Christian Living


Mommy and the Joyful Three 11/14/11

Parenting a Rebellious Child

Rebellion is something many children go through. It is even natural for children to rebel a little as they grow and try to establish who they are and what they want. However, some children rebel much worse than others and the effects can be detrimental to the family dynamic.

Some children are naturally strong willed. I happened to have been one of them. Growing up, I wanted to make my own way. When I became a teenager, I chose the wrong way to go. I was so rebellious that it affected my entire family. They did not know what to do about my behavior.

Given my history, I knew there was a good chance one of my children would be defiant. It happens to be my middle daughter. She is the sweetest little girl, but her will is so strong that it can feel like a tug of war sometimes. Even at the young age of four, she fights for what she wants without relenting. She does not like being told what to do. If something is not her choice, she makes it clear she is unwilling to participate.

I thought I would be prepared for this. I thought that of all parents, I would know what to do with a strong willed, defiant little girl. But just as with many lessons in parenting, you realize that it is a daily education. It is all a learning experience and the battle of the wills in our home has become a daily event.

When I see that determination on her face, I see myself. In many ways, this determination has been an asset to my life; in others, it has been a down fall. I have been seeking the Bible and counsel to help me find out how to focus that determination. The Bible talks about defiant personalities many times.

With a child who exhibits rebellious behaviors, it is important to be patient. You cannot fight fire with fire. The arguing will never stop if we react that way. If your child feels they can manipulate you, control your emotions by frustrating you, they will feel they are gaining the control.

A strong willed child often just wants control of their life. If you give them control, they will undoubtedly run with it. Instead, do not raise your voice. Do not respond out of anger. Respond out of logic. Explain again and again until they understand your stance on the situation.

Often, physical discipline with defiant children fails because they feel they have the ability to push you beyond your breaking point. You should never physically discipline your child out of anger anyway.

Giving your child a sense of control in a safe situation is a good way to let them exert their freedom. Allowing them to choose a movie or help you make plans can be teachable moments.

Do not over-criticize. If you are constantly pointing out their bad behaviors, it can lead to the child wanting to disobey even more.

Provide uplifting and loving affirmations to your child. Encourage outlets such as art, music, or sports. Turning their focus to safe, healthy activities can encourage your child to put that strong energy into something positive.

If your child begins to rebel in ways that are harmful to themselves or others, discipline them with love and encouragement. You are not encouraging their bad behavior, but encouraging them to obey and reassuring them they are loved. Let your child know that God loves them and that you love them. Trust me, they will carry those words with them, even if their behavior doesn’t always reflect that.

Take steps to get your child help. Christian counseling and youth groups are a great way for your child to be reached beyond the confines of home, which sometimes is just what they need.

Pray and be patient. Just as your child will fight without ceasing, pray without ceasing. Pray before you react. God will see you through each parenting decision. God is faithful. Having a child who rebels against discipline is not an easy road, but good can come of your family’s trials.