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Defiant/Oppositional Behavior

boy-cryingThroughout the age range (and especially at about age two), children usually begin to test limits and explore “independence”. Here are some things to help make this time easier, and a learning experience for all:


  • Let your child give some directions that you are willing/able to follow (e.g., when playing pretend house, let him tell you when it is, “Time to go to bed”).
  • Let/encourage your child to give directions and set limits with dolls or action figures.
  • Set and maintain firm limits for things that must be done (e.g., your child must sit down while in the bath; must hold your hand when crossing the street; must not wander away when playing in the park). Remember, though, to pick and choose your battles and balance being firm and flexible.
  • Give and allow choices (e.g., “Do you want to wear the red pants or the blue ones?”).  Choices may help a child feel empowered in a situation.
  • When your child is resistant to your demands and expresses frustration, talk about and respect his feelings, even though the task must be completed (e.g., “I know you are angry that you have to stop playing with your toys to get dressed, but it’s time to go to the store and we must leave”).
  • When your child is testing limits, try “joking” to help ease him through the frustration.  Sometimes, a child will forget what he was fighting over (When getting dressed, say “I bet you can’t cover you belly button with your shirt!  Wow!  Look at that, you can!”).