Category: General

Tips For Dealing With Your Non-compliant Child

Tips For Dealing With Your Non-compliant Child

Have what you’d call a non-compliant child? First off, let me promise you you’re not alone. And allow me to encourage you: parenting a non-compliant child is not easy!

That said, you CAN be successful. It just requires a new approach. What do I mean by this? Parenting a child with compliance issues (a.k.a. defiant behavior) requires some extra thought into how you speak to your child and specifically how you get them to comply with basic tasks like getting dressed, cleaning up, going potty, doing homework, etc. 

All instinctive language and communication skills go out the window as you need to learn specific strategies that allow you to reduce your child’s non-compliant behavior.

You can set yourself up for success, but it requires you to retrain your brain some when it comes to how you approach certain situations. 

What we mean by non-compliance

Non-compliance is when a child fails to start or complete a task or fails to follow an instruction.

Non-compliance is a common trait among children with autism and something that is often addressed during ABA therapy. 

The good news: we have a few basic tips to help with the day to day activities of parenting a non-compliant child.

  • Don’t ask yes or no questions. You already know why, don’t you? More than likely the answer will always be no, in which case you are just setting yourself up for failure. 
  • Give choice options for which you would be happy with either being chosen. That way, your child feels like they’re in control and you still get a positive outcome. 


When getting dressed: “Would you like to put your shirt or your shorts on first?”

When asking your child to clean up their toys “Do you want to clean up your legos or the playdough first?”

Tips For Dealing With Your Non-compliant Child

When going potty: “Do you want to go now or would you like for me to set a timer and we can go when the timer goes off?” 

Tip: when you make a request, make sure you have enough time to follow through with it. Otherwise, you are accidentally rewarding their non-compliance and teaching them you won’t follow through with your requests. 

Let’s use another example. Let’s say you’re trying to get to an appointment or to school on time, and you tell your child to clean up their playroom. You may be setting yourself up for failure if you’re eying the clock, depending on how compliant your child is being on that particular morning.

Phrasing matters, as does preparation

If you really need them to do something, don’t ask, “will you?” or “can you?”. Use statements instead, such as, “It’s time to eat,”, “You need to go get dressed,” or “Put your shirt on please.” 

If you’re approaching a non-preferred task like a haircut, start talking about it several hours beforehand. This allows you to talk through the steps, give your child choices on how they want to begin, and to discuss a reward for completing the task.

Praise and reward

Last, but not least, be sure to praise, praise, praise and REWARD, REWARD, REWARD.

As parents, it can be so easy to overlook the positive activities that our child performs and only focus on the negative. Instead, the positive is what matters most here!

When you are praising your child, remember to be specific.

“I love how you got dressed so quickly.”

“You did such a great job eating all of your food at breakfast.”

“I’m so proud of how still you sat during your haircut today.” 

More to read: Chronic Pain Under the Left Armpit: Common Causes and Solution

How To Set Up A Token Economy For Your Child

How To Set Up A Token Economy For Your Child

Ready to increase desired behaviors in your child, and take some of the emotional struggles out of parenting a child with special needs? A token economy, also known as token reinforcement, is easy to set up and implement.

What is a token economy?

Remember that gold star you coveted on your homework in elementary school? The potty chart your mother used when you were a toddler? Token economies in action!

A token economy is a system that rewards target behavior with a chosen token, chip, sticker, or checkmark.

Those tokens can periodically be exchanged for items or activities that are motivational to the child. Sounds familiar? Of course it does: if you have ever had a job, a token economy is just the same. You go to work and meet an expectation in exchange for money. The money, which has no value on its own, can be exchanged for things you want. 

What you need to start at token economy


Anything that is visible and can be counted can be used as a token. Yes, we’re starting with the obvious, here. And no need to overthink it: poker chips are an easy choice, but your tokens can be tickets, stickers, play money, or any other item of your choice. What to keep in mind: tokens should be portable, so that they can be awarded anywhere. 

A means of keeping track: 

Children need a way to keep up with their tokens that is consistent. This could be a chart, a tally system, a jar, etc.

