This is some encouraging information to help you if you’ve decided you have a disobedient child you’re struggling with. Post contains affiliate links.
A few months ago I started to finally admit to myself something that had been happening in our home…
One of my sons seemed like a bully.
He was frequently mean and angry. He lashed out when he got upset. Which, with 4 siblings, was quite often.
As a mother who wants to raise kids who love each other, I was internally freaking out. I did the following things that – spoiler alert – didn’t change anything.
- I got more strict with the behaviors
- And, I corrected more frequently
- Then, I got angrier and angrier every time a new infraction occurred
- I started seeing him as the Bully and the other kids as Victims
Then I took a step back…
The best prayer I’ve prayed as a mother has been this…
“God, please send the right help and resources at the right time for each of my children and myself.”
As it happened, my parenting mentor had some new – effective – strategies for me to work on.
And now, this child hasn’t displayed a “bully” behavior in a long time. Instead of being antagonistic, he’s friendly and helpful. In the place of crying and whining a lot, he’s calm and peaceful.
Instead of worrying myself to sleep at night, I’m seeing his bright face that is smiling more than it has in a good long while.
So, if you feel like you’ve got a Disobedient Child… and you’re stressed and he’s stressed… I hope these strategies work for you.
Start Here If You Think You’ve Got A Disobedient Child
If your child doesn’t listen well occasionally then you are probably not too concerned. That’s normal, right?
But if you feel your child is chronically “disobedient” and going against your wishes or family rules, then the following will go a long way in helping pave the way for change.
Get On Your Child’s Team
If you’ve gotten to the point where you feel your child is disobedient, naughty, or whatever else you call it in your home… then you’ve probably (without knowing it) left their side.
Instead of being on your child’s side to help him become who God made him, it has become you against your child’s behavior. Which, to your child, translates into you against him.
Is this ringing a bell?
The first and most important thing you can do is to get on their side. Really get on their side. This means deciding that your relationship is more important than one of their choices. It means seeing this parent/child relationship as something alive and tender that will last throughout both of your lives.
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It means protecting the relationship, dropping unnecessary parenting rules, and getting into your child’s mind to see what’s going on.
Children want to please their parents. They want love and affection and attention from parents. If your child is consistently acting in a way that is causing friction between you two then there’s something deeper going on.
Now’s not the time to get more strict, it’s time to do the following…
Start Investigating, Stop Assuming
If your little one – who wants nothing more in the world than to be pleasing to you – stops trying to please you, then there’s an underlying issue.
And if you’ve gotten to the point where you think your child is Disobedient, The End… you get into a cycle. The child feels labeled and knows his every move is being watched.
Then every move and every mistake is magnified until the pressure is overwhelming to your child. They feel ashamed, hopeless, and angry that they can’t please you. And this turns into anger at you.
Become a detective.
If your child repeatedly ignores your instruction then something else is going on. I’ve learned from my parenting coach at Language of Listening® that children will continue to communicate until they are heard. Your child’s repetitive behavior (particularly if it’s against the family rules) is a communication. Are they trying to tell you something?
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Here are some things your child could be communicating:
- It’s possible that they are feeling powerless (This may help)
- They feel disconnected from you, miss you, or want more time with you (here’s how to find more time)
- Maybe they are struggling with a particular area they aren’t able to articulate (e.g. making friends at school, dealing with sibling issues, jealous of new baby, anxious that daddy’s gone a lot, etc.)
- They can’t actually live up to your standards (maybe your rules are dumb or they’re not developmentally able to comply with all your expectations)
- Or they are tired and not getting enough sleep (all you need to know about sleep)
There are many things, but the good news is this… your child wants you to understand them.
Start Special Playtimes Stat
One of the first things I would initiate (and have myself initiated) with a child who is struggling emotionally or with chronic refusal to comply with your rules is Special Playtime.
This is something like play therapy, also called filial therapy.
I learned about this in the book The Parent Survival Guide: From Chaos To Harmony In 10 Weeks Or Less.
Essentially, you are going to have a 30 minute session once a week (and once a week only) with your child for 8 or so weeks at a time. You’ll have certain toys in a box only brought out at Special Playtime. You’ll let them take charge during that time, noting patterns in their play. You will be flabbergasted at what you see.
Why does this work?
Because children will communicate what’s going on inside them through their play.
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Evaluate Your Fears
What we are fearful of starts to control our every move.
This is true in life and in parenting.
If you’re worried your child is disobedient and has weak character then you’ll notice every single thing that seems to confirm that fact.
Pretty soon you’re getting them in trouble left and right trying to make sure they understand they can’t be naughty and that life will go badly for them. You don’t want them to end up in jail and, well, you’re basically convinced they have no hope for the future.
THAT is how fear takes hold, niggles into our brains, and changes the way we parent.
Figure out what you’re scared of and follow that train of thought.
My child complains about chores and cleaning up. I am worried he’s going to grow up lazy, but I really want him to know the value of hard work. Because I’m scared he’s got a lazy streak, I point out any time I notice a behavior I think is lazy. And I can tell this causes a rupture in our relationship, but it’s really hard for me to stop.
Instead, I can notice when he takes responsibility, encourage the positive behaviors, and structure the day’s activities so he must first do the chores/work before he can do the fun stuff. This will motivate him without me having to lecture.
My child hits his brother when they get riled up. I am worried they’ll never get along and that he’s just a mean kind of kid. Because I’m concerned he’s becoming a bully, I put him in time out every time I see him being mean. At the same time , doing this makes me nervous because I can’t always tell who started it, him or his brother.
Instead, I can point out when he displays kind behaviors (these cards will help you do that systematically) and teach him how to express his emotions without hitting. Then I can listen to his concerns and feelings about his brother without freaking out.
I can do Special Playtimes with him to let him work through his feelings. And I can stop treating him like the bully I’m worried he’s becoming. This will help him see that these feelings are normal, that I do not think he is a “bad kid” and that he can control himself.
To Sum It Up…
If you are generally a consistent parent who has reasonable rules and shows love and attention to your child, yet they are on a disobedient streak… relationship is the first place to look.
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→ Sometimes children are struggling with a thought or feeling, and they need your help to process it.
→ It’s possible that the child is struggling to communicate something, and they need you to dig deep.
→ And sometimes children are discouraged because of constant correction, and they need you to fill their love tank up.