What to do when your child is oppositional at home but angelic at school

defiant at home
Many parents deal with oppositional, defiant behavior on a daily basis. They struggle to come up with answers for controlling their child’s out of control, unmanageable behavior. Dealing with a child of this nature can take its toll on the entire family. Many parents I have spoken with who had been in this situation have expressed, “I’ve tried it all with my kid…bribing him to do his chores, grounding him for a month, taking away his phone, and everything I do seems to make matters worse.”

Sometimes when I’ve spoken with parents at a meeting about their child, they are taken back by the positive report that I provide them. I can see it in their eyes thinking, “Are we talking about the same kid here? You must be mistaken.” At school, the teacher sees Dr. Jekyll in action and at home, the parent witnesses the re-birth of Mr. Hyde.

Possible reasons explaining this shift in behavior

  • A child is mentally exhausted from a long school day, holding in all emotions together and lets it all out at home.
  • A child receives more social time with friends at school and feels there are more demands at home, less time to play and do what they want.
  • Peer pressure keeps a child’s behavior in check where he/she will be publicly embarrassed and ridiculed for outlandish behavior in the classroom and/or suffer consequences from a teacher.
  • A child is getting positive attention from teachers and peers, and fails to get that same positive reinforcement at home from parents.

The secret educators know that parents are in search of

angel at school

You’ve heard the old adage: “Give a child an inch and he’ll take mile.” When a child is sitting down in class, he is subjected to a routine of classroom rules that he must follow on a daily basis. The secret lies in the consistent discipline provided each day! This provides a child with daily structure and guidance along with patience and positive support which is typically imparted in the teaching model. Hence, a child is more willing to respond back affirmatively knowing that things are fair and consistent.

Regaining control of your household

Kids are smart. They know how to test different situations and see what they can get away with by looking for loopholes. When children hear “no”, a feeling of disappointment and frustration develops. Persistent children will engage in a war of words and develop the ability to “break down their parents” until they hear “yes”. The more frequently parents change their decision from “no” to “yes” because of a child’s unwillingness and nagging attitude, the greater the power shift toward the child and the more frequent the child will persist.

The problem doesn’t lie in saying “no” to a child. The issue, instead, is how a parent reacts when the child hears the word “no”. Parents who get into a confrontation with a child who is yelling, screaming, punching, or hitting someone are feeding into this oppositional defiance. They are getting farther away from a positive, encouraging, nurturing parent-child relationship. It is important for parents to take a step back and remove themselves from the situation or conversation by redirecting the child toward something positive.

Example of a child’s reaction after being told he can’t play video games:

“I’m still playing. Not now, I need to beat this level!”

Desirable response from parent: “You know the rules. You need to finish your chores first and then you will have some free time to play before you go to bed.”

Child: “I don’t want to now. Just a few more minutes and I’ll be done.”

Parent: “You have a choice. Five more minutes to finish now and five less minutes later or get started on your chores now so you have more time to play later. It’s YOUR choice.” (Parent walks away and awaits a response and backs up his/her words with action.)

Putting the ball in a child’s hands allows him/her to make decisions, own their choices made and learn problem-solving skills. It may take a few times to practice this skill with your child, but a little turning of the wheel in the right direction each day and holding steadfast to your rules will go a long way where you will see a positive transformation take place.


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