Carol the Coach: Motivating Oppositional Kids Can Be Tough

Do you have a child who absolutely refuses to comply with your family rules? He or she chooses to do what works for him/her and it is as if your child doesn’t want to comply with the rules that you have created for your child's well being. Now if your child has oppositional tendencies it could be fairly difficult to motivate your child because they're so strong-willed. This can leave you feeling like a miserable failure because you believe that you are responsible for your child's behavior. The healthiest thing you can do as a parent is to set up the structure for your child that will activate proper learning, household chores, and participation in family events. Your child's temperament may interfere in this process. This invariably means that you set up consequences that seem to have no effect on your child. Regardless you still need to follow the course because that is your primary job as a parent.

I had a woman who came into the office totally frustrated with her son's lack of motivation. She stated that nothing she could do would motivate her son. He spent hours playing his Xbox and when he went to bed he would sneak his tech toys into bed with him. In addition to his disrespect for her rules, he would sit for hours refusing to do homework. She said "this is not how I was raised and this is not how I have raised him!” She complained, "I'm so exasperated because I don't know what I can do to get him motivated." The truth of the matter is there was nothing that she could do to actually motivate this child. When I told her that he suffered from oppositional defiance disorder she began to realize that he had to figure it out on his own time. This meant she had to come up with consequences even if they appeared totally ineffective. I then explained that her job as a parent was to stay detached from his behavior, and to set up consequences that promoted what he would deal with in the real world.

If you choose to be lazy…You won't get very far in life.

If you choose to ignore your schoolwork…You may be held back.

If you choose to sneak your Xbox into your room… you will lose the privilege of using it.

If you choose to walk home from school instead of riding the bus…I will call school and enroll you in Saturday morning school because you consistently defy the rules.

This is not what mom wanted to hear because she wanted something to motivate her son but the truth of the matter is that many children are entitled and have to learn the hard way. The healthiest thing she could do was to learn how not to react to her son. Since her son was going to be very frustrating, she needed to conserve her precious energy and stay true to the course of parenting and find consequences to relate to the misbehavior. That was her job as a parent!

So if you have a difficult child, you need to detach with love and firmness. When you do this you’re better able to set appropriate consequences and you stay out of that normal and natural power struggle that can ensue when your child refuses to do it your way and chooses to do it his way. Just remember that you're not a failure if you have a strong will child!

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