Managing Defiance in Preschoolers & Toddlers

Preschooler defiance is as much a fact of life as teen angst. Managing defiance as a parent through this stage need not be difficult! As the adult, you get to choose the battles without your preschooler being any the wiser.

Look at the big picture

So your fashionista wishes to wear her pink striped shirt with her orange and green flowered skirt…does it matter? As long as she is warm, go with it. Color coordination takes a few years to develop.

Your budding chef wants chicken fingers for breakfast and pancakes for dinner. You are serving balanced meals; does it matter what order in which they are served?

Your future interior decorator thinks dolls should be lined up under the bed instead of on the bookshelf, and books should be in the toy box. With no tripping hazards on the floor, celebrate! Her room is clean, and she did it!

Empower independence

Today, you need to go to the doctor. Rather than fight over her despising your choice of clothes, let her decide whether she would rather wear the skirt or the pants that match her pretty shirt. Ask the chef if he would like peas or green beans with his breakfast!

Instead of just pointing out what cannot be done, give your preschooler choices. It is just as easy to say, “Let’s go outside and play ball,” as it is to say, “Don’t throw your baseball in the house.” When she wants a cookie appetizer, let her decide between a piece of cheese and fruit slices.

Timeout is not punishment

Let your child help design a timeout “chill zone.” A big pillow, a few books, a cuddly animal: the makings of a great place to calm down. Call a “chill out” instead of the “go to your room” you got as a child. If he doesn’t go, set an example – you go chill out. This will reinforce that calming down is not a punishment.

When defiance is going to rear its ugly head, scoop her up and sit on the couch…or better yet, Daddy’s chair. A little snuggle time can combat the defiance.

Distraction and diversion

By avoiding some of the defiant hot buttons, defuse the defiance. Instead of eating in a restaurant, have a picnic in the park. Plan shopping trips to avoid nap times and stores that will over-stimulate your child. If the toy store does it, show him the carousel or the fountains!

Respect goes a long way

When asking your preschooler to do something, make sure he knows how. By making his bed with him until he has it down pat, you will not have the defiance related to frustration. Sometimes responsibility can be overwhelming.

Appreciate that your preschooler has a unique concept of time. When you ask him to leave his fun to get in the car, let him have a chance to switch gears. “We are leaving in three minutes,”makes him know that time is short.

By setting and sticking to limits, you are producing a safer environment for your preschooler. Reinforcing good behavior is a more significant measure of admonishing lousy behavior fosters ethical reaction to the majority. “Thank you for putting away your books,” or “It was nice of you to share your cookies,” are good stars preschoolers love to collect.

While these techniques will not produce an utterly patient preschooler in a matter of days, with a consistent application, defiance can be reduced as your preschooler learns that defiant behavior is not how to get her way.

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About Jennifer Washington