Written By: Caroline Meyer

Around the age of 4 to 5 you might start to find that your child starts to assert an independence that can be quite annoying. You ask them to so something, they ignore you or say no.  You ask them again in a pleasant way, but still get a refusal. You start to get a little annoyed and inject some sternness in to your voice so they know you mean business, but still they won’t do what you ask. You eventually get frustrated and discipline them to try and get them to do what you want. Even after a time out or other form of discipline, they still refuse and now you have an unhappy, stubborn child on your hands.  What can you do? 

Adjust your expectations 

Are they just being difficult or are they not understanding what you want them to do? Are they capable of carrying out the instructions? Are you being realistic in determining what your child can do? 

Start by telling them what you want them to do 

Instead of yelling No, don’t do that or stop touching that, turn the negative commands in to something positive. Instead of telling them what not to do, tell them what you want them to do instead. You want them to stop running to avoid an injury, but what should they do instead. They can’t always process what it is that you need them to do instead of what they are doing. Change your requests to more positive instructions such as: Please walk so you don’t fall and get hurt or please put the ball down. They are better able to process and carry out positive instruction that lets them know exactly what is required. 

Keep it simple 

Instead of details, convoluted commands or a series of instructions, communicate on their level. Instead of telling them to go upstairs, fetch their shoes and socks, come downstairs and put them on, give one command such as “Go fetch your shoes please” and then when they bring you the shoes you can ask them to put them on. Single step instructions are much easier for younger children to follow. 

Let them enjoy it 

There are many tasks that you can make more fun and turn them in to games or a form of play. This will also make them far more willing to carry out the tasks. For example, you can make toy clean up more fun by seeing who can put their toys away fastest or sing a song about cleaning up while they do it.  There are many ways to make boring tasks more fun which makes it more likely that they will follow through with the task without a fight. 

Be a parent but not a military commander 

Discipline is important but more effective when used to correct serious behavioural problems and not everyday transgressions. Pay your child compliments, show them respect and treat them the same way you would like someone to treat you. Acknowledge them and what they are doing when asking them to do something else.  Give them options and choices to allow them to feel that they have some control. Losing control and yelling at your child will just frustrate both of you and will result in the task not being done or being done under extreme duress. 

Say Yes more 

Let them make more decisions for themselves. Don’t say no, or stop that or yell for minor transgressions. Allow them to pick out their own clothes, allow them creative freedom when playing. Let them exercise their imagination more without being too restrictive.  If you say yes more, the Nos will have a lot more impact when you have to use them.  Save the Nos for situations that are dangerous or if there is an important reason for them to stop what they are doing. 

Be mindful of your child’s abilities as well as reasons why they might not follow through with requests. Is their misbehaviour a call for attention or a reaction created from fear or hurt? Treat your child with compassion and change negative requests in to positive ones to get a better response from your little person. If you have tried everything and still face issues of extreme behavioural problems, you might want to consult a professional to determine the underlying causes of the behaviour.