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How Do We Reach a Rebellious Child?

by Laine Lawson Craft

Many mothers ask me, “How can I reach my rebellious child?” One of the first items I cover is how we as parents raising kids today have pressures from our culture. One of the worst pressures we face is the notion of being our child’s best friend.

In seasons of facing our child’s rebellion, we need to remember the fact of the matter is we cannot be both parents and friends. There is a healthy balance between being a good parent to our children and being a good friend to them. The goal is to be close to our children, for sure like a friend, but to stay inside the role of a parent. Remember, we must always have authority. We need to be able to discipline and have the last word on things. The level of closeness and friendship will change with each season and age, but we will always need to establish that we are the parents first and foremost.

A certain amount of defying the wishes and authority of parents is a natural part of growing up. If we take a walk down memory lane, I’m sure we will remember that sometimes we did it as well. There’s a place where we try to figure out who we are by establishing a bit of independence. For most of us, the ensuing punishment was enough to teach us that most rebellious acts were not worth the effort.

What is not considered normal or even acceptable are the angry, argumentative, spiteful or rebellious behaviors we could’ve chosen to respond with when we eventually got caught. It is this inappropriate behavior that contributes to a downward spiral in the communication between parent and child. As these conflicts mount, they also contribute to the sheer exhaustion of parenting.

There are a few basic principles we can put in place to stop rebellion at home:

We can define what are necessities versus privileges. Most of our kids won’t be able to make the distinction between these two. Most kids today consider devices a maintenance item, or something they cannot actually draw a breath of life without. We need to make sure we list all the ancillary luxuries we have supplied to our children.

We can then set up a system by which the privileges of using said items can be removed for a period of time if our children refuse to comply with house rules or if they exhibit other forms of defiance and disrespect. The object of establishing the system is not to promote punishment, but rather to gain cooperation within household guidelines. The common family rules are meant to apply to every single member without exclusion. It is not OK to stretch and bend the rules to avoid facing an evitable confrontation.

Monitoring our tone in conversation is another way to help minimize rebellion. You can break the habit of nagging, repeating instructions or screaming. Nagging is a cultivated habit, which means we can quit the behavior. The easiest way to find out if we are habitual naggers is to ask those closest to us. If the answer is yes, then it is time to really listen to our words as they flow from our mouth. If our children hear us say things over and over, eventually repeated phrases start going in one ear and out the other.

To limit rebellion, screaming is another tone we can try avoiding. Screaming is a behavior and reaction that often brings forth an emotional response that has nothing to do with the words spoken. It is healthier for both sides if parents give directions one time, making sure they are clearly understood. After that, one warning about potential consequences is sufficient.

The next action we can be aware of is follow through. If we are still ignored after the steps above, we will need to follow through with consequences. This, of course, is the least enjoyable part of the transaction. Before ensuing instructions and consequences, we must think through what an appropriate punishment for each type of behavior would be. Be careful not to overdo or underdo. We want our children to be corrected, but not completely imprisoned for smaller incidences. Let the punishment equal the offense.

Most importantly, we must never threaten a consequence we are not willing to enforce. If we do not follow through with enforcement, we lessen the impact of our authority. This is often the result of allowing our emotions to lead the way in a situation rather than our plan. We should avoid falling into the trap of becoming as rude or disrespectful as our children have been. Our role is to model the behavior we would prefer them to exhibit.

As we become closer to our children and establishing our authority, clearly define what are privileges and necessities in our children’s lives, set up a system that will help us to manage correct behaviors, watch our tone in times of stressful conversations, follow through with our consequences and demonstrate in our own lives how we desire our children to act. Then we can bring more control and peace into our homes. With these measures, rebellion can be squelched and our families will have more unity.

Laine Lawson Craft partners with struggling parents with her new book, The Parent’s Battle Plan: Warfare Strategies to Win Back Your Prodigal. She is a bestselling and award-winning author, popular media host and in-demand speaker. Her Warfare Parenting podcast encourages parents. Laine and her husband, Steve, have three children. Learn more on her website: Follow her on social media @LaineLawsonCraft.


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