Positive Strategies to Manage a Rebellious Child

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Every parent goes through an emotional rollercoaster when their once innocent and sweet child looks them in the eye and defies them with words like, “I won’t do it” or “You can’t make me do what I don’t want to do.” This behavior pains your heart like nothing ever has before. To hear such defiant words come from your kid’s mouth is both shocking and heartbreaking. Maybe your child opposes everything you say, shouts and screams at you, or refuses to do what they are told. While this behavior is extremely stressful and frustrating, you may find comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Managing a rebellious child seems to be a universal challenge for parents around the globe.

Is Rebellious Behavior Normal?

Maybe or maybe not. Experts say that “Some rebellious, irritable, or anxious behavior is a normal and healthy part of being a teenager. However, when shifts in a teenager’s personality are more extreme, they may be indicators of a mental health issue.” When in doubt, it’s best to consult a therapist, the child’s pediatrician, or a school counselor.

Believing that your son or your daughter is going through a phase that will soon pass can bring a little relief. Most of the time, you may be right. Kids typically do go through a period where they feel they do not have to answer to anyone, but it eventually goes away. So, what can you do when you realize that your kid has chosen to be outright rebellious? Where do you begin searching for answers, and how do you deal with an unruly child? I hope to provide satisfying answers to those questions below.

Why Do Kids Rebel?

It is important to understand the difference in typical causes for rebellion and the more serious causes that may require professional attention. Being educated about these things can help you manage a rebellious child in positive ways and get any needed outside help along the way.

I found a really good article that goes into great detail about typical teenage behavior as opposed to concerning behavior that might need professional care. If you would like to know more, you can find it at Healthline Parenthood, “Is This Typical Teenage Behavior, or a Warning Sign of Mental Illness?”

How to Manage a Rebellious Child

Children need stability as much as anyone, maybe even more so during the transitioning period from childhood to adulthood. Setting certain guidelines helps to maintain order within the family and offers a sense of security. Children at any age can display rebellious behavior, but the tips listed here can be applied to all with some adjustments according to the child’s age and ability to understand.

Be clear when setting rules.

Children need to know the difference between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior. You have to set clear rules for them. Make sure they are aware of any discipline they will receive if they are disobedient or if they resort to yelling at you or others in the household.

Administer the exact discipline that has been stated.

Your rebellious child will only take you seriously if you stand by what you say without compromising. After you have spoken to your child about the discipline they will receive after behaving in such a manner, make sure you administer the discipline if they break the rules. Avoid negotiating the penalty once the offense has been committed no matter how much your child begs or cries. It is the only way to instill obedience and make them see that their bad behavior will not get them what they want.

Avoid acting out of anger.

Reacting emotionally to your child’s disobedience is a natural response. After all, you are human. Nevertheless, acting out of anger will not help anyone. You have to put your emotions aside if you want to help your child realize his errors. Take charge of the situation and be the one in control. If you feel you cannot control your emotions, give your children a timeout, and address their actions after calming down.

Ask your child why he acts the way he does.

Sometimes good communication with your child can help you get to the root of the problem. Asking your children why they behave as they do may open your eyes to some things you do not readily see. It may surprise you to realize that your kid’s rebellion has nothing to do with you failing as a parent. You may find out that it has everything to do with being bullied at school.

Perhaps your son has a difficult time making friends, so he feels he is not good enough. Do not get me wrong, not all rebellious kids have a difficult time making friends. And not all kids are bullied at school. My point is that most of the time, their rebellion is caused by a much deeper issue or problem. They simply don’t feel comfortable discussing it with anyone. So, wait for your child to calm down before trying to get to the root of the problem. Just try to bring up the subject when your child is in good spirits.

No matter how insubordinate you think your children are, there is more to them than meets the eye. They can improve and become everything you want them to be.

Final Thoughts

The key to accomplishing what you want to achieve with your child is to:

  • Remain calm.
  • Get your child to open up.
  • Stand by your word.
  • Hold him accountable for his actions.
  • See the best in him.
  • Encourage good behavior.

Put these tips into action and see the positive changes in your child’s behavior.

Recommended Reading

The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child

“A lіfеѕаvіng handbook fоr раrеntѕ of сhіldrеn whо аrе оссаѕіоnаllу, or too often, “out оf соntrоl”. Includes a bound-in twenty-minute DVD fеаturіng Dr. Kаzdіn аnd hіѕ ѕtаff іlluѕtrаtіng kеу concepts of thе Kаzdіn Method. Mоѕt сhіld-bеhаvіоr books аrе fіllеd with аdvісе that sounds rеаѕоnаblе, fіtѕ wіth whаt раrеntѕ аlrеаdу believe аbоut сhіld-rеаrіng, and іѕ—аѕ Dr. Kаzdіn рrоvеѕ— guаrаntееd tо fail. Thе Kаzdіn Method fоr Pаrеntіng thе Dеfіаnt Chіld makes аvаіlаblе to раrеntѕ for thе fіrѕt time Dr. Kаzdіn’ѕ proven рrоgrаm—оnе bасkеd uр bу ѕоmе of thе most lоng-tеrm аnd rеѕресtеd research devoted tо any therapy for children.”–Publisher


Greydanus, Donald E., et al. “The rebellious adolescent: Evaluation and management of oppositional and conduct disorders.” Pediatric Clinics of North America 44.6 (1997): 1457-1485.

Kathy Adams, Author

Kathy Adams

Hi, I'm Kathy. Thanks for visiting Your Guide to Parenting. As a parent myself, I understand the challenges that we all face when trying to help our children along the road to maturity. I'm here to help make the journey a little easier for parents and...

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