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Tips for dealing with your non-compliant child

Updated: Feb 18, 2020

Let’s face it, whether your child is 100% neurotypical or has a behavioral diagnosis like autism or oppositional defiant disorder, non-compliance (when a child fails to start or complete a task or follow an instruction) is something all parents have to deal with at one time or another. While the severity of the behavior varies greatly, it can make all of us throw our hands up in despair, wondering why on earth our child or children won’t just do what we want them to do.

From coaxing them into getting dressed, cleaning up their room, going potty or doing homework … even the simplest task may feel like an epic battle. So much so that you give up which is the worst thing that you can do. This actually reinforces their behavior making it even harder to make a change in their behavior.

In many situations, it’s us, as parents, who are likely not approaching the situation in the most effective way. When dealing with a non-compliant child, all instinctive language and communication skills go out the window.

There are very specific strategies you can use to reduce your child’s non-compliant behavior and make life overall much more pleasant for everyone. Part of these strategies involve retraining your brain as to specific language and techniques to use. They may not seem intuitive at first but once you get the hang of it, you'll be setting yourself (and your child) up for better success, less headaches for you and fewer meltdowns for them.

Here are a few basic tips to help with the day to day activities of parenting a non-compliant child:

  • Don’t ask yes or no questions. More than likely the answer will always be no and you are just setting yourself up for failure. Use statements instead.

Example: “Are you ready to get dressed?” versus “It’s time for you to get dressed.”

  • Give choices where you are happy with either being chosen. That way, they feel like they’re in control and you still get a positive outcome.

Example: When asking them to clean up their toys – “Do you want to clean up your legos or the playdough first?” or when going potty – “Do you want to go now or would you like for me to set a timer and we can go when the timer goes off?”

  • If you make a request, make sure you have enough time to follow through with it, otherwise, you are accidentally rewarding their non-compliance and teaching them you won’t follow through with your requests.

Example: If you’re trying to get to an appointment or school on time and you tell your child to clean up their playroom, you may be setting yourself up for failure, depending on how compliant your child is being on that particular morning.

  • Last but certainly not least, PRAISE, PRAISE, PRAISE and REWARD, REWARD, REWARD. As parents, it can be so easy to overlook the positive activities that our child performs and only focus on the negative. And remember, when you are praising your child, be specific.

Example: “I love how you got dressed so quickly.” “You did such a great job eating all of your food at breakfast.” “I’m so proud of how still you sat during your haircut today.”

While these strategies may not solve all your problems, implementing these will be a good start towards improved behavior and less stress on your part.

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