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Mommy and the Joyful Three

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Erin James is the author of a mom blog on whattoexpect.com. She is a mother of three whose passion is helping other moms and dads with positive parenting.

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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.

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Monday, November 14, 2011 4:14 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Parenting a Rebellious Child

I have a 5 yr old boy who is just like me, I can tell we bud heads at times and i know that we both have the same persanalities. I can seem to think of why i keep yelling at him and i know i should'nt. I know that he pushes back when i do yell at him, I do tend to loose it and yell a lot. This is one thing that i struggle with and I just ask God to help me cause this is not that kind of parent i want to be.
Thank you for writting this, it has opened my eyes alittle more as to how he feels.
Left by momof2boyz on Dec 12, 2011 3:32 PM

# RE: Parenting a Rebellious Child

I am dealing with a very defiant child who fights me on every hand. I am praying every chance I get on how to raise her and now that I just got remarried it is double defiant. Thank you for writing this article and I will continue to walk in the will of God and follow the advice given.
Left by jakayda on Aug 18, 2012 5:19 AM

# RE: Parenting a Rebellious Child

Thank you for this article.It is very helpful. I believe that God allow me to view it.
I have a three year old daughter who fits into the description here. She demonstrated at an early age the she was strong will. She remains focus on what she wants to do regardless of what you may do to distract her at a future time she gets back to it.
I have just retruned from a trip where I was visitng with family and it was very hard.
I look at the advice here and realise this is the solution I have been trying to follow. Some relatives think that I talk too much and should beat her more , they think she is in control because of that. They also disapprove o me allowing her certain freedoms like wanting to stir her tea, or placing thew spoon in the sink, or that I ask her whether she wants cetain foods. I have done leadership training course and psychology (introduction) and have worked with youth for years and is still working with youth.
So I am thankful for this. I see it as God'response.
Left by fed dub on Aug 27, 2013 8:37 PM

# RE: Parenting a Rebellious Child

I have struggled with my youngest, he too is my spitting image in looks and personality, strong willed and a tad too defiant.

I love his strength, what a benefit to fight for your beliefs, of course when that belief is that you deserve another toy or that you don't have to do a chore I too butt heads lol.

I can tell you that with patience and prayer it does get better.

My Cousin and I were recently discussing the defiance in her daughter and my son and we marked milestones they have overcome, change is not always quick and persistence does pay off with a defiant child.

Structure is one of the most important aspects of overcoming some of these conflicts.

My Cousin has been more strict with her schedule which in turn has given her daughter less room to push for her own way.

Prayers for you all and thank you for the stories and comments, it is so nice to hear that we are not alone in these aspects of parenting.
Left by Erin James on Sep 25, 2014 9:37 PM