How To Set Up A Token Economy For Your Child

A behavior target:

What behavior do you want to change? What do you hope to encourage? A list of the desired behaviors and the tokens that will be rewarded for each must be clearly listed and explained to the child ahead of time.

Most parents find it easier to choose a handful of behaviors to focus on when setting up a token economy. 

Items for exchange:

What can your child earn? Just like you (and the example of your paycheck) your child wants to know what they’re working for. An exciting menu of options that appeal to the child is the key to success for this type of program. How to do this? Create a ‘store’ of choices for which the child can exchange their tokens. Or how about presenting your child with a ‘menu’?

There are no wrong ways to go about this, as long as the rewards are clear to your child ahead of time. By the way, these items do not have to be material items. Choosing what’s for dinner, staying up late, or going to the park can all be choices for exchange. Just be sure to get your child involved in choosing the rewards they would like to earn.

Tips for your token economy

  • Choose a handful of behaviors to address, but do not overwhelm your child by trying to correct everything. Focus on a behavior where the child excels so that they can get the feeling of succeeding with the system. 
  • Frame the desired behavior in a positive manner. In other words, encourage positive behaviors instead of discouraging negative ones. Instead of, ‘don’t complain during dinner’, use ‘keep a cheerful attitude during dinner’. 
  • If the child is struggling to earn any tokens, break the task into smaller chunks and reward more frequently. Again, a feeling of success is key.
  • Reward the proper behavior immediately by handing out a token. Instant gratification is ideal for kids who are struggling with delayed consequences. 
  • Change the system as the child improves their behavior. Give tokens more sparingly and make rewards more costly to wean your child away from the token economy. 

So, does it really work?

Research shows that token economies are very effective for kids who have been resistant to all other types of intervention. The immediate delivery of a tangible reminder of good behavior keeps children motivated and helps them to stay focused. 

Another benefit: because the rewards can be varied, kids are also less likely to get bored with the system. However, by far, the greatest benefit is the flexibility of the system. If it’s not working quite right, you can tweak the system by adding rewards or breaking tasks down into smaller chunks for faster success. Parents save face, and kids progress. Win win!

More to read: Is it Possible to Faint When You Use Medical Cannabis?

Creating Autonomy For Teens And School Aged Kids

Creating Autonomy For Teens And School Aged Kids

Welcome back! Ready to create autonomy for teens and school-aged kids? Feeling a sense of control and direction over one’s life is hugely important to school-aged kids and teenagers, and it starts in the toddler years. In addition to continuing to give choices (when reasonable) and involving kids in tasks, it’s more important than ever to name and acknowledge their feelings and give age-appropriate feedback. Autonomy for teens is crucial for school success and beyond.

Ever wonder why your teen’s friends are SOOO important to her? At this age, kids develop their own autonomy through the encouragement of peers. Therefore, your daughter’s friends’ thoughts and opinions are crucially important to her. She’s beginning the process of spreading her own wings by watching her friends spread theirs.

Give teens safe opportunities:

One of the best things I ever did for my teen was to say ‘yes’ when he asked to hike the Pacific Crest Trail across Oregon when he was 16. Was this a crazy parent move? Maybe…and it may not be in the comfort zone of many parents. But it created autonomy like crazy! Examples of smaller safe opportunities might include encouraging your child to get her driver’s license, get an after-school job, or stay home alone. School-aged kids might receive the opportunity to care for a pet or babysit a younger sibling for a short time period.

Have rules, but agree on them together:

Kids this age can have SOME say in the rules. Have you ever offered to allow your school-aged kid to choose their own punishment? You might be surprised to find out that they’re typically harder on themselves than you might be! Teens follow rules best when they can see some logic in them or understand the reasoning behind them. (They stand by of ‘because I said so’ is the opposite of creating autonomy for teens.) Allow teens to be part of the conversation when establishing curfews, and allow school-aged kids to offer their opinion on bedtime rules.

Creating Autonomy For Teens And School Aged Kids


Don’t we all just want to be listened to, at the end of the day? Yes! Listening to the very real problems and successes of your school-aged and teen kids shows them that you value them. And kids who value themselves feel autonomy to make choices for themselves. It can be hard to listen without giving advice, or worse, solving their problems for them, but try to frame suggestions as observations. “Maybe your friend feels left out, and that’s why she’s acting this way.” Pose questions: “What do you think will make her feel better?”

