In our home, challenging behavior looked like the stubborn, defiant, scowling red face of our 6 year old daughter. It sounded like, "I won't!" in a screeching voice. I felt irritated, frustrated and angry. I had a hot face, fast breathing, tight jaw and shoulders. I'd think, "Really?! Again?!! Why does she have to do this now?!? I'm tired and this is not OK."
Are you feeling like this? Like your son or daughter is defiant...again...and nothing works. And you can't stand it anymore.
Facing challenging behavior is a big, agonizing, unruly topic. Working with moments of disagreement and outright defiance, especially when your child is strong willed, is crucial to peaceful family dynamics so this will be the first in a series of 3 posts to unpack it and offer effective solutions.
My name is Allison Livingston and I am a conflict resolution specialist, mediator, parent of 2 daughters and parent coach. I work with multitudes of parents whose kids are strong willed and do challenging behavior like hitting, not cooperating, yelling back, stonewalling, getting intensely angry, fighting with siblings, breaking and throwing things plus much more.
The parents who come to me all want to know the same 2 things. First, they want to understand why their kid is doing this challenging behavior. Then second, they want to clearly understand what they can do to stop it.
Since I had my own strong willed kids and have studied this for 15 years, I have information that will help. Even better, I have a proven system that works and created exercises, tools, scripts, practices and a community for parents to Thrive with Their Strong Willed Child. There's hope!
First, we need to understand what challenging behavior is and why it happens. That's what we'll focus on here as knowing the problem helps us develop a different lens so we can respond better.
I don't know about you, but when my daughter would yell, refuse, kick the door in, or scream "No, I won't!" I wouldn't respond well. I would get triggered and yell back, punish, get alternately angry and frustrated or hopeless. When she'd do this in public I'd feel embarrassed, mortified. When she'd do something to her little sister, Mama Bear protective energy would rise up and dominate her; then it would get worse.
Here is the range and some examples of challenging behavior so we are all talking about the same thing.
kicking in doors
fighting with siblings
resisting school homework or directions
being uncooperative to get ready
having a hard time transitioning
not wanting to go where you tell them to
throwing a tantrum when they don't get what they want
refusing to do chores
Out of the blue or predictable and preventable?
One of the hardest parts is that these challenging behaviors seem to come out of nowhere and with great intensity, often at inconvenient times. The myth is that they are unstoppable except with control and showing them who's in charge.
But is this actually true?
Why does challenging behavior happen?
In my research over the past 15 years, I've studied and lived NonViolent Communication (NVC), explored self care practices to have a 'full tank' of resources, worked with a self awareness tool called the Enneagram and become a certified mediator practicing conflict resolution, From this, I've found there are 4 main contributors to challenging behavior.
How full their tank of resources is? How full is mine?
What we think