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#48 of 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child

#48 of 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child

This piece is from the new e-book by psychologist Dr. James Sutton, 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child. Information about this downloadable guide for counselors and support staff can be found at:



“Wow! I Get to Work on YOU?”

(Yeah; It’s Been a LONG Day.)

The “secret” to working with difficult and defiant youngsters is to take them out of their comfort zone. This means finding creative ways of being unpredictable.

Try role reversal as an intervention. Point them to your chair, then sit where they would sit. (I had a short couch in one of my offices. I’d flop down on it, as if I was too exhausted to do much else … which was sometimes true.)

“I’ve had a long and rigorous day,” you might say. “Why don’t you be my counselor today?”

Here’s your golden opportunity to show oppositional and defiant youngsters what’s it’s like to be on the receiving end of aggravation.

“Well, what do you want me to say?” the youngster might ask.

“Hey, you’re the counselor. I’d like for you to say that we could both go home early. but that would get you fired.”

“So what do I do if I’m supposed to be the counselor?”

“Okay, let’s suppose that my big brother just got shipped out to Iraq. My mother has told you that I am very worried about him … so worried I’m having nightmares. But I won’t talk about it to anyone! Get me to talk about it.”

“How do I do that?”

“Hey, you’re the counselor!”

That’s enough dialog. See where I’m going with it? Here’s a youngster who is beginning to find out that a counselor’s job isn’t that easy.

It’s actually possible to cover some quality ground in this mode because you’re not only the “kid” being counseled in this scenario, you’re actually giving him tips on how he could tap into the feelings of another person and attempt to help them. That’s a good skill, and it includes material you can use later.

Another benefit of occasional role reversal is that, whenever this youngster starts to be difficult with you in the future, you can kindly remind him of what it felt like to be on the other end of that defiant behavior.

Occasional role reversal can be a great break in the sceme of things and, as mentioned, it can actually be helpful to the purpose of counseling. If you try role reversal as an intervention strategy, you will find the youngster gets better and better at it.



September 28, 2006 - Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Educators, Parents, Self-esteem

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