10 Days to a Less Defiant Child – Part One

10 days to a less defiant child

Anyone regularly following this blog will know that my hubby and I have had our hands full with our eldest daughter for quite some time. At 5½ she’s a tricky little customer. She’s difficult to please and prone to focusing on the negative. She is explosive and frequent temper tantrums and outbursts of violence have been too often on display. We’ve always been fairly harsh on discipline, especially when she has hurt her brother or sister, but although we have had several breakthroughs, ultimately it just hasn’t got through to her that it’s wrong to behave this way. The cold hard fact was her behaviour had become a massive problem within our little family. From the research I’ve been doing recently, I feel we have a highly sensitive, yet super defiant child on our hands. 

After weeks of illness leading up to the holidays, coupled with end-of-term-itis, her behaviour was at an all time low. She was being thoroughly vile towards her sister all day on Christmas Eve, and after one pinch/kick/being called stupid too many our littlest girl had the mother of all meltdowns. She eventually went to bed at 5:30pm and missed out on the whole ceremony of preparing for Santa. If that wasn’t heartbreaking enough when it was time for 5yo to go to bed she did everything she could to wake her sister up. This led to 2yo picking up the tantrum where she left off, and it taking a very long time for hubby to calm her down and get her back to sleep.

mental health

All this was playing out while I was feeding the baby. I sat on my bed in the room next door sobbing. Feeling helpless and frustrated I did what I always do and consulted Amazon. After reading the synopsis’s of several self-help books I came across one that really appealed and sounded like it could be the solution to our problems. 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child offers a simple to follow strategy for stamping out the kind of behaviour that has been destroying our family harmony. It also makes you realise that change needs to come from you (the parents) if there is any hope of it filtering down to the kids. It felt like a gift, when else would we have ten whole days where we were both at home and able to focus solely on this? I had nothing to lose, so downloaded it onto Kindle and started reading right away.   

“You have been through a lot with your defiant child. You’ve had your patience tested, your feelings hurt, and your fantasy of yourself as a patient and understanding parent smashed. At times, you may even feel abused by your child”.

Day one walks you through how unhelpful and damaging negative parenting behaviours are. There are ten that the author talks about ranging from nagging to shouting to denying their feelings. He dedicates a paragraph to each one and reading through them was an instant wake up call. I realised I was regularly guilty of most of them, and as I read the words I was thinking ‘yep I do that, that and that’. For the entire 24 hours of day one you are to not display any negative behaviour at all, no matter how hard it is. He also addresses the harmfulness of toxic thoughts – which is where you are in such a bad place that you start thinking they are deliberately out to cause you upset. Lets face it, most five year olds are not evil geniuses, but it’s easy to start thinking they are in the midst of all this going on.

Days one to five

Day One: Grasping Why Your Child Acts Defiant
This also happened to be Christmas Day, and both hubby and I were dreading it after the previous day and night’s shenanigans, but hand on heart it was brilliant all in all. We had very little conflict, both the girls were on fine form and when things started getting a little bit fraught we took a stroll on their bikes to the park and burnt off some energy. They went to bed beautifully and both slept all night. ‘Wow’ hubby and I marvelled, talk about a Christmas miracle! Just not shouting at all the entire day was an amazing thing. It had been a long time since that had happened in our house.

Day Two: Understanding Your Defiant Child 
As well as continuing to not display any of the negative behaviour, day two is all about gaining a better understanding of your defiant child. Working out ways to get them to open up and tell you what’s going on inside their little head. We decided to go out early and stay out for a large chunk of the day. It was a sensible move but either side of the six or so hours we weren’t home were horrendous. 5yo was lashing out at anything and everything, hurting anyone that came near her (including her 10mo brother). All the time hubby and I were cool as cucumbers, one of us taking the little ones away so the other could sit with her, calm her down and try and get her to explain why she was so angry. I imagine a lot of it was her trying to get a reaction, she had been so used to being shouted out or punished that she was probably wondering what the hell was going on. The girls both went to bed on a meltdown, and poor 2yo was in a similar (but not quite as bad) mess to Xmas Eve.

30 days sober

Day Three: Sidestepping The Yelling Trap
I imagine by day three a lot of parents want to start shouting again, so this chapter offers 25 coping strategies to help you avoid doing so. The advice ranges from ensuring your own needs are being met (very difficult with more than one child in the house) to avoiding tantrum triggers to learning to not take it all quite so personally. To be honest we breezed through day three. Hubby’s brother and his family came to see us which provided enough joy and entertainment. Hubby and 2yo popped out for a couple of hours in the morning to get a few bits, I put baby down for his nap and 5yo was pleasant and helpful preparing for our guests. One on one undivided attention has never been a problem for us, not being able to orchestrate it often enough is. Bedtime went well, but she was up six times in the night which of course led to a difficult start to the next day. 

