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Young People … Our Greatest Resource

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

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

This piece is from the new e-book (and soon-to-be-available paperback) 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:


“You Want MY Help?”

(Of course, I do.)

I believe it was Dr. Joyce Brothers who once said, “The quickest way to develope a relationship with someone is to ask them for a small favor.” She would emphasize the word “small” as being important. Small favors are not ingratiating, nor do they require repayment. (A person in our checkout line at the grocery store will give us three cents when we’re short on change, with no expectation of being repaid. A loan of $30.00, however, would be a different story.)

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you greet the youngster at the door and share a quick introduction. (So far, so good; no pain yet.) Then you say you need to make a couple of notes, and ask her if she would put a small stack of books into a box for you while you wrap up.

It’s a simple task, and my guess is she’ll jump right into it because putting books into a box is a diversion, a pleasant shift from what she was expecting. But it’s also a distraction, a distraction from pain.

If you walk the child to your office, consider raking a dozen books or so off your bookshelf onto the floor as you leave to get her. Upon walking into your office you could say, “Oh my goodness, these books fell off that shelf. Would you help me put them back?” I’ve also asked students to help me clear a corner of my desk so we could work, or even move the furniture around in the office so we could be more “comfortable.”

In addition to such a move or gesture being a distraction from the negative, the child is exercising compliance for you (that’s worth noting), and it provides an opportunity for you to express your appreciation to her. That’s something this child might not have heard from an adult for some time. It’s not a bad start, if you can make it work.

I often used a spin on this idea working with children and adolescents at a group home. I would ask them if they would help me bring in a couple of boxes from my car. I figured a youngster would do most anything other than to be anxious and uncomfortable in my office for the first time.

On days when I used this strategy, I parked my vehicle half a block away. I would make it a point to have two identical boxed in the trunk, one for me and one for the child. I had a chance to visit with the youngster as we slowly strolled back to my office with the boxes. This helped to settle the child and, of course, I praised his willingness to help me.

My next client would help me carry a couple of boxes to my car. (On those days, the boxes got quite a workout.)

 Learn more about 60 Ways to Reach a Difficult and Defiant Child


October 28, 2006 Posted by | Counselors, Difficult Child, Self-esteem | 1 Comment