How to deal with a defiant six year old girl

Updated April 17, 2017

Working with a defiant child can be frustrating for parents and caregivers; however, the younger the child is when you are managing her defiance, the more likely that she will have a greater grasp on self-control when she is older. Child experts agree that the biggest tools for dealing with a defiant child are consistency and a cool temper. If you feel yourself losing control of your temper, place the child in a safe place and take some time apart from her to cool down.

Address behaviours that need to change when your 6-year-old girl is calm. During moments of heightened emotion, she will be less likely to absorb advice or instruction. When your 6-year-old is behaving well, discuss her past defiant behaviours. Talk about how they made you feel and have her help you think of ways that she can control her temper, such as counting to 10 or spending some alone time in her room to cool down.

Treat defiant behaviours immediately. Do not pacify, distract or ignore your child if she is defying your instructions. According to psychologist James Dobson, "appeasement for a strong-willed child is an invitation to warfare and it will get worse and worse."

Another psychologist, Dr. Vijai P. Sharma, says that "it is not the severity, but the immediacy of the consequences that matters. Consequences are most effective when delivered within seconds rather than minutes or hours." Do not severely punish a defiant child; rather, teach her that defiance brings immediate, undesirable consequences.

Reward or acknowledge good behaviour. Make a "good behavior" chart so she can see her progress. Have her place a sticker on the chart for each time she obeys or complies. Set goals for the chart, and when she reaches a goal, provide a reward she will like. The reward should be something small and consistent, such as a favourite piece of candy or a small toy. Psychologist Jeremy Jewell, a professor at Southern Illinois University says, "Remember the '5 to 1' rule: To be most effective, a parent should praise their child five times more than criticising or reprimanding."

Stay calm. Children learn from the examples set by their parents. When you are frustrated or annoyed with your child, acting out in anger will only teach her that anger is an appropriate response when frustrated or annoyed. According to "Psychology Today" child and family psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein, "When parents learn the art of being calm, firm and noncontrolling, they are then very likely to minimise power struggle." Yelling, hitting, threatening and other intense behaviours will only instil fear, anger and violence in your child, rather than respect. Staying calm keeps the focus on the resolution of the conflict and sets an example your child can grow with.


It is never OK to injure a child when you are frustrated or angry with them. If you feel yourself losing control, walk away immediately and cool off. If you are unable to leave your child alone, call a friend or family member to stay with them while you get your emotions under control. When you are emotional, it is easier to lash out in a way that could cause lasting injury to your child.

Things You'll Need

  • Small, inexpensive toys or candy
  • "Time out" space
  • Behaviour chart
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About the Author

Alicia Purdy is a freelance writer and editor living in Utah. She has a master's degree in journalism and a bachelor's degree in broadcast communications.