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What to do when kids disobey

September 28th, 2009 / 9 Comments

I’ve never met a parent who has not been frustrated and angry at their kids. In fact, I would say most parents are worn pretty thin with kids who just simply wear them down.

Are you a parent like that? In this series on Getting Control of Your Frustrations, I talked about getting frustrated and angry when our kids constantly interrupt us, and when our kids constantly fight with each other.

Here’s scenario #3.

Disobedient Children

“It’s time to do your homework.”

“I said go do your homework.”

“Go do your homework NOW!”


Doesn’t that just make you angry and frustrated?

The Solution

As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Actually, I think it’s pretty hard to lead a horse to the water if he is not thirsty.

So first, there has to be a thirst, a motivation.

These are NOT motivators:

1. Our children will obey us because they love us. That might be true on another planet, but not here.

2. Our children will obey us to avoid our nagging. They merely tune out our nagging. See my post here about nagging.

3. Our children will obey us because they should be intrinsically motivated to do the right thing. Even adults have to be motivated to work for a paycheck. Children certainly need a little more than intrinsic motivation.

Here’s how to motivate our children: What they want will not happen until they do what we want.

“Mom, can I have a snack?”


“Mom, can I go to my friend’s house to swim?”


“Why not?”

“You didn’t do what I asked you to do. I am not happy with that. So why should I do what you ask me to do?”

We teach our children mutual respect when we teach them to obey us before we obey them. They take advantage of the fact that they are little and assume we have to do things for them. Well, guess what? We don’ t have to do things for them.

There is no yelling here. There is no nagging. Use a kind and loving tone of voice when we convey to our children that they need to do what we’ve asked them to do if they expect us to do what they want us to do.

It’s just a fact that there has to be mutual respect in family relationships. This should be learned by children as young as possible so they don’t get into a habit of disrespectful attitudes towards us.

Give it a try and let me know if it helped to reduce your frustration and anger when your kids do not obey.

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  1. […] The next post in the series is How to control your frustrations when children disobey. […]

  2. This is exactly what I have been doing with my gang and you are right-it works!!!!!!!My daughter always wants to go to friends’ houses or have them over at our house and I always say no if she hasnt cleaned her sty of a room!!! Now it’s the cleanest it has ever been!

  3. thanks to this website, my 16 year old daughter obeys me more than ever.

  4. My oldest daughter of 2 has been flunking classes, disobeying and has stole from me. The biggest trip of the year is now approaching. Should i take her with me? My family say no, but i don’t want to leave her out. Please respond.

  5. Sorry for the late response, with Christmas and all.

    It’s hard for me to say without knowing the situation. In general, I believe that consequences should be made clear in advance. If you clearly told her in advance that she would not be able to go on the trip if she disobeys, or if she doesn’t maintain a certain grade, and that knowing the consequences she continued her bad behavior, then your job is to be consistent with your word and not let her go. However, if it was not made clear, and you suddenly slam this on her, using this trip as a punishment may not teach her to change her behavior because there is no consistency on your part.

    Whether you decide to let her go or not, you probably need to begin a plan to help her. I suggest 2 things: 1) Set clearly defined expectations and consequences. Give her every opportunity to succeed but maintain a consistent standard that you need to be responsible for. 2) Spend more casual time with her one-on-one, for no reason – go out for ice cream, go see a movie, take a belly dancing class together, or whatever…with her only, without the other daughter.

    I feel that there’s a lot going on with your daughter and she needs to know that you love her unconditionally, along with clear boundaries to show her the way to live properly. Her type of behavior is a scream for help. Let me know how it goes.

  6. Any suggestions for a preschooler (3) and a 5 year old? I’ve found that I don’t really have as many times of them asking for something (going to a friends house, asking for money…etc etc) sure they ask for snacks and stuff but not as frequently throughout the day as say a middle school or high school student with more freedoms. My main issue lately with both of them has been obeying the first time I ask as well as repeating themselves CONSTANTLY. My son (5) does it much more than my daughter (3) but for example he’ll ask, “Mom, can I have_______?” and I’ll say, “Maybe later after______ (dinner, cleaning up your toys, etc etc but I say after something specific) and he just asks and asks and asks over and over. Another thing he does is he makes crazy sounds over and over like he’ll yell “Blah!! Blah!!!! Blah!!!” and I’ll ask him to stop and he stops for like 5 minutes and starts again with the same thing, it gets really obnoxious and I’ll ask him, “What did I just say?” and he has no idea what I asked, like he not only doesn’t obey but actually does not listen. And. he doesn’t have ADD or ADHD or autism or anything at all so that’s not the issue, I can assure you. Maybe, I have to work more on MAKING him focus his attention? If so, any one have any ideas for exercises or methods to expand this skill with him?

  7. I will try this; but I have 2 “What If” questions:

    (1) What if my son is rebellious, and says, “well, sorry, but I’m going to go to my friend’s house anyway…” and he leaves the house? It’s only a matter of time before he figures out there’s almost nothing I can do about it… At that point, do I kick him out of the house?

    (2) What if he’s okay with the “or else”? I take away the Xbox; “fine.” I say he can’t go to his friend’s house; “fine.” He has already had his laptop taken away, and his phone, and his Xbox, and his TV privileges, and on and on… N-O-T-H-I-N-G stops the sneaking and the disobedience. Nothing.

    So what do I do?

  8. Krystal, your son sounds like he’s being a silly kid. He is a child.
    Sign him up for soccer or gymnastics or anything that is active and has a coach. He will learn in a team setting that the silliness is not cool. And the coach will be a voice other than yours that teaches him to listen and obey.

  9. GSCOT, with every disobedient situation, you must look into your son’s heart. What’s going on inside? Why is he so hardened against you and your authority? What is he saying to you with his actions?
    You hear him say, “I hate you.”
    But he may actually be saying, “Do you really love me? If I don’t do anything you say, would you still love me? Does anyone love me? If no one loves me at home, I’ll go find friends who will accept me even when I’m bad.”
    I know this sounds like some psychobabble but it is true that in the heart of every child is the need to be loved unconditionally. As adults we want that too. We want that from our spouse. We want our spouse to say, “I love you” when we are at our worst on a bad hair day.

    My advice is take a trip together, get out of your environment so both of you can get some new perspectives and renew your relationship. Going camping is best. When you are stripped of all the day to day stuff, what matters most for the two of you?

    Also, maybe this post will help


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