If you have some child behavior problems happening in your home this post will help you get on the road to having a more harmonious home.
A while ago, on a vacation in the Bahamas, I had a revelation…
Maybe it was the time away from my daily grind, maybe it was the sun and the sand, but whatever it was really got me thinking!
It became clear to me, like a ton of bricks… that one of my kids was having some serious behavior problems.
I’m (loosely) defining child behavior problems as:
- Habitually refusing requests.
- Resisting instructions.
- Invitations to attend power battles regularly.
All in all, I was feeling as though one of my kids and I just weren’t meeting eye to eye.
The following is the no-drama approach that worked for me!
It is distressing when we have struggles!
I can’t begin sharing this list of things that worked without explaining this first…
I had to recognize and accept that my child had his own likes, dislikes, desires, wants, and emotions.
Total and immediate obedience was not on the table, and shouldn’t be, at this time.
Furthermore, striving to understand my child gave me the power to sit back and complete these 5 no-drama steps that worked! I hope you find them useful!
Read: Time In Vs. Time Out … and is Time Out Damaging Kids?
Step 1: Check the Connection, but Don’t Obsess
Connection is a need within families and healthy connections make for happy family members.
Your child desires to feel safe and nurtured and connected with you. This stands true for babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and on up.
Ways to Connect
- Validate your child where they’re at.
- Call out their strengths in a real and natural way.
- Make eye contact.
- Get down on their level.
- Touch, hug, and cuddle (it’s good for their brains!).
- Spend 1:1 time with them.
- Pay attention to their likes and dislikes and wants.
Kids will be their own people, and we want them to be. They will have their own free wills, and we want them to!
The problem arrises when they don’t always want what we want. So, connection is key for peaceful and safe family relationships.
Read: A Simple Way To Connect With Your Toddler
Step 2: Understand the difference in power and authority
Child behavior problems often lie right here, mama….
Power (n): The ability to do something or act in a particular way
Authority (n): The power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience
Children have a need to feel power. As a mom, one of our main jobs is to teach them to access their God-given free will in a way that is appropriate and respectful.
And the truth is… this is good and fine and doesn’t mean they’re going to be hellions who ignore you.
The key is helping your child exercise their own power in ways that fit within your rules, family values, and boundaries. This means handing over decision-making power to them when you don’t need it, but still maintaining your own authority.
Here’s a good phrase you can use when your child offers you an alternative to your direction. If you are okay with their own idea, but still want to maintain your own authority, then use this phrase or one like it…
“That works for me.”
Give your child choices you are okay with, but maintain your authority. Language of Listening® calls this “permission-giving.“
Read: Why Your Child Is Really Acting Defiant
Step 3: Evaluate if your child is strong-willed or self-directed?
This may be a hard pill to swallow.
I know it was for me.
My fourth child was supposed to be our baby and then I got Surprise Pregnant when he was 9 months. For another 9 months I was nauseous, exhausted beyond belief, and lethargic.
The truth is, I didn’t do the same things with him I did with the other kids.
Add to that his mischievous and slightly flirty demeanor which I kinda like – and he got away with things the others never would have. When he turned 3 it all became clear…
He was strong-willed. Or so I thought.
Turns out what he was, was self-directed. My mentor from Language of Listening®helped me see that he was not, in fact, strong willed, but was self-directed from a few years without enough structure.
I had been more strict with the others and they were more cooperative. I had been strung out and knocked up with him during the important years and – well – we had Work To Do.
Posts On How To Gain Cooperation
You see, I had to learn how to harness my child’s indipendence and help direct him towards obedience. Yes, this can be done!
Step 4: Evaluate the Rules, Dig Deep
With child behavior problems come a necessary talk about boundaries. Boundaries are something that are already inside us.
The things we are okay with and are not okay with are made into rules.
-You are not okay with hitting, you have a “no hitting” rule.
-You don’t like a mess so the rule is that after dinner everyone helps tidy up.
