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Q: “My Child Defies Me Because She Knows I’ll Give In. How Do I Break the Cycle?”

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Q: “My child actively resists everything I ask her to do. I end up yelling and threatening her when she doesn’t obey, and ultimately I often allow her to do what she wants to do because I reach a point of exhaustion.

She seems to know how to get to me, and I’m at my wits’ end. How do I address her defiance?”From my perspective as a clinical psychologist who studies reward and punishment responses in children with ADHD, you are right to recognize a toxic dynamic at work here.Even if it’s not deliberate, your child’s actions are reinforced every time you stand firm and then step aside to allow her to defy you. (To be clear, I recognize that this is an incredibly frustrating situation.) Your daughter remains oppositional because she has learned that defiant behavior gets her what she wants.[Free Download: The 15-Day Fix to Stop Defiant Behavior]Your own actions in those moments are also reinforced, though in a different way.

You have learned that stepping away results in the removal of an aversive stimulus — your daughter’s defiant behaviors. It’s how you’ve learned to cope with the stress caused by your child’s defiance.In short, there are many things to unpack here.

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