Thinking Errors In Defiant Children


We all can exhibit “thinking errors” at times in our lives. This is nothing new. Consider the alcoholic who says that they can drink and function at the same time. Or, how about the person who wants to lose weight but doesn’t see the harm in eating half a box of ice cream after dinner because they will “work it off” tomorrow. It’s called “justification.” These thought patterns are used every day by someone (mostly adults) to feel better about making poor choices in our lives.

As adults, we understand what we are doing but deceive ourselves so it will be alright. Children don’t have this knowledge. Their  act this way to gain the upper hand, or power, over others in their lives. When they see it works, their behaviour will continue along that vein whether the outcome is good or bad. For defiant children, the outcomes tend to be negative and that’s where their power lies. When we as parents give in to their demands, we are reinforcing negative behaviour and showing that their tactics work.

Here are five thinking errors that a defiant child may exhibit.

Victim Stance:  As a victim, everything is done “to” you so the responsibility for fixing a situation doesn’t fall on you but the person who is the aggressor. Defiant children may play the “victim” role to get out of taking responsibility for situations where they are clearly at fault. There are times when our children or we may actually be a victim, but it is not healthy to live in that position in everyday life. Blaming others seems to absolve them from trying a new task, making mistakes, or moving ahead in life when they are afraid or embarrassed. Instead of trying, they cry foul and become angry.

Uniqueness: This is where the children feel that they are above everyone else. Pitfalls that would ensnare a lesser person don’t apply to them. The alcoholic, mentioned above, is an example of this. He can drive unimpaired by a few drinks because he has a false sense of superiority and security. Clearly, alcohol compromises the system and his logic is faulty. For kids, it could be the reason why they don’t study for a test. Hanging out with the wrong crowd won’t influence them because they are “different.”

Concrete Transactions: Defiant children use adults and others as a means to an end. You are only useful as long as you perform the job that they need you for. They may trade on their friendship with someone to get them to go along with something bad or illegal. Being nice to parents is only so they will do something for them even after they have put their foot down.

Turnaround: This one is almost self-explanatory. No matter what you say, your defiant child will turn the remark around on you. If you are not prepared for it, you’ll be caught off guard. You are annoyed because they are not cleaning their room. Your child retaliates by saying that you don’t love them or that you are too hard on them. They accuse you of all sorts of atrocities in order to change the subject and get out of punishment.

One-way Training: This is an insidious tactic. Instead of you getting your child to follow the rules, he is training you to follow his. When confronted with a task he doesn’t want to do or a skill that he doesn’t want to learn, he will turn things around to focus on your behaviour. He may go through your belongings in your room and then bark when you come into his room. He may lie and say he has other things to do or too much on his plate and he will get to it later. Manipulation is not above him.


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