How To Deal With Stubborness Or Oppositional Defiant Behavior

Nadia Shanab | autism, general advice, parenting, tips
31 Jul 2015

If you are expecting your child or students to consistently comply, obey, agree, and follow your directions every time you ask her, you must be dreaming. This is just so unrealistic. Whether your child/student is on the autism spectrum or not, it is unlikely that you’ll to be listened to all the time.

Parents and educators usually set one goal before their eyes: “My child/student got to do what I’ve planned out for her. This is the only way I can make her learn, grow, progress, and succeed.”

This assumption might be valid only for a few percentage of children. Unfortunately, kids who follow blindly and never question anything constitute a great concern, and do raise a red flag for parents and educators. Children are curious by nature, and eager to learn about everything they come across in life. They spontaneously bombard you with questions and never give up until their thurst for knowledge is quenched.

It is a much easier job for parents and educators to work with a child who doesn’t represent any challenge for them. But we are not looking for what is easier for us. Our main purpose is to be able to educate and raise a balanced child that would fit in her society, and become independent and useful for herself as well as for others.

But when the child’s behavior veers to an extreme oppositional defiant one, some actions on our part are needed.


  • We keep repeating that individuals with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) are rigid and love sticking to their routine. To teach them to become more flexible, we should start with ourselves. Model flexibility by accepting sudden changes in your schedule.
  • Always be ready to offer options and choices. Instead of having one worksheet for an assignment have three ready instead. Give the child the choice to pick one. In SDC (Special Day Class) we have to constantly modify and adjust the assignment according to the student’s needs. Go with the flow. Take the least resistant course. Leave your ego at the door of your classroom.
  • Often times the oppositional defiant behavior reflects a need for attention. This negative attention seeking is a message from the child to let you know that she needs help. Some children suffer from separation anxiety. They refuse to listen to their educators or caregivers to make them spend more time with them and provide them with affection and attention. A child can not express her feelings clearly. When feeling insecure, angry, mad, sad, in pain, too tired, or too hungry she may resort to this kind of behavior.
  • Breaking down long tedious tasks into smaller ones can take a lot of frustration away. When you show a child a page full of words and tens of problems to solve, she may immediately turn oppositional. She knows that it is hard to do, and second it will take her a very long time to get it done. Choose to fold the paper in smaller segments or highlight only a few ones for her to do. That way she’ll feel encouraged at least to get started.
  • Don’t insist on having your child/student do a certain task at a specific time. Be flexible! The morning assignment/task can be done later. Switch the activity. Use a visual schedule for more flexibility.
  • Find what the child loves to do. Use it as an incentive.
  • Give frequent breaks, and shorter work sittings.
  • Play games with the child and let her win.
  • Most importantly, listen to the child, encourage her to talk, then take your cues from your child.
  • Be patient! Allow enough time for the child to think and act. She has her own processor that runs at a different speed than yours.
  • Children are very creative. Let them do things their own way. Don’t always insist on getting things done your way.
  • Discipline takes time to be acquired.
  • Communicate to build trust and bond with your child. She’ll feel more reassured and less defiant.
  • Always try to be her friend.

Related topic: Teach Flexibility

nadia shanab

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,