Day Four: Avoiding Power Struggles
This is summed up by the phrase ‘pick your battles’ and is something I used to be super mindful of, but lately has gone out the window. We have gone back to basics now, and unless she is in danger of causing any one else harm, we’re letting most things slide. It proved another tricky day for us unfortunately. Hubby took the girls swimming in the morning so I could get prepared for friends coming over for lunch, but it meant that by 4pm she was beside herself with tiredness after all the exertion as well as night time antics. She is not coping well with being tired at all, and it’s definitely a trigger for her, but there are of course limits to how early she can go to bed. The end of the day was awful, but at bedtime I took 2yo into my room and read her a long story on my bed to calm her down, then popped her straight into her bed afterwards. Hubby stayed with the girls for five minutes after I’d said goodnight which prevented a bedtime meltdown. 

Day Five: Reinforcing Positive Changes
We learned all about positive reinforcement a while back, and again although we were super mindful of it at one point we’ve both slipped into bad habits of late. We had more friends over with their kids for lunch and again 5yo was immaculately behaved, until they left when she had a massive strop. When we finally calmed her down and got her talking she said she was sad that our friends had left because mummy and daddy sent them away. By vocalising what she was feeling we were able to explain that mummy and daddy didn’t send them away, they had to catch a train and get home for their dinner. Once she understood this she was lovely for the rest of the afternoon, and went to bed really nicely too. This made it easy to hammer out the compliments. 

My thoughts halfway through the program

It’s definitely having a positive effect on our family. Firstly neither hubby or I have raised our voices in almost a week, and that has to be a good thing. Secondly, toxic thoughts have become a thing of the past already. We are also being much more patient with her needs which is also helping.  

She is still lashing out, and unfortunately being violent at points, but change will never happen overnight. I can’t honestly see that defiance and temper tantrums will be completely gone by the end of the ten days, but they are already occurring much less frequently than they were this time last week. I have high hopes for being able to turn it all around for good this time. 

UPDATE: You can read part two of this piece here. 

UPDATE: Since this was posted, our daughter has been diagnosed autistic. You can follow our autism journey here.

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26 thoughts on “10 Days to a Less Defiant Child – Part One

  1. Oh hon it really has been! We have been making progress but now she’s back at school it’s got bad again 🙁 I’d highly recommend this book honey, well worth a read xx

  2. Aw, it sounds like a really testing time. The book seems to have some great advice that might help us out when our toddler gets a little testing. I wish my husband would be more gentle with her, and doesn’t see the example he sets in his own behaviour sometimes Hope it’s still going well Zx #thetruthabout

  3. Thanks my lovely. I’d be lying to say it’s all gone swimmingly and we don’t still have a way to go, but we’ve definitely made progess. I’m just hoping we will continue doing so now she’s back at school. Only time will tell I guess. Fingers crossed! xx

  4. Ah I hope it is still going great guns for you guys. I agree with what others have said about making a change – whatever it may be – helping – but the book and the advice give you a structure and a reminder to step back and lower your voices and show that empathy that allows her to express her reasons for flying off the handle. My two have a love/hate relationship like most siblings I guess – and its worse when they’re tired and/or hungry! They generally fight over both wanting to play with the same thing which is at least predictable! Good luck with the ongoing challenge and thanks for linking up with #thetruthabout xx

  5. Thanks so much hon. I’ll defo read that book at some point, just trying to focus on this at the mo (also reading a book about home education but that’s a whole other post!) We’ve definitely seen improvements, and I for one feel a whole load better for not shouting in almost a fortnight!

    Hope you had a fab Xmas! Very happy new year to you all xxx

  6. Every time things have got really bad in our house hubby and I have taken a step back and realised that certain things we were doing were just making matters worse… I can really relate to your saying your kids are huge characters and not easy. I’m sure it’s great news for the future, but it’s rather tough when they’re so small.

