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Tips for Working with the Oppositional Child



"I WON'T DO IT!" "YOU CAN'T MAKE ME!"

Whether parent or teacher, we have all "been there" and "done that" with a child exhibiting refusal behaviors. Before "losing your cool" and your power as well, interventions and strategies are provided for use to help deescalate this classic power struggle.


-Avoid placing yourself in a stand-off situation with the child.

-Don’t “mark a line in the sand” unless prepared to follow through with the consequences on your own. Creating a demand situation….“You will sit in your seat or I will call someone to seat you”….will cause the authority figure to lose his/her power. This is a main goal of oppositional children…personal control over their environment.

-Under a demand situation, especially with authority figures, an oppositional child will be more likely to escalate to extreme opposition. Stop talking. Give the child a chance to detach from the situation with some power. Problem-solving the situation when
both parties are calm will prove more productive.

-Phrase requests which are more likely to bring an oppositional response with a negative statement…”I don’t expect you would want to….” Or


“You probably wouldn’t want to…..”

-Create a situation where it is more worth the child’s while to be part of.

-Use distraction.

-Give choices which give the student some control.

-Give the student a specific leadership role during stressful transitions, such as day

care dismissal. Monitoring younger children for appropriate dismissal behavior, such as sitting quietly, would be an example of a specific leadership role.

These children can be extremely challenging. Should a pattern of continuing emotionality become evident, additional advice from professionals, such as the child's pediatrician or a school guidance counselor, would be recommended in order to develop a
positive behavior support system to help ensure behavioral success.


About the Author



Sheree S. Marty has worked with elementary school children as a school counselor for the past nine years. A physical education teacher for thirteen years, Ms. Marty earned her Master degree in Counseling in 2000. Ms. Marty is the author and owner of "Chinese Jump Rope", a childrens games book and website. For more information, visit http://chinesejumprope.tripod.com