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The Noncompliant Child

Younger children (ages five to eight) often flatly refuse to comply with a rea­sonable request. They may say "No!" or they may simply ignore their parents' requests.

Before imposing any punishment upon this child, make sure you have given him a specific, clearly stated, reasonable request, such as "Jason, please pick up your toys and put them on the shelf before dinner." (Statements like "Clean up your room" or "Straighten things up" are too vague and general.) If the child is preoccupied, distracted, or seems confused by the order, call him by name, make eye contact at his level, and state the command in as simple a form as possible, using a calm, rational voice. Use of the "I" message may be most ef­fective, such as "Jason, I would be very pleased to see these toys put on the shelf before dinner."

Wait ten seconds and maintain steady but not too intimidating eye contact with the child. If he begins to obey your command, praise him right away for this specific behavior. If he does not obey, tell him you will give him another ten seconds and then he will need a timeout. In this case it is appropriate to use timeout as a threat or warning. If the child exceeds the ten-second limit, impose the timeout right away.

Once the timeout is over, return him to the task and repeat the command in a clear, calm, task-specific manner. If he refuses again, repeat the timeout, adding an extra minute or two. This may need to be repeated several more times. If timeouts seem not to be working, you will need to reconsider how they are being used.

Last Updated
Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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