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Adoptive Parents Changing Defiant Behavior


We are adoptive parents who have been trying to correct numerous behavior problems in our two children for more than eight years. We have tried the POST program and others, but our children remain stubborn. They have come a long way from where they started, but they tell us that they enjoy causing us trouble while they put on show of good behavior for everyone else. Could you provide us with a successful care plan for changing defiance and building healthy relationships? We have a strong Christian faith, but this situation has stressed our family.



Thank you for reaching out for help with your children. Parenting can be very frustrating, and it sounds like you are dealing with a range of troubling and defiant behaviors from these two youngsters. It is good that you continue to seek help for your kids; perseverance is a huge asset in the world of parenting.

A frequent concern we receive from parents is that "everything has been tried and yet nothing has helped" to change their child's behavior. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, children ​act in ways that are clearly not in their best interest. Even when we use effective parenting strategies and proper consequences, children can thwart our efforts. Often times, our chosen strategies are on the verge of working, but we give up too early.

Children typically dig their heels in when we try new strategies and their behavior can often worsen before they get better. Revisit one of your favorite strategies or parenting tips and investigate whether you gave up too soon out of frustration or hopelessness. Try using it again, but for a longer period of time. It is very important to use a strategy consistently, over time, so that children know what to expect.

As far as a care plan for defiance, do whatever it takes to stay calm. Often times, children like to see the power they have to control their parents' behaviors, so remember to keep your cool. Because your children are able to put on good behavior for others, it means that you have been teaching them some good skills along the way. If you can get them to treat to you the same way, you will take a giant leap in having happier, healthier relationships in your home.

It is unclear why they might be acting out at a higher rate with you. Consider if you are inadvertently giving your children more attention when they act poorly. We recommend keeping a high positive to negative ratio so that you offer much more praise than correction for your children’s behaviors. This requires diligently looking for opportunities to "catch your children being good.” Remember to give your children reasons as to why accepting “No” answers are beneficial to them. Whenever they stop themselves from arguing or talking back, praise them immediately; you might build some positive momentum and change this cycle of defiance.

Consider whether your children are consistently receiving consequences for inappropriate behaviors. Positive and negative consequences teach a child what is right and what is wrong. If you feel like you have been using consequences effectively, and you have tried to be positive with your children without positive results, it could be that the boys are having trouble with attachment or with their adjustment into the family. If you feel that consulting with a counselor could be helpful, call our hotline, and we will provide referrals for agencies in your area.

If there is any further support we can offer, please let us know.