Stop Defiant Behavior in Young Children by Role Modeling

Posted May 25, 2016 by

Stop Defiant Behavior in Young Children by Role Modeling

I saw the most amazing thing on the playground the other day: a little girl wanted her dad to help make a little boy share the slide, and dad…refused to help.

Before I get into that, though, let me tell you about the little boy.

He was being bratty, standing on the slide, not letting anyone else use it. If another child came near the slide, he screeched and yelled, “No!

He threw several mini-tantrums, laughing like this was the funniest thing ever.

Has this ever happened to you?

Few situations are more difficult to deal with than having a child who is aggressive (verbally or physically) toward other children. While it’s not uncommon behavior, it can be embarrassing and frightening when your child screams, hits, scratches or kicks to get his or her way. Sometimes, like in this young boy’s case, a child might think he’s “playing” when his behaviors are anything but playful.

The interchange on the playground went on for a few minutes, and the little boy’s mother watched as the dad and daughter worked through the problem. “Daddy, please make that boy share,” the little girl asked.

I loved Dad’s response:

“No. You can do this. Please go ask him to share with you.”

She walked over to the slide and asked the boy to share. Again, he declined. The girl went back to her father.

“He said ‘no.’ Will you tell him to share?”

Once more, Dad said no. “It’s hard when kids won’t share. Would you like to ask him again?”

The little girl went back to the bottom of the slide and looked up at the boy. “I would like to use the slide, too. Please share with me.”

At this point, the boy looked at his mom. “This little girl is asking to share,” she said. “We’ve talked about how we share. What needs to happen here?”

After a few seconds of hesitation the little boy dropped to his bottom, turned and crawled back up the slide, letting the little girl have her turn.

It worked!

I love this interchange because it demonstrates so much of what we talk about on Empowering Parents: act as a coach for your child, model appropriate behavior, and remain calm and cool in the face of tantrums.

Oftentimes, this approach is easier said than done. Not this time.

Do you struggle with aggressive, bratty behaviors in your younger child? If so, you’re definitely not alone. In the article below, Dr. Joan writes about how to help your child deal with stressful situations – including the behavior problems of other kids! And as always, we’re here to help.

Related: Defiant Young Children and Toddlers: 5 Things Not to Do


Becky Staples has worked with children and families in a variety of settings including schools, homes, and community agencies. She has a degree in Education and Child Study from Smith College and her Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Becky has been working with Empowering Parents families since 2008.

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