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Dealing with Stubborn Children

Stubborn as a mule 

"Mummy, I don't want to take the injection," said six-year-old Akash as he darted into the bathroom and locked himself in. His mother Reena was at her wit's end trying to figure out a way to persuade her son to come out and go to the doctor's clinic. In another situation, eight-year-old Pradip refused to eat unless all the peas were taken out of his plate. 

Some children can put mules to shame. When they decide to dig their heels in, no matter how much you cajole and threaten them, they just won't budge. This can be a truly frustrating experience for harassed parents just trying to go about the business of raising good children.  It becomes a battle of wills with both sides waiting to see who will give in first. While some children are more stubborn than others, all children display stubborn behaviour at some time or another. And most parents find that they are at a loss in such situations. Their instinctive reaction is to react with anger as they feel that their child's behaviour is a challenge to their authority. However, they soon find that anger only serves to fan the flames. 

Stubbornness is not necessarily negative

Stubbornness in children has always been viewed as a negative trait by their parents. But may be they should attempt to look upon it in a more positive fashion. A child's stubbornness may just be his way of demonstrating that he can think for himself and that he can assert his thoughts and beliefs. Stubbornness gives them a feeling that they have a measure of control over the situation, which in turn, boosts their self-esteem. Parents should also make a push to understand the root of their children's stubbornness. Stubbornness can have a range of causes. It may vary from irrational fears to resistance to change or just a simple attack of rebellion. 

The strategies

In the face of stubbornness, parents have just a few disciplining options. If the battle is about an issue of values or safety, parents should be prepared for a real battle of wills because there is no way that they can afford to budge from their stand in such a scenario. Do not get angry or argue. Simply state your stand, the reasons for it and the consequences of disobedience. Then follow through. Hopefully, your child will just throw in the towel. If the issue is not serious, there is no harm negotiating with your child and arriving at a compromise. In some situations, it is even surprisingly effective to just let go. Suddenly faced with no opposition, which constitutes a reward in itself, the child's rebellion will have the wind taken out of its sails.

Some useful tips

  • Identify the problem and involve your child in seeking a solution. You will cease to be the enemy and she will feel that you are both on the same side.
  • If you want your child to do something, try to time your request so that it does not interrupt her while she is doing something else. This is one way of avoiding conflict.
  • If your child is not very happy about change, give her adequate notice so that she knows what to expect and is willing to cooperate.
  • Be assertive when asking your child to do something. You are not asking them for a favour. Also, make clear the consequences of non-compliance.
  • Keep in mind that your requests should be reasonable. 
  • Praise her when she is cooperative and well-behaved. 

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