How to Handle Resistance with a Youngster


When I tried to have my 6-year old leave a public swimming pool, she resisted to the point of almost making a scene. Not wanting to create a disturbance, as embarrassed as I was I resorted to having the lifeguard assist in my endeavors. I immediately thought of you and wondered how you would have handled this discipline situation. Any suggestions?


Children mature when they begin to realize that other people’s interests are also involved in their decisions. Having a youngster become aware of this is one of the most important charges a parent has.

If I were in that situation, I would ask my daughter, “Do you want to go swimming in the future?” This question would prompt her to reflect and make a choice for her long-term best interests.

Another approach could be—since it was past her time to leave the pool—saying to her, “The clock is running.” Explain that the phrase means she is now using up your time and will be accountable for it later.

Don’t tell her what that means. The next day let her know that she used 10 minutes of your time at the pool the day before and now it’s her turn to wait on you. Give her two choices of assignments—preferably distasteful ones. The key to remember is that SHE does the choosing. Or have her suggest an activity that will assist her to not repeat the behavior. Either way, having her choose is the prime difference between elicitation and imposition. Something elicited is owned by the person. Something imposed promotes victimhood thinking because it generates a feeling of lack of control. This feeling often results in blaming the person who imposed the punishment.

Finally, here is very simple technique to keep in mind—one we have experienced but may not have consciously thought about: THE PERSON WHO ASKS THE QUESTION CONTROLS THE CONVERSATION. When she asks you a question, and you enter into a discussion based on her question, she is controlling the conversation. Pull out of this by answering with your own question.

More information about how to handle situations like this one is explained in the parenting book.

  1. I think that when you have a child like this, it can be really taxing on you. Great post! It is awesome!

  2. I have never forgotten the message from Marv regarding the person who asks the questions controls the conversation. This works in business and with children. I learned it with the hard way with my 5 year old daughter. She is now 14 and the principle still applies. I love Marv’s books!