Dealing with a stubborn child

 
Contributed by : Dr Ajab Primuswala   
Dealing with a stubborn child

All humans are stubborn, more or less. That does not mean you cannot teach your child to put their foot down and patiently listen to what the other person has to say.

  • Stubbornness is a quality that everyone has. We use it as and when required. So when a child is stubborn, the child has their views where (s)he is stuck up firmly. It means they don’t want to listen to others; they have their criteria and want to follow them. They are at an age where they want to try and explore what they feel is correct.


  • Let's take an example of food; food is a topic where most parents find it challenging to handle their child. As a parent, we want them to eat healthy and nutritious food whereas they want to eat junk food like pizza and pasta.


  • One of the methods to deal with stubbornness is negotiation. We can negotiate with them. For example, you can tell them that if they want to eat junk food, they can have it once a week, and the rest of the days, they will have to follow your schedule. But then let them decide which day they want. You don’t dictate the day for them. Give them the liberty to select the day and the kind of junk food they prefer. Let it be homemade, preferably. Once in a while, you can take them to dine out as well. As a parent, we know all the pros and cons of the situation, but they don’t. They learn by trial and error method, and they tend to get distracted as well. You can always have limited control over your choices if you are too distracted.


  • But when it comes to academics, negotiation may not work always. Like a child can come up with, “I don't want to study now”. “I will do this on my time.” “In such cases, we can’t allow them because we know that time is running out. So for this, we can help them create a timetable, where primarily they have to create the timetable, and you have to stay around helping them. Keep in mind that timetable is not a sure shot thing that will be followed thoroughly. It can be a trial and error method. But at least the children know the time boundaries, which will help them.


  • The other important thing is that stubbornness doesn’t come alone; it brings misbehaviour hand in hand. When you know your child is stubborn and misbehaving, you can’t deliberately put them into any awkward condition. Could you not make them feel socially awkward? For example, if there are guests around and you force your child to greet them. The child might react in a way which might be humiliating to you also, by back answering, by disobeying, making a scene in front of the guests. As a mature adult, to avoid this, you can say, “There are guests around if you feel like just greet them.” And then leave it up to them. Don’t make it a compulsion. Could you give them the liberty of choice? At the same time, keep saying that what you would like them to do.


  • Up to a certain extent, this will give them a choice of thought process, which will mellow them down and put them in strata where they will be able to make their choices. Once it might be unhealthy, but at a later stage, they will learn from their mistakes and become a better person compared to their stubborn behaviour.


  • When you talk about stubbornness, it is also a lot about “Ego”. We all have an ego, and with maturity, we learn how to deal with it or overcome it. With children, they don’t have this filter. It is always a question about their ego, so they get stubborn at every point. They don’t know how to control this behaviour. So at times when you start to express stubborn behaviour in terms of commands, rules, or instructions, they feel that this is the only way a person can cope or deal with things. Irrespective of the situation, never behave stubbornly in front of them. Don’t stubbornly put your point. You can explain the reasons behind your instructions to help them understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.


  • Give them options. Of course, they can’t keep doing things they like in their manner, but giving them multiple options and showing possibilities of ways of doing things, will solve the problem to a great extent.


  • By giving multiple options, they will not feel stuck and feel the liberty of choosing their preferences, satisfying their ego, so it becomes easier to work with them.



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