Is your parenting style, lack of consistency, or follow-through contributing to your child’s behavior, or could it be pathological demand avoidance (PDA)? Consider these questions:

– Does your child rarely or never follow your requests?
– Does your child avoid responsibilities and struggle with tasks that most kids find easy?
– Does your child procrastinate, shut down, or react strongly when asked to do something?

Children with PDA might be misunderstood as troublemakers or defiant because they often resist demands from others—and even their own demands. However, this isn’t due to laziness, stubbornness, or lack of intelligence. Instead, children with PDA often experience anxiety and rigid thinking. PDA involves ongoing avoidance that affects everyday life.

Most kids will occasionally refuse to do their homework or chores, but a child with PDA can freeze up when faced with simple questions. They might even ignore their basic needs, like hunger or thirst. This avoidance can affect both big and small tasks. It may be as simple as not being able to choose a meal from a menu. They may even avoid activities they enjoy or have difficulty making and keeping plans.

Does this sound like your child? If so, it might be helpful to have your child assessed for PDA and rule out other conditions.

While setting consequences for behavior is important, enforcing strict punishments or increasing demands can often backfire. Checking out whether your child is stubborn, defiant or just needs some coping mechanisms can improve your child’s future health and success and make life better for both of you.

Adapted from the Amen Clinic’s article, “What is Pathological Demand Avoidance?”