Noncompliance with Adult Prompts

Noncompliance issues are often a symptom for underlying feelings of worthlessness, frustration, or alienation. When children experience age-appropriate privacy and are allowed to preserve their dignity, they are much more likely to be compliant, cooperative, willing to engage, and tolerant of redirection and limit-setting. When privacy and dignity are deprived, children (all people, really) tend to become depressed, aggressive, withdrawn and/or noncompliant. The restoration of privacy and dignity by avoiding sarcasm, preserving confidentiality, responding reasonably and consistently to misbehavior and modeling cooperative, collaborative behavior are all prerequisites to treating children who display noncompliance issues. Several intervention principles are noteworthy in addressing noncompliance issues:

Don’t hit a tack with a sledgehammer. The consequence for a given misbehavior must be reasonable. When in doubt consult someone else who likes the child to get a fresh perspective on the problem behavior and possible responses. 

Plan responses ahead of time and stick to the plan when the time comes. It is possible to anticipate the child’s behavior pattern, so you should be able to “build a staircase” of increasingly intensive responses so that the treatment provider can “climb the staircase” if the child’s behavior does not respond to the first, or second, or third level of response. The top of the staircase is always “911” and the treatment provider should not be afraid to contact local law enforcement authorities if the child requires limit setting beyond a level at which the treatment provider is capable.

Always use an approach that encourages “forward” motion on the child’s part – toward a more optimistic future, a better day tomorrow, the restoration of privileges, and a better relationship with all involved. Avoid sarcasm and harsh, painful or punitive disciplinary practices that encourage the child to harbor resentment, experience embarrassment or humiliation. 

Work out responses to misbehavior with the child in advance. A behavior plan that includes consistent responses to the child’s misbehavior will be much more effective if the child participates in the creation of the plan. Include both rewards for good behavior and reasonable consequences for misbehavior. 

Never run to a fight. Emotions will be excited by the misbehavior, obstinacy or refusal (and perhaps embarrassing behavior) of the child. Delaying a response, in order to get emotions under control, will have a greater positive long-term effect than an immediate, intense over-reaction.

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