and have a lot to contribute with their good ideas for solving problems.

My best to you.

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