Helping a Recalcitrant Child

E. was the Mom of a just turned 5 year old daughter, G. They had a close relationship and spent many hours each day together. They especially enjoyed doing crafts projects even though G. would often complain about her mother’s offers to help out when needed.

Mom came to talk to me because G. would often “melt down” during transitions or when she needed adult assistance of some kind. Her Mom was also puzzled when G. would refuse to do something she liked to do or go somewhere she wanted to go.

I suggested that E. pick one particular activity to begin to help G. with this difficulty. She chose swimming, something E. and G. both loved to do. They had run into difficulty lately because their pool required swimmers to wear bathing caps and G. had decided that she didn’t want to go.

Here is what G. decided to try as she helped her child.

1.Remember that the discussions about swimming would not be easy and plan to have talks about going well in advance of the actual event.

2. Stay calm when explaining to G. about the need to wear a bathing cap.

3. Listen to G’s reactions, even silly ones, without arguing. In other words give G. a chance to express her reasonable and unreasonable concerns to help “get them out of her system.”

4. Explain her “wise Mom” perspectives such as “we love to go swimming together” or “I think you could wear the cap – maybe we could get a color you like”, etc. in as few words as possible using a reassuring tone.

Here is what happened.

E. started talking about swimming 2 weeks before going. She followed the guidelines as much as she could (about 70-% of the time) and shortly before their swim date G. agreed to go and wear the cap.

Although G. was hesitant when first arriving at the pool they managed to return regularly each week with less discussion needed as G. began remembering how much she liked swimming. By the fourth week G. found herself bragging to others in the pool that she was good at swimming – bathing cap secure on her head.

Sometimes children have positions that are hard to understand from an adult perspective. Even though children’s upsets can be an unnecessary over reaction sometimes patience and perseverance from Mom or Dad can help children accomplish goals that are ultimately rewarding and confidence building blocks for their future. Picking one activity to conquer at a time can give parents and children a chance for success that can ripple into other times when recalcitrant behaviors can surface.