    We have seen huge progress over the holidays, but have a way to go yet! Happy new year lovely xxx

  7. Thanks Ting! It’s definitely improving just very slowly… Best of luck with monkey’s tantrums lovely xx

  8. Really pleased to hear you’ve found things that work for your family Rachael. I feel thar from birth to teen food and sleep are top of the happiness list for kids. Orchestrating naps in the buggy for my almost three year old has helped her when she’s struggling recently and I remember doing it with my eldest at this age too

  9. Oh Renee, you can see I’m just catching up on everything now! I agree with what Annie says above, that often a step back and looking at a different angle is needed (i.e. a good book) to make a change and start seeing results. I really feel for you- mine are both huge characters, although in different ways, certainly neither is particularly ‘easy’, and whilst they are fab alone, together are explosive even at 2 and 3! I find myself shouting a lot to make myself heard, and this is something I really need to get to grips with this year. Looking forward to reading part 2 xx

  10. Hi Renee. Sounds like you are doing brilliantly! As you know we have similar problems. The key is definitely working together which doesn’t always happen on our house. I read the books but hubby rarely does so the fact that you are both working toether will get you a long way. In case you feel you still need it don’t forget happy kids happy you. Still the best book I have ever used…and still do when things not going well. Good luck x

  11. Thanks for sharing you experience Renee! I’ve been waiting for this post since you mentioned this book. Mushroom is highly sensitive, and goes through some pretty defiant phases (luckily we do get some lulls in between) and dropping his nap has been challenging! For now, we have found that forcing a nap some days (in the buggy, he won’t go down if he thinks it’s sleep time!) has helped him to sleep better at night… He’s still pretty defiant some days but the extra sleep has helped.. Other than that the ‘time-ins’ I think I mentioned in a previous comment have helped – when I’m patient enough! I know I’m often guilty of falling into the yellling trap and then spending a lot of time apologising! I’ll be looking out for your next post and seeing how you get on. Even if I don’t buy the book (I probably will), it’s a good reminder to say ‘present’ and remember what works… and what doesn’t! Hope it’s still going well. And Happy New Year! x

  12. Thanks Jocelyn, we’ve certainly seen change so far and fingers crossed we’ll continue doing so. You’re spot on though, doing things differently is always a smart move in these circumstances. I love the Einstein quote that goes something like ‘the definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting different results’ wise words xx

  13. I do hope the guidance continues to help. I think sometimes trying something different can help you feel more positive and muster more reserves, when you’re all out of answers and patience. Sounds like it’s making a difference, and I really hope it does for you all xx

  14. Thanks so much for dropping by Annie! You are so right, taking a step back and reassessing often works wonders. Day seven this end and we’re off to London for the day so it’ll hopefully be a good one. Very happy new year to you and your family xx

  15. Thanks so much Denise, as always you are bang on the money! It felt like we’d been here before and I know that before being mindful and open to change really helped but as I said in the post we’d slipped into bad habits. I’m confident we can turn it all around and this time the changes will last (really hope so anyway!) I’ll keep you posted. Very happy new year to you all xxx

  16. Oh my dear Bryn, I can feel the pom pom love and it helps believe me!! No-one ever tells you about these bits – the older generations have amnesia and all the sprogged up friends seem so blissfully happy before you have your own kids. Lots of love to you all and a very happy new year xxx

  17. Thanks so much Ting, fingers crossed for us over the next few days. It’s been tough but as I said in the post so worth it to see the changes start happening. The book is well worth a read hon – best of luck if you do go down this road lovely. Happy new year xxx

  18. Oh, it sounds like the book is helping you make progress… and you’re going in the right direction. I’m definitely seeing a more defiant Monkey on my hands at the moment and I’ve lost it a few times and feel terrible afterwards. I shall definitely be taking some of these tips to work on my reactions. Good luck over the next 5 days and I’m glad you still had a nice Christmas Day. Happy New Year lovely x

  19. Hi Ren-
    I just want to give you a big, virtual hug. You are able to articulate the feelings and challenges that come with parenting so well- I certainly had no idea raising little people could be as difficult, lonely and frustrating as it is. When one fire is put out, a new flame starts.
    You know that there are innumerable joys in parenthood, but the day to day reality can feel quite overwhelming. You are doing a great job and somewhere in the frozen wilds of Alaska, I am cheering you on with pom poms and all.
    Love you!

  20. I swear, Renee, you are such an inspiration.
    One of the problems of having a difficult childhood is that when you get to have your children, as good as intentions can be, it’s more difficult than it is for other people to work out what to do when you have no good role models to learn from. My mistake, for example, was being unable to set boundaries consistently. My other problem was never having learned to be warm and open in my manner, so I was unable to pass this onto my children.
    But just as you have set about working out to fix your own life and not let your past get you down, you’ve done the same for your children! It really will make all the difference to your little one that you and your husband have stepped back, thought about what you are doing, and are now working together to improve the way your daughter is able to communicate.
    It’s amazing that you got that little statement from her about what she felt about your friends leaving, that sort of thing really will make all the difference over time.

  21. It’s good to hear that it’s making such a positive impact. I used to find, when mine had behavioural issues in the past that sometimes it’s just stepping back and seeking help to look at the situation from a different angle that helps create the change to improve things. I hope it continues to go well x

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