Defiant child parent authority

You must have faced parenting situations where your children have defied you. They have refused to listen to you, obey the rules or comply with requests. While defiance can happen at any age, the signs are more prominent in tweens and teens.

Here is what you can do when your children start challenging your authority.

Identify the Signs of Defiance

Observe your child’s behaviour – how do they behave or what do they do when they defy you? The signs could be maintaining complete silence, yelling, throwing tantrums, rebelling, head banging, meltdowns, etc. If these signs appear frequently, it means that your children have started questioning your rules and it’s a red flag for you.

Identify the Triggers

Find out if there is any particular situation that triggers defiance in your child. It could be a toxic situation or person, unfortunate incident (death of a loved one, divorce of parents), lack of routine, etc.  Knowing triggers can help you to help your child by acknowledging their feelings or reasons for defiance. For example, your child may start skipping school as a way to cope with a death of a loved one. In such a case, you can address their fears and anxiety and give them a sense of safety.

Avoid Being Manipulated

Sometimes, children use emotional blackmail or send you on a parenting guilt trip when they question your authority. For example, ‘You never spend time with me, why should I listen to you’ or ‘You broke your promise to buy me a new toy, why should I listen to you’. Your child is trying to divert your attention from the defiant behaviour situation. Make sure you don’t fall into this trap.

Have Mutual Understanding with Authority Figures

Your children may have several authority figures in their life – mother, father, elder sibling, grandparents, school teacher, etc. It is important to have a mutual understanding between you and these people that none of you will challenge each other’s authority when a situation arises (at least not in front of the children!). For example, when a mother is handling a defiant behaviour situation, others shouldn’t interfere or bypass her authority. If they do, then children may take advantage of favouritism.

Seek Cooperation Instead of Compliance    

While you have the full right to assert your authority over your children to make them comply, they may not accept it or do so begrudgingly as a last resort. Hence, try to gain their cooperation with little give and take.

Reward and Punishment

When your children challenge your authority, you instinctively want to punish them. Examples of punishment are sending them to their room, not allowing to play with friends, taking away their screen time or ordering them to shut up their mouths. Unfortunately, punishment shouldn’t be your approach.

Rather, find alternate ways to discipline them such as asking them to help their sibling with homework, run errands, do the household chores, etc. Make them responsible for these tasks for at least a week or more. If they complete these tasks, make sure to reward them such as treating them to their favourite home-cooked meal, taking them out for ice cream, etc.

In case your children continue to defy you for a prolonged period or their behaviour becomes abnormal, it is advisable to seek professional therapy.

About Rekha Menon

Rekha Menon is a primary teacher by profession, now engaged in various hobby & craft classes for kids, and occasionally writes about topics which interest her. With two teenage kids, she is usually grappling with issues that most parents deal with, and shares her views to stimulate discussion on these.


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