Do’s and Dont’s for Defiant Kids

“Vanessa! Don’t bang on my laptop like that, you’ll break it!”

“I don’t care about your stupid computer.”

“Stop. I asked you to clean up your room.”

“You clean my room you stupid fat bum!”

“Don’t talk back to me like that. Go to your room and don’t come out until it’s clean.”

“No! I don’t have to and you can’t make me.”

“That’s it – I have had enough! You are grounded for the rest of the year!”


Okay. Let’s take a deep breath in, and out.

When your kid gets defiant it can feel like you are losing all control. No matter how much you nag and yell, nothing seems to work. They throw tantrums, ignore you and treat you or other family members with total disrespect. What to do?

Staying calm and getting through this is possible. I’ve put together some tips to help get you quickly and easily to a happy, calm family home.

Firstly, get to know why.

Although it can feel like it at times, your child isn’t acting up just to annoy you or be difficult. There is a reason for it and getting to the bottom of it is the fastest way to ease your child out of a struggle spot and get to where you need to be.

Here are the top reasons your child may be acting out, however, it pays to reflect on any changes in your family as well that might have had an impact on their behaviour as well.

  • Looking for attention
  • Testing the limits
  • Wanting to feel powerful
  • Feeling inadequate or frustrated (about home, school, or their abilities)

When you find out the reason, talk it out. Your role is to listen and give them your full support, no matter how trivial or irrelevant you believe their reason to be. It matters to them.

For example: Are you angry that mummy has been working on her computer instead of talking to you? 

Could you be talking different languages? Check out The 5 Love Languages For Kids  and take the online quiz.

Emotions are normal

Remember that all emotions are healthy, although sometimes the actions that play out with an emotion are not. Find a way for you to show your child how to express their emotions in a way that doesn’t hurt themselves or others. Make sure they feel safe when they talk to you so they can learn to identify and calm an enraged state on their own with time and practice.

Have rules in place that all family members know and follow

Family rules are just that. Rules for the whole family. Being consistent with these is the key to making them work.

Rules that work

  • Are well defined and discussed well before a problem occurs

Sit down and discuss your family values and explain what is important to achieve as a family. Provide examples of what isn’t acceptable and what is acceptable so your child can easily know what is expected of them.

  • Provide your child with some responsibility.

Lack of purpose can create frustration and cause your child to act out. By giving them appropriately assigned chores and responsibilities in the home and within the family they get a sense of purpose and worth and an independence that doesn’t come from challenging your authority. Allow them to choose some of their own chores as well as assigning some to them.

  • Have consequences that are age appropriate

If your child chooses to break the rules you need to have appropriate consequences in place.  It’s important that a consequence is handled at the time, not waiting for the other parent to get home, or when you go to the ice-cream shop next week.

Let them express themselves

Your child is most likely going to have different likes and dislikes to you as well as look for different experiences outside the ones you are giving them. From time to time they will also react with emotions that you weren’t expecting. Everything about these differences is perfect. Let your child express themselves as individuals through the clothes they wear, their hairstyle choices, the music they like and the experiences they respond to. In allowing them to broaden their world, you are also expanding your own.

Speak in a low voice

Often the first response when negative behaviour shows up is to yell. You have a lot on your plate and it can feel like the only effective response is to raise your voice to be heard and to demand obedience. However, yelling only adds more emotion to the situation, sparking feelings of fear, inadequacy or deeper anger in your child. Speaking in a calm, quiet voice helps everyone calm down, gives rampant emotions a chance to settle and opens a space where a discussion can take place, which helps everyone get to a better place faster.

Can’t calm down? If you find that you are constantly  triggered by your child’s outbursts or feel unable to find patience then talk to a professional, like a life coach, who can help. You will be amazed at the difference to your whole family when you address your own needs and seek to change behaviour that isn’t serving you.

Never reward bad behaviour

Telling a misbehaving child that you will give them something nice if they turn their behaviour around sets you up for a system of them being defiant to get a reward. Your children are learning from everything that happens to them from the moment they are born. They will quickly learn that if they want a treat, all they need to do is misbehave, then be good again and you will deliver. To take negative behaviour out of the equation be sure to always reward good behaviour with kind words and actions and repeated positive events and discourage unwanted behaviour with a warning and consequences.

Having rules and consequences won’t equal a completely angelic and compliant child all of the time, you need to expect a little tantrum here and there, after all, they aren’t robots. Your little person is constantly learning and growing and they have wants and needs that will sometimes clash with your agenda. Making challenges and saying, “No” are a big and important part of your child’s life experience, not to mention being tired, overstimulated or overwhelmed with emotions that are just too big to handle some days.

Explaining your expectations and having a system in place to encourage good behaviour will help your child understand how to make positive choices in their life, how to work as a team and how to be an active part of your family.

You can expect to see immediate changes in your child’s behaviour once your family rules are well stated and you voice your expectations of your time together. Once this is in place you have a viable ground for rewards and consequences.

If, however, you don’t see any difference or your child continues to act out for seemingly no reason, get help. Ask for advice from a life coach or positive psychologist or book your child in for a check up with the GP to help identify any behaviour disorders that may be affecting your child’s ability to make positive choices for themselves.

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