-Your husband likes to read the paper in the morning in peace, so there is a no talking at the breakfast table rule.
These will be different in every home.
If you find your child is not listening to you or doing what you ask him to do, think deeply about your rules.
Read: Quiet time (Rest time) for Toddlers: All You Need to Know
It may be time to ask yourself some questions…
- Do you have too many rules?
- Are you having a hard time enforcing the rules that matter?
- Do all of your rules fit into the boundaries act you want?
- Are you too busy half-enforcing rules that aren’t that important?
This analogy about walls and doors will help you to firm up your rules in your own mind.
Read: Research Confirms: Too Many Rules Make For Angry And Stressed Parents
Emotions are a H U G E part of a young child’s life. These “I Am Feeling” cards will reduce tantrums, meltdowns, and help your little one learn emotional awareness.Learn More
Step 5: Seek Your Child’s Strengths And Call Them Out
I have learned that it’s so important to call out your child’s strengths.
If you are working on honesty with your child, notice the times they are honest and comment.
“I noticed you told the truth there when it would have been easier to lie. That shows you are honest and brave.”
Your child needs to know that you see the good in them. They know your rules and know when they break them. They can sense when we’re disappointed or exasperated and fed up.
This is why it’s so important to call out their strengths. After all, we want them to see the potential that’s inside them.
Seeking and calling out your child’s strength is even more important if they have been particularly uncooperative. This will teach them to look for positive enforcement instead of trouble.
In short, our kids need to know that we believe in them!
That child of mine who made me realize I’d been remiss in some of my parenting duties…we’re still working through it.
But, I’m remembering when I get exasperated with my child’s behavior problems…
Our children are their own people.
They have their own wants, desires, likes, and dislikes.
They’re having their own experiences, fears, and trials.
And, our job as parents isn’t to create robots who respond immediately to everything we say, but to help raise children who want to make good choices on their own.
You look beautiful! Thank you for sharing this valuable information.
Rachel Norman says
Thank you so much :)
Great article! I am curious to hear more of your thoughts on what you said about “total and complete obedience” not being the ultimate goal. I agree with that, and am just curious to hear more from you about why that shouldn’t be the goal, and what the ultimate goal should be.
Rachel Norman says
This is a great question, I need to ponder this and come up with something. For me, I worry that if they are just programmed to IMMEDIATELY do whatever I’ve said.. that anyone in authority over them could sway them to do the same. It won’t be “only do everything mom says” it’ll be “do everything the boss says” and that could get them in sticky situations if they have a peer who is authoritative, someone else (like a coach who may be an abuser, etc.) and so I think for me the goal is that they know who they are, their likes and dislikes, and they learn to navigate those WITHIN my rules and boundaries, but more as a “win win” scenario. Like…. I require you to clean your room, but how you do that and where you put things is up to you.” So they get to control their part and I still hold the rule, but I am not simply training them to ignore everything they feel/want to just do what I say RIGHT THEN. Did I ramble? I’ll think more on this!
I really like this perspective. Thanks for sharing!
Your video was very insighful! Growing up I didn’t have a good mother or motherly figure so I feel like I have to figure it all out on my own and it’s been challenging. With my first two I think I have let them be self directed because I was afraid of disciplining them too harshly, so I am now working on establishing rules and authority. My biggest challenge with setting rules is knowing what is actually important and what is just a desire of mine. Do you have any suggestions or even a list of what your family rules are for reference?
Rachel Norman says
Amanda, ultimately rules are all made up (unless they are in the Bible, say, and you are borrowing them from that. i.e. no stealing). So really you can make up any rule and it be a rule and that be okay. If it isn’t against your morals, but you just want to do it, that’s okay too. It’s more about how STRONGLY you feel about the rule so you’ll know whether or not you are able to actually keep it up!
Love the video with the blog. Gave me such encouragement today.
