Published on : 25 November 2018

What can be done about a chronically disobedient child?

From time to time most children defy the wishes of their parents. This is a part of growing up and testing adult guidelines and expectations. It is one way for children to learn about and discover their own selves, express their individuality, and achieve a sense of autonomy. As they stretch their independent wings and engage in minor conflicts with their parents, they discover the boundaries of their parents' rules and of their own self-control.

Sometimes, however, these conflicts are more than occasional disturbances and become a pattern for how parents and children interact. Disobedience can have a variety of causes. At times, it is due to unreasonable parental expectations. Or it might be related to the child's temperament, or to school problems, family stress, or conflicts between his parents.

What parents can do

When you have a chronically disobedient child, examine the possible sources of his inner turmoil and rebelliousness. If this has been a persistent pattern that has continued into middle childhood, closely evaluate your own family situation:

  • How much respect do your family members show for one another?
  • Do they respect one another's privacy, ideas, and personal values?
  • How does the family work out its conflicts?
  • Are disagreements resolved through rational discussion, or do people regularly argue or resort to violence?
  • What is your usual style of relating to your child, and what forms does discipline usually take?
  • How much spanking and yelling is there?
  • Do you and your child have very different personalities and ways of getting along in the world that cause friction between you?
  • Is your child having trouble succeeding at school or developing friendships?
  • Is the family undergoing some especially stressful times?

If your child has only recently started to demonstrate disrespect and disobedience, tell him that you have noticed a difference in his behavior and that you sense he is unhappy or struggling. With his help, try to determine the specific cause of his frustration or upset. This is the first step toward helping him change his behavior.


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