Does my Grandson need to be evaluated for his oppositional behavior ?

by Linda
(Haysville, Ks)

Question: On a daily basis up to several times a day (has been occurring since around two years old) my three year old Grandson will for no reason verbalize repeatedly an opposite response to anything said to him.


This can go on for over an hour or more. If he is ignored after many attempts to come to an agreement. He will verbalize over and over the the thing he is opposing. Such as:One can ask if he wants to sit in a chair (or may be told to sit in a chair) he will say I don't want to sit in a chair. Then if you say okay don't sit in a chair. he will then say I want to sit in a chair (never actually sitting in the chair).

Then if one says okay sit in the chair he goes back and forth with the I don't want, to I want, but never actually sits in the chair just continues to argue to the point of whining and crying. This goes on even if you stop answering him, at the point the last do or don't want ends with me.

This can be any subject at any time without warning or reason for opposition. If one tries to reason with him he will say no over and over. It is very annoying and wastes a lot of time. The whining is also very annoying and goes on and on. It is hard to keep from being upset to the point of walking away from earshot because he will not hush when asked or told to do so.

I know some of this type of behavior is normal, but he will stay on the same subject and behavior walking around repeating himself, for an extended amount of time no matter what one tries to do.

Answer: Although, I know it can be difficult, three-year-olds tend to be very defiant children. They are just learning that they are able to control their environment and some desire this more than others.

I can also completely relate as my three-year-old does some similar behavior himself. Some children are easy going and go with the flow and others have to constantly test their boundaries.

What I have found to work very well is to avoid asking him to specifically do something or not specifically do something. Instead make every request a choice. It can be hard at first to come up with choices for each request, but over time you will find it saves more time than asking and going through that battle.

For example, instead of saying, "Why don't you sit in that chair?", you can say, "Do you want to sit in this chair or sit on the floor?"

Instead of asking him to be quiet, try to get him involved in an activity that will distract him from talking. Again phrase as a question saying, "Do you want to play with your cars or your trains?"

If you are asking him to get dressed say, "Did you want to put your shirt or your pants on first?"

If you want him to go potty, say "Do you want to sit down or stand up when you go potty?" or "Do you want use a stool or no stool?"

To take a bath, "Do you want bubbles or no bubbles in the bath?" or "Do you want to play for a few minutes and then get washed or wash and then play?"

Choices stimulate children's minds and allow them to feel more in control of what you are asking them to do. Giving lots of choices all day long even if it doesn't seem necessary can make a big difference.

Often we find ourselves constantly giving orders that children try to rebel to obtain some control. Some more than others. Then after giving so many choices all day long, if you have a request you can say, "Didn't I give you choices all day long? This is one thing I am asking you to do please. Thank you!"

However, if this behavior continues or gets severe past the age of five years old, then you will probably want to get him evaluated.

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5 year old tunes you out when confronted with an undesirable request

by Linda
(Pequannock, NJ USA)

Question: Noticeably, too often ,my 5 year old grandaughter seems to tune out (she appears to be in a frozen stare) when interrupted by a request to perform or pay attention to any undesirable task or topic.

She has the most time out in her class and at home but nothing seems to make a difference in her behavior. And lately at times when she requires your attention and has to wait for it she is lashing out. Any thoughts?

Answer: Refusing to pay attention to undesirable tasks or conversations are common in many children. However, there is also a certain type of seizure that appears as if a child is refusing to pay attention when staring into space, but is really having an undetected seizure. This type of seizure, called Petit Mal is usually somewhat brief, but appears that the person is purposely ignoring you.

I would first rule out this possibility by talking to her pediatrician. Other signs of these seizures may include strange facial expressions, tongue movements or strange finger/fist movements while staring. Of course if she is simply engaging in another task and ignoring you then you know it is just plain refusing to pay attention to you.

If you determine that she is purposely ignoring you then you may start by trying to get her attention with a topic that interests her and then immediately transitioning to what you would really like to talk about or have her do.

Give lots of praise when she gives you her attention for any type of task or conversation, such as "Thank you! I really like it when you listen to me!"

When she wants your attention, try giving her a stated amount of time that she has to wait, such as 5 minutes, instead of just telling her to wait. Then if she lashes out say, "Oh no that is so sad, it looks like you will now have to wait 6 minutes." Then if possible try walking away from her. Continue adding one minute on for each time that she lashes out.