Rachel Norman says
I am SO GLAD to hear that :)
Oh I needed this today; I’ve been struggling with my 5 (almost 6) year old son. I know it’s a lack on my part and we just had our third child so we have a lot of big changes at our house… thanks Rachel!
Pretty sure I have a self directed child that I always think is strong willed. We have battles daily, she does what she wants most of the time. My frustration level is at its peak most days multiple times at her lack of listening. She is a genuinely sweet loving child but the constant lack of cooperation is too much. Not sure how to correct the self directed path she’s on ?
Rachel Norman says
I need to do a follow up on this, Casey, because SO MANY resonated with this!
Melissa Moore says
Thank you so much for everything you have shared. All of this resonated so much with me this week. My first son was always pretty well behaved and independent as a young toddler so I didn’t interfere with the little things, but when we brought home our second son when our first turned 2, he started to assert more and more independence and became what appeared to be aggressive and downright disobedient. He was, and still is, looking for attention, trying to find his place in our family and testing his free will boundaries with us and teachers at church and preschool.
I had found it easy to just think of my son as an independent or strong-willed child… This article is helping me see that he’s always just been self-directed and is now frustrated that I’m trying to take back authority. I want him to grow up into a strong man of God who is obedient to His Father’s will. I don’t want to break his will, but help shape him and point him in the right direction.
I am so thankful for all of your resources and don’t know what I would do without them. We’re going to hang up our routine cards tomorrow and see if that helps with some of the transitions, and I’m going to incorporate 1 on 1 time into the playtime routine during little brother’s nap.
P.S. The video was awesome, totally on point, and you looked beautiful!
Rachel Norman says
Melissa, thanks so much for your feedback and I am SO WITH YOU about your son turning 2 then wanting to do what he wants. I think this often happens when we have a super easy child as well, we don’t do much and they simply comply. Then we have one that has a bit more resistance built in and it really throws us!
Kayla Gaffo says
Thank you so much for your words of wisdom and encouragement. I believe my 3 year old daughter is truly strong willed, but after this post I can see that she is also self directed because I have been using her strong will as an excuse to avoid some important struggles. I really appreciate your blog; it strikes an excellent balance of head and heart in parenting. And BTW, I love that you did the video with your hair up and no make up. This is certainly how I spend most of my days, and I sincerely doubt we are the only two moms rocking this look. Natural beauty is too often underrated; I think you look beautiful. ?
Rachel Norman says
Kayla, that is so kind of you to say that :). And I think you are right, if you feel she’s strong-willed then she IS, but it’s good to know the difference so that you can know when it’s HER personality and when it’s our own FEAR of getting into struggles. They are so real!
So good to hear your point of view. The household I grew up in demanded immediate and unquestioning obedience (although my mom didn’t agree with that completely), and it’s really great to hear why and how you do things differently while still retaining proper authority as a parent.
Also – LOVE the mom bun ;) and yes, I agree with Kayla! *Actual* natural beauty (not tons of makeup for a “no makeup” look) should be a thing! You are beautiful, and I appreciate the courage it must take to make a video in your natural mommy look!
Hello! I often read posts such as these and I’m not sure what to do in regards to my own child. As the mom of five (2 typically developing, 2 not so much, and one with significant processing issues) I never am sure how to translate these ideas with my children who are not developing in a more typical fashion. Too much leeway with my youngest is interpreted as mommy not having predictable outcomes (which she relies on for stability). However, I feel like I’m nitpicking her when I try to be Uber consistent. It’s not a problem with your perspective, because I enjoy your posts, but rather a perspective of my own through the lens of your experience. Keep up the great work
Great video, Rachel! Really made so much sense for me. And by the way, you look fresh and beautiful! I can’t believe there are people who would actually comment on no make-up and bun! Like, what?!
Your words were really powerful for me. All of it rang so true.
Clare Kennedy says
yes i wouldn’t give much thought about makeup if i were you you are smart and beautiful and have a lot of great info to share with us
Are you able to go further into detail about the difference between strong-willed and self directed?