Create choices:

You started giving your child reasonable, low-stakes choices as a toddler and preschooler, and now it’s time to step it up. Give your school-aged kid higher stake choices. Maybe you wish for your child to pursue an after-school activity. Compile the choices, eliminate any you are not willing to grant (maybe that karate class isn’t in the budget or that voice lesson is too far of a commute), and then allow your child to pick. Teens can be given more choice, especially if parental counseling or advice is included, and consequences are understood. For example: “Yes, you can take that AP class instead of the honors class, but if your grades slip, you will have to play an hour less of video games on the weekends.” Put the choice in your teen’s hands when possible and reasonable.

Give responsibility:

To do this successfully, give plenty of guidance, but go easy on the instructions. Parents ultimately need to leave the successful follow-through of a task or ask (curfew, for instance) in their teens’ hands. Is this easy? Heck no! But part of giving responsibility is learning to trust. And make sure your teen knows that if he loses your trust, he will no longer have responsibility, either. School-aged kids can start to learn responsibility with chores around the house, babysitting, or neighborhood jobs.

Don’t criticize peers:

Remember how much teens look to their peers? Yeah, it’s frustrating. But unless you have cause to believe your teen should have no contact with a peer, try not to criticize the small stuff. Teens see themselves reflected in their peers, so when you criticize their best friend, your teen may interpret that as criticism of themself as well.

More to read: How To Set Up A Token Economy For Your Child

Creating Autonomy For Toddlers And Preschoolers

Creating Autonomy For Toddlers And Preschoolers

What do we mean by autonomy? Autonomy is the capacity to make an informed, uncoerced decision for oneself, or to have choice and control over yourself. Behavioral autonomy is the ability to make decisions and follow through with actions, rather than simply following along with peers or parents.

Often, we think of teenagers when we think of creating autonomy–after all, we don’t want them to be followers, right?–but autonomy starts much earlier. Have you ever heard your three-year-old say, “I’ll do it myself!” Yeah, I thought so. Toddlers and preschoolers are developing both physically and physiologically like weeds, and they crave control over their lives.

Here’s how to create autonomy for toddlers and preschoolers in your everyday life.

What you can do today to create autonomy for toddlers and preschoolers:

Role model tasks:

We do this all the time, right? “Here, watch me,” or, “Look at Mommy do it” are very standard phrases in most households. Essentially, to create autonomy for toddlers, just keep doing what you’re doing! It can help to narrate what you’re doing to draw your child’s attention, but don’t sweat it if you just go about your day modeling what you’d like your toddler or preschooler to be capable of doing solo one day.

Offer choices:

When possible and reasonable, give your toddler or preschooler two choices. You will create autonomy for toddlers by allowing for some control over his environment, which will empower him. You can offer apple slices or banana, or the blue cup or the red cup. Or how about: “Do you want to sit down or lie down for your vaccination shot?”

Creating Autonomy For Toddlers And Preschoolers

Let toddlers participate:

Yes, we know…it’s easier and faster to do a task yourself. But allowing your toddler to participate in a task is a big step toward eventual independence. Kids this age will learn through trial and error. Correct gently as you go, and try to be patient!

Listen to your child’s ideas:

Maybe you ask her, “What do YOU want to draw on the paper?” or maybe, she tells you a story or joke unprompted. Listen. Encourage. Nod along and say, “And then what happened?”. Whatever you need to do to be an active listener, do it, and she will learn that you value her and her opinions.

Acknowledge their emotions:

Everyone wants to feel that their feelings matter. And while toddlers’ emotions are typically all over the map, it’s important to acknowledge them and name their feelings. This helps give your toddler ownership over his feelings, which may often feel out of control. You can also give them solutions after helping them identify their feelings. For example: “You sound frustrated with that button. Would you like some help?”

Give them a job to do:

Preschoolers love to feel useful. Put them to work! At the grocery store, ask your daughter to help you place the food on the conveyer belt, or in the yard, ask her to hold the leaf bag. Make sure the jobs you ask of your toddler or preschooler are age-appropriate!

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