If the kid is going limp, shutting down, or firing up for battle, try something different. First, if you are acting mad, turn it off. Put on a positive, happy face so they don’t think they’re in trouble. Then make them do something physical to drain some energy: jumping jacks, kicking a soccer ball, doing sit-ups, or running laps around the yard. Say something like, “Okay, we need a break from this. Let’s go outside and run for a bit.” Sometimes their brain gets stuck in “I’m-not-gonna-do-it” mode. So change course, redirect to something different than your original command, and zap some of their energy.
Afterward, go back to your original request. (Oops! You thought you were getting out of doing what I asked? Sorry Buck-o! That was just a diversion). Put on your grown up hat and make sure they do what you want. Set the table, make the bed, clean their room, apologize. . . whatever it is. They WILL do it!!
It actually helps your attitude when you know with absolute certainty that the kid will do what you ask. They can whine and gripe and complain all they want. So what? They are still going to do it. Knowing that, you can simply wait it out without getting exasperated. There’s no “What do I do now?” There’s no guilt, no flip-flop, no “Should I give in, should I not give in?” Nothing. It can almost become funny because they’re flailing around, making a fuss, and totally wasting their time fighting and you know it. You can shake your head and smile at the big inside joke.
Now, worst case scenario: A kid absolutely refuses to cooperate, and you aren’t even able to redirect to a different task for a short diversion or energy-zapping session. So here’s what you do: wait it out. Stay calm and let them finish sulking or crying. They’ll eventually get tired. Then you can make them do what you asked.
Now, many times I’m under a time constraint. I can’t always hang out all day until they finish their anger tantrum or get bored of sitting there and decide to cooperate. In that case, I will make them do one small part of what I asked before I let them out from under my claw. I WILL take the time to make them do my smaller request.
For instance, in speech therapy, let’s say a child is throwing a fit because he wants to get back to class and get his snack. He’s ticked off at me because I’m not moving it along quick enough, so he starts knocking chairs around to make a point. I insist he push the chairs neatly back under the table before I let him go get his snack. If I’ve got a meeting in five minutes and can’t wait him out, I will make darned sure that he pushes in at least two or three before I let him leave. (Believe it or not, this happens a lot in speech therapy because you see so many behavior issues with communication disorders. In order to be the least bit effective in therapy, I have to maintain control over the student. Otherwise, therapy is a total waste of time. The child would figure out real quick that he can run all over me.)
For a regular old at-home scenario, suppose the request was putting away laundry. Your child has whined, fiddled and piddled, and now you’re out of time because you have to run to baseball practice. So make him fold at least two or three items before you go. No lectures, no repeating the request twelve times. Just sit there and wait. Baseball practice can stuff it. Call the coach and apologize ahead of time that you’ll be late. Then, when you get back from practice, Mister Put-Up-a-Fuss doesn’t do jack-diddly until the rest of the laundry is put away. No TV, no dinner, no games. It was his choice to be a toot and refuse to cooperate. He can live with the fact that he’s going to have to put away laundry regardless.