Parenting the Defiant Child

Parenting the Defiant Child

Standing in line with her peers, flashing a look at her “crush,” off came her hood and hat that I carefully assured was secure against the elements. Her long, black hair blew in the sharp wind. She smiled at me defiantly as she headed into school with her class. Surely she was now “cool” and not from the weather.

I thought when you were the mom, you could make kids do things. That’s what I thought. Then when they get out of line, you give them “consequences”, which is a modern term for “punishment.” So there I was, pursing my lips and thinking about how I could get her to do the right thing…keep her hat on in the cold.,,and of course, not defy me.

One health practitioner explained that “consequences” usually push the child away. “Go to your room.” “Sit in that chair away from everyone.” He said that you should engage your child. If they do something, give them a consequence that engages them.

So as I met her and the babysitter walking home, and it was pouring rain, I saw her hood flapping behind her, I pulled the hood on her head and she smiled and pulled it off again. There it was again. Defiance. “That’s an hour off your ipad!” I said. “Fine,” she smiled back.  “Okay that’s two hours!” She smiled again. “Fine.” It wasn’t working. This was getting worse.

“Okay, a week off your ipad,” I shot back, knowing that I was getting nowhere but desperate to reestablish my authority as parent. “Fine,” she kept smiling. After we got to a month off without her ipad, both of us angry and not making a dent in her attitude, I told her I needed some space.

After some prayer, which was something like this, “Can anyone up there help me with this, cuz I’m friggin’ frustrated!”, I finally I went to her room. “You know when we are both angry like this, it means we are sad and scared inside,”  I said as I gave her her favorite chopped ice bits as a peace offering.

We jousted a little more and then decided to play each other. “Don’t talk back to me, young lady!” she said trying not to laugh. “Whatever!” I replied with a roll of my eyes. On and on we went until we were both laughing so hard, everything changed.

I’m sure I did not make any points in the parent manuals for how to get your kid to be respectful. But we did get to authentic, and then the love was there and the attitude on both sides disappeared. Nothing in parenting is perfect. But sometimes love is all that counts.



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  • I have one of those kids too - I'm hoping her defiance will serve her well in life!

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    This sounds just like my 6 year old daughter. The more we try to discipline her, the more she treats it like a joke.


  • Such a hard phase to go through, especially with a younger child. When it comes to teens you expect some kind of rebellion, but there's always the question of whether or not a younger kid is pushing the boundaries of your household's discipline in order to manipulate you and get away with more. Dr. Rutherford (clinical psychologist) helped me set boundaries and taught me that staying firm was the best way to set some order, in case you might need some insight in the future: Good luck!

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