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.
Read: Siblings Fighting? 6 Simple Ways To Stop The Drama
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.
Read: A No-Drama Approach To Your Child’s Behavior Problems
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.
Check off critical household, social, and hygiene skills for your child so they’re prepared (not petrified) of growing up!
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…
Read: Time In Vs. Time Out … and is Time Out Damaging Kids?
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?
Want to help develop your child’s strengths Use these cards to dive into the character qualities and how your child does – and can in the future = exhibit them in their own life.Learn More
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.
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
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.
Start brainstorming rules to make your family life more peaceful, connected, and strong!
→ 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.
I read the title of this and it brought me to tears. i feel like you are speaking directly to my heart. i have 4 Kids and most days I feel like I’m just screwing each of them up. my second oldest boy is exactly as you described and I honestly felt like I just needed to catch every single bad behaviour and punish it. but this only makes him lash out more! this gives me hope. mybquestion may seem silly, but youbtalk about reinforcingbgood behaviour..but do I ignore the bad behaviour? how should I react when he growls at his brother to try to intimidate or scare him? thank you!
Much appreciated. You are spot on. Since i have only my one 5 year old son i played to soft i suppose and have not set proper boundaries. ( Or i did but it came to the point where it’s being ignored. My own fault i know. I try every day to reconnect and establish a better more respectful relationship. Off course it’s great one day the next day it’s back to like “I’m not listening, leave me alone etc. Not complaining (i made the bed….) just sometimes hurtful and tiring espesacially being a single mother of a very extroverted little boy. But with the help of God, prayer, patience and RESEARCH I’m sure we can have our fun relationship back. I miss it and i now so does he. Thanks for a lovely article I’m definitely going to implement your ideas.
Such an amazingly helpful post! I’ve definitely been guilty of “leaving” the side of one of my children who seems to be a perpetual rule-breaker. But it’s true that sometimes, we just have too many rules that aren’t actually necessary (even though they feel that way to us). Evaluating my own fears really hit home for me, too. So thank you for this post!
Recently God’s been showing me more about parenting His way. And of course, excess rules and parenting out of fear don’t line up with His heart.
Rebecca L Gottfried says
I have a 3 year old daughter, Rosie, who has been getting into a naughty streak, and I will start implementing some of these strategies, so I can talk to her! Thanks!
My child won’t listen or do what I tell him he laughs at me thinking my parents will help him I need help
Very helpful, I am struggling with my 10 and half year old son,doesn’t pay seriousness to my instructions where I even make him understand that it’s only good for him and only he will be rewarded and appreciated but not me, then why I have struggle to initiate any thing day by day my worries are growing with his age as a boy he has to learn certain pattern of life to overcome possibilities within time limits. I really lash out when he is not able to help him self to improve only for his sake.but then alone I even realize its not right I really need to help myself and him.
You do a great job relating to other moms,. I think you can reach out to more moms by putting more diverse pictures not only skin color but also children in wheel chairs, glasses etc.
Rachel Norman says
Thank you for that suggestion, Genesis, and for pointing it out!
Hi Rachel,I have 2 children,one girl of 6 year&a boy of 3,they both do not listen to me at all,they indulge in constant fight,they bet each other,I am not able to control my anger & just blow out,I am getting mad,I don’t know what to do,plz help me.
Rachel Norman says
TAhamena, have you read my articles on boundaries and rules? Start there, search the site for that. Sounds like you have some boundaries that are serious for you but the kids aren’t keeping them and it’s making you nuts adn thus you feel angry. This is so common, you aren’t alone!
This was a lovely piece ,it addressed the way i correct my children when they are disobedient which usually involving a lot of shouting on my path leading be me to putting them down in their character, also the fact that i end up revisiting past rules they may have broken or ways they behaved that wasnt appealing and akll this eventually leaves me at the point of tears or overwhelmed that im not a good mother as my mum was to me when i was little or that i am not bringing them up the right way and this has been an exhausting circle of hurt on both sides.
Now i know that i can always show them the loving side of me while still been firm as well as not labelling them when they do wrong or to not take every minor issue as important they are children and will always make mistakes and thats why i have been put in place to guide them
Rachel Norman says
Victoria, thanks for stopping by and best of luck as we all implement this with our kids. We all feel overwhelmed at times with our little ones and tend to want to bring it up!
Donna Rama says
Thank you for your post. It is a reminder to give time for my kids.
I am a preschool teacher and a tutor and a mother of 2 boys. I am working from 7am to 7pm to cope up with family expenses.
Lately I struggled with my boys as they become more and more diaobedient even with simple instruction like “stay in the house” “no going to the neighbors house…”. But everytime I come home, they are away– in the neighbors house. I am frustrated.
If I can only resign as a mother I will.
But thanks to your advise. I really think my 8-year old is really seeking my attention as he always intentionally disobey. It seems that I have more time for punishing them than my reading and play time with them.
I realize I miss my boys. I need to make time for them.