You may even consider setting a timer to help her know when you are available or starting with a shorter amount of time initially to make her wait, gradually increasing to help her practice waiting. Again give lots of praise after she calmly waits for you.

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Dealing with Difficult Children

by Julie
(Scotland)

Question: Hi, I would be really grateful if you can help me. My child is 3.7 years old, possible Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Right now I am having problems getting him to do anything that he doesn't want to. (i.e wanted to play in the garden, I asked him to put on his coat as it was cold, he just threw a crying fit saying no he didn't want to wear one.)

I picked him up from nursery, he tried to run off, held him by the hand til we got back to the car with him screaming all the way. These are very small I know, but this continues throughout the day and it is really wearing me down.

He has a sister 22 months, he plays very roughly with her and always hurts her he also intentionally hits her, often because she sits on his train tracks but mostly for no good reason.

His key worker in nursery tells me when he's had a good or bad day, mostly pushing other children, most days are bad. He is having some intervention in nursery and behaves beautifully when hooked into some work/play.

I feel quite desperate now, down and depressed about it all. Can you give me some advice on discipline, he does get sent to his room and gets quite upset and says he will not do whatever it was again....this lasts about 5 mins.

Answer: Dealing with difficult children can be very exhausting and although I may be able to give you some good discipline advice your best defense is going to be preventative.

If you haven't already read my free ebook Child Behavior Guide: What you need to know I highly recommend starting here.

Some key points would be implementing a picture schedule with him, reviewing what kind of foods he is eating, such as artificial food colorings as these really can affect behavior. The Feingold Diet is a good example of this.

Also be sure to check out the following pages with helpful:


Compliance Strategies for Defiant Children part 1

Compliance Strategies for Defiant Children part 2

Dealing with Tantrums

Transition Strategies for help changing activities and leaving places.


When he is hitting others, it is important to help him learn another behavior that achieves the same result. If he wants his sister to move off his toys, teach him to say, "Mom, please move her." or better yet, have him play in a private area away from his younger sister.

Try to encourage him to play with her gently and when he does even a little bit give as much praise as possible saying, "You are such a good big brother!"

Avoid any punishment or scolding when related to his sister. I believe this increases sibling rivalry as a child will blame the punishment on the sibling rather than their own behavior, thus increasing their resentment and aggression toward the sibling. Simply separate them and say with only empathy, "That is so sad, if you can't play nice then you are going to have to play by yourself. Let me know when you are ready to play nice and you can come back."

When he hits others at nursery, try having teachers do the same thing while also trying to teach him how to use words instead of hitting.

He should be regularly reminded hands are not for hitting, which should be demonstrated by everyone he sees as an example. There are some good kids books out there you could also read to him that help reiterate this point (see below).

For situations where he is adamantly refusing to do something (wear a coat) consider whether this would be a good opportunity for him to learn from natural consequences. It is likely if you let him go outside without a coat he would complain and choose to put it on anyways after being too cold.

I have a friend that said her daughter demanded to go swimming in a lake when it was only 50 degrees out. The mom finally said, "Go ahead." The little girl hardly got her toes in the water before she came running back inside. So, she learned from natural consequences which are much more powerful than a parent telling you, "You can't swim because it's too cold."



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Deliberately stubborn behavior in an 8 year old

Question: My niece often refuses to answer when addressed. For instance, she just looks at me and acts "sleepy" first thing in the morning when I say, "good morning, Sally". When prompted, she runs out of the room (usually screaming) and goes in her bedroom again, sometimes electing to read and play without eating the meal for which she was asked to come to the table.

Her mother allows this behavior (I'm the great aunt), making excuses for Sally. Please understand that Sally is a very bright, very talkative, but socially behind child who has no siblings. She plays with other children fairly regularly. If a friend wants to do something Sally isn't really interested in, Sally has a "melt down" in front of the friend. ETC. Any ideas????

Answer: Unfortunately, without the mother acknowledging that this behavior is socially inappropriate, there isn't much you can do. You can continue talking to her mother by casually suggesting it would be a good idea to work with Sally on some of these things, but ultimately being that she is the mother it has to be her choice.

You may also try talking to Sally by telling her that other kids won't want to come over and play with her if she isn't willing to do what they want to for part of the play time, which is likely to occur over time. However, as long as her mother is making excuses and essentially allowing the behavior to continue it probably will. Sorry, I couldn't be more help.

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