I love getting requests from our YouTube viewers on topics to cover and this topic came from one of our viewers. How to deal with a stubborn child? I have 5 positive parenting tips to help you with a stubborn child. The number one tip number is stay calm. Don't allow the child's mood to control yours. Keep breathing. It's really important for us as parents to be in charge of our own emotional stuff. Kids are really not very good at regulating emotion, especially young kids and they get tipped over by the smallest things. When we control our emotions we are in a more powerful position as a parent. The quickest way to get there is to make sure that you keep breathing. I know you breathe all the time. There is a little trick to breathing that helps us to regulate our own emotion. Breathe in through your nose. Take a nice deep breath in through your nose and hold briefly, maybe 5 seconds, maybe 10 seconds and then breathe out through your mouth nice and slow. Restrict the flow here. You want to take about twice as long to exhale as you did to inhale. I tell you what, if you'll practice this a little bit, you'll get better at consciously calming your brains fight-or-flight response and that is really important when you are working with a stubborn child.
Tip number 2. Remember what you control and what you don’t, get really clear about which is which. This is important especially when dealing with a stubborn child. Your kids don't get to control very much so they will usually pick something that they control and you get frustrated because you can't control the thing that they are controlling. Get clear with what you control and this puts you in a position where a power struggle is not even necessary. You don't have to argue, you don't have to convince them. You've got control over the things you provide, services that you give them. Access to certain things in your home. You control all of these things. Whether or not your kids want you to. So. get focused on those things that you control, implement those into the discipline. This puts you in a position where you no longer have to be in a power struggle with your kids.
Do you remember my three rules for power struggles? Rule number 1, avoid them. Don't get into them if you don't have to. Rule number 2, if you can't avoid them, win them. Warning, I tell kids this too. They are really good at it already because they know rule number 3 which is you pick the issues, and you always pick something that you control. Don't get into a power struggle over something you don't control or you'll violate rule number 2, you won't win that power struggle. Focus on those things that you control. Rule number 3, empower what they control. Your kids are in charge of their own choices. If you haven't figured that out yet, pay closer attention. You don't control everything they control some things. Empower what they control. Now, by this I mean focus on their choice. And it's okay for you to say, “You know what sweetie? That's your choice. Okay?” And you smile a little bit because if mom's smiling, kids are thinking. I've done this with teenagers too.
One of my teenage sons asked me once. “Dad, can I go to this party?” And I'm like, “Tell me more,” because he left out some of the vital information. So, he told me more about the party. I didn't feel comfortable with it as a dad. He pressed me, “Well, can I go?” I said this: “That's up to you. You'll choose whether you go or not. That's up to you. But I'm not giving you my permission. So, if you go you're going without my permission. Do you understand that?” And he's like, “What? What? So, can I go or not?” I said, “Oh, that's up to you.” See, I want to empower and honor his choice. Empowering and honoring his choice doesn't mean that I'm giving him exactly what he wants. I'm not. He wanted my permission. I control my permission. I'm following that other tip I already gave you. Empowering his choice means that I acknowledged that he's going to do it. I used to say to him, “No, you can't go.” And it was a bald-faced lie, he could go. He proved it to me by sneaking out and going. I don't want to lie to my kids. I would encourage you not to lie to your kids. Empower their choice. Honor their choice. And make sure you follow through with the consequences too. My son knew that if he went to the party without my permission, there would be a consequence that he doesn't control. He chose not to go. And I empowered that choice as well. I told him, “Son, nice choice. I love the way you thought through that.” He was a little frustrated at the time but I think he really appreciated that I empowered and honored his choice. Powerful.
Tip number 4, listen rather than argue. Don't get drawn into the argument, okay? Stubborn kids sometimes want to start an argument because it gives them a false sense of power. Think about it. Little people, big people. If little people can get big people to argue with them, it gives them a sense of power and control. That's not appropriate really for the setting, so do some listening. When your child asserts their will take a listening approach where you might say something like, “Oh, well that's interesting. Tell me more about that.” That's going to freak them out a little bit because they are not expecting to hear that from you. But there's two things this does for you. It puts you in a position where it's easier to assign empathy and we will talk about that in just a moment. It also changes the dynamic of this conversation from an argument to a dialogue. They get to express what they are thinking and feeling. Oftentimes, if you can draw this out, they will make better decisions anyway. You have two ears and one mouth, let's use them in that proportion. Do a lot of listening if you feel that your child is being stubborn. See if you can understand where they are coming from. That will help to empower you to make a good choice about how to follow through.
Use empathy rather than anger. We get angry really fast as parents. You are not a bad parent just because you get angry. Anger is a really great indicator feeling. It's confusing because when we feel anger, we think that it means somebody else needs to change something. That is the confusing part because we can often solve our problem when we change something. There are three feelings to watch out for. Frustration, anger and resentment. Instead of the anger, let's go to a place of empathy. Empathy has two important parts to it. You understand and care how someone else feels. Honestly, this is one of the things that we really want to teach our children. Modeling that is a powerful way to help them learn to understand how someone else feels.
The other thing you will notice as you go to empathy is that you feel like you want to save them from their consequences. Just notice that. It comes from the best part of your heart as a parent because you love them. You don't want them to experience anything difficult, painful, frustrating, or hard. That is why we want to save our kids from the consequences of their own choices. Empathy allows you to back off from that a little bit. Let them feel the consequence which is going to hurt your heart as a parent. Let them feel the consequence and then join with them empathically where you show them that you understand and care how they feel. Put your arm around them. Let them know that you can see that this is hard for them. But don't bail them out. See that's where we usually go to the anger where we bail them out and then we bawl them out. Rant, rave and rescue is something I have talked about before.
That is five powerful tips for you in working with stubborn children. Hope that helps. Are you ready for more of these kinds of tips and strategies that help you to feel more confident as a parent? Vicki and I have put together the Parenting Power-Up to help you navigate through the different stages and ages of your child. You can find information at www.drpauljenkins.com or parentingpowerup.com. We will share the tools and knowledge and resources that help you to feel more confident as a parent.