Kids Who Throw a Fit and Refuse to Do What You Want Them To

Christian is five years old. He's smart, funny, and pretty nearly never stops talking. He's happiest when he has a purpose, even if the purpose is schoolwork or chores. But sometimes, often, he just doesn't want to do what he's been told to do. Yours, too?

You would think that after doing this parenting gig for almost 20 years, with Christian being our 7th child, I would have figured the whole throw-himself-on-the-floor, writhing around, fake-crying thing out. You would think. I just look at him and roll my eyes in my head.

Do you remember when I wrote about The Ticket System we're using from Dr. John Rosemond? It has been very helpful, causing the middle kids to stop and think about their attitudes and choices. And then last week Dr. Rosemond's newsletter appeared in my inbox with yet another parenting tool that I thought could be a great approach to Christian's dramatic stubbornness.

It's called The Agony Principle, and it works basically like this:

Parent tells child what to do - "Christian, you need to pick up the toys in my room."

Child protests - "Noooooo! I don't waaaannnnnt toooooooooo." {throws himself on floor}

Parent can now take on the agony of the child, becoming equally agonized. That stinks. So:

Parent says, "Okay. You don't have to pick them up." Child skips away and parent picks up the toys.



I know. That was my response initially, too. But here's the thing: If you argue with the child or even pick him up and take him kicking and screaming to do the task you originally told him to, your agony has now reached the level of his, and maybe even more.

Here's the brilliance: you will address the issue, but only when it matters to the child. For Christian, that was right after dinner tonight. As Dr. Rosemond suggests, we didn't tell him what was coming. Instead, as soon as dinner was over and Christian was doubtlessly looking forward to the bonfire dad had going in the big fire pit, we looked at him and said, "Okay, bud. Time for bed!"

He was stunned. He started to protest. We smiled. "Sorry, but you didn't obey today when I told you to pick your toys up in my room. Now it's time for bed."

He cried but moved himself up the stairs, and when he got about halfway there I called out, "Hey buddy! Next time remember to do exactly what Mommy says so you can enjoy your whole day!"