It’s normal for children to push against their parents’ boundaries as they explore and learn about the world around them. However, if your child seems to oppose everything you say constantly, it can be frustrating and exhausting. In this blog post, we’ll explore why kids act this way and offer tips on how to deal with it.
Why does my child oppose everything I say?
It can be frustrating when your child constantly opposes everything you say. But it’s important to understand that this behaviour is normal for children who are exploring their autonomy and testing boundaries. There are a few reasons why children may oppose their parents, and each case should be evaluated individually.
- They’re exploring their independence: As children grow older, they want to assert their independence and autonomy. This means that they’ll start pushing against rules and boundaries that they feel are constricting their freedom.
- They’re testing your limits: Children constantly push the boundaries of their parents’ patience and tolerance. They’re trying to see how far they can go before you lose your cool by opposing everything you say.
- They’re attention-seeking: Sometimes, kids act out because they crave attention. If they feel like they’re not getting enough positive attention from you, they may try to get your attention by acting oppositional.
- They’re feeling overwhelmed: If your child is feeling overwhelmed or stressed, they may start lashing out oppositionally. This is their way of trying to regain a sense of control over their environment.
- They’re bored: If your child is bored, they may start acting out oppositionally to liven up their day.
Now, let’s take a step back. If you look a little deeper, you will identify that lack of autonomy in life is the most common underlining issue for all the reasons above.
Children who oppose and engage in power struggles likely want to be in more control.
The bigger picture
During the day, what does your child have control over? Imagine what it would be like if your child switched places with you and they controlled everything in your life.
Children often use opposition and negotiation to cope with the lack of control over certain aspects of their lives.
Whenever a child argues about everything, then chances are they feel like they don’t have control over anything, and arguing is their attempt to gain some autonomy.
Tips for dealing with an oppositional child
If you have a child who is constantly opposing everything you say, there are a few things you can do to try to improve the situation:
- Try to provide choices whenever possible: When your child feels like they have some control over their environment, they’ll be less likely to act out oppositionally. Give them choices whenever possible, and let them know their opinions matter to you.
- Avoid power struggles: If you find yourself getting into many arguments with your child, it’s time to take a step back. Avoid power struggles, as they’ll only worsen the situation. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and praise your child when they behave acceptably.
- Set clear boundaries: It’s essential to set clear boundaries with your child and enforce them consistently. If your child knows what to expect, they’ll be less likely to try to push the limits.
- State your decisions clearly: Let your child know that some decisions need to be made by adults because it is your responsibility to keep them safe.
- Have a good reason: “Because I said so” only serves to increase the tension and power imbalance. Let your child know you are making the decision with their best interest in mind.
- Ask your child to collaborate with you: Explain to your child that you are finding it difficult to understand what is really important to them since they constantly oppose everything you say.
My personal experience
Here is a little background story and a conversation I had with my opposing son.
My son is the youngest child. His sister is very busy with sports commitments. My husband and I work full time, and we need to be on top of our schedule to do everything we need. While I try to give him as many choices as possible, some decisions need to be made by me.
If I look at our daily lives from my son’s perspective, I can see how he might feel like he has no autonomy. To gain control, he started to argue with everything I said. He even got to the extreme of telling me he doesn’t like things he loves.
For example: At the beginning of the year, he asked to take soccer lessons. He went to all the sessions and played soccer with his dad on the weekends; he loved it. As soon as he realised dad was excited about his progress in soccer, he decided he was no longer interested in it and wanted to stop the lessons.
I told him he could stop the lessons at the end of the term, but for now, he had to continue because I couldn’t pick him up earlier from school.
A few weeks ago, his soccer training clashed with his tennis lessons (also his choice to join). As he was at school at the time and I needed to decide where to send him, I chose to send him to tennis as he told me numerous times he hated soccer and couldn’t wait to quit.
When I picked him up from tennis, he asked me why he was sent to tennis, not soccer. I replied, thinking I had made the correct decision, “Because you keep telling me you hate soccer.”
When we got home, I casually sat down with him and said:
Me: “I’m finding it hard to make good decisions about you. I think sometimes you tell me you don’t like things you actually like. Is that right?”
He looked at me with a cheeky smile as if saying, “You got me.” He laughed.
Me: “Am I right? Are you trying to trick me? Why is that?”
Son: “I don’t know why I do it. I just do”, still laughing.
Me: “See, if you keep telling me the opposite of how you feel to trick me, it makes it hard for me to do what you want. How am I supposed to know what you really want if you don’t tell me? That is why I keep getting it wrong.”
Me: “Do you think you can help me make better decisions about you by telling me how you really feel?”
Son: “Yes, I guess.”
Notice I tried to keep the conversation non-confrontational by asking if he was tricking me instead of arguing with me. Then, I gave him some control by asking for his collaboration and helping me make good decisions.
As frustrating as it may be when your child opposes everything you say, it’s a good thing! It means they are developing their own identity and becoming an individual. To help them along in this process, we’ve created a free printable that will encourage independence and self-expression. Download it here. We hope you find it helpful!