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Anger, resistance, or defiance in children can be a defensive mechanism as a result of emotional hurt or pain, or modeling after dysfunctional parents, siblings, or peers. However, it can also present because of entitlement brought about by emotional and material overindulgence by their parents or caretakers who acted toward them in a permissive rather than in a responsible manner. In both cases, such children are often…

  • losing their temper
  • arguing with adults
  • actively defying or refusing to comply with adults’ requests or rules
  • deliberately annoying people
  • blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehaviors
  • touchy or easily annoyed by others
  • angry and resentful
  • spiteful or vindictive

Despite the source of a child’s anger and defiance, if not managed, it can influence the development of other internal and external conflicts, and maladaptive conditions as the child grows up. These include ADHD, conduct disorders, depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and substance use disorders. Parents benefit by understanding the nature of excessive anger and defiance in their children and play an important role in helping their children with these responses. Regular and constructive parent-child interaction is vital, as are proactive conflict management and problem-solving skills.

There are four factors that contribute to a child’s noncompliant or defiant attitude and behavior, namely disrupted parenting, child characteristics, parent characteristics, and social environment. These are illustrated in the diagram below.

Four Factors of Child Defiant Behavior


Dr. Russell Barkley, Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina, proposed the following actions to effectively deal with children who are noncompliant or defiant (see more at

  1. Increase the value of their attention generally, and its particular worth in motivating and reinforcing their child’s positive behavior;
  2. Increase the positive attention and incentives you provide for compliance while decreasing the inadvertent punishment you provide for occasional compliance;
  3. Decrease the amount of inadvertent positive attention you provide to negative child behavior;
  4. Increase the use of immediate and consistent mild punishment for occurrences of child noncompliance;
  5. Ensure that escape from the activity being imposed upon the child does not occur (i.e., the command is eventually complied with by the child);
  6. Reduce the frequency of repeat commands parents employ so as to avoid delays to consequences (act, don’t yak);
  7. Recognize and rapidly terminate escalating and confrontational negative interactions with the child; and
  8. Ensure that you (as a parent or caregiver) do not regress to a predominantly punitive child management strategy.

Now, read more at, and complete the following checklist each week to remind you of strategies that you can apply to deal effectively with your child when s/he is excessively angry, noncompliant, or defiant.

Download and print the checklist here: Checklist to Eliminate Defiance

What comes next?

Well done! You have completed the program allowing you to care more effectively for a child with executive functioning or mental health issues. You have been equipped with many tried and proven concepts and techniques to support your effort. From here onward, it is important that you continue to prac-tice the tools and techniques presented throughout the program, encourage the child by regular communication, and create a stable and consistent environment for the child to function in. Also, remember that improvement is a long-term journey that is best undertaken by teamwork between you and your child. Best of luck with the road forward! If you follow the guidelines provided in this program, it is very likely that you already have, and will continue to notice improved functioning and wellbeing of your child.

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