Your Defiant Child’s Behavior: 5 Things You Can—and Can’t—Control as a Parent

by Kim Abraham LMSW and Marney Studaker-Cordner LMSW
Your Defiant Child’s Behavior: 5  Things You Can—and Can’t—Control as a Parent

What can you do when your child just refuses to get up and go to school? You’ve yelled, nagged, pleaded and even tried bribing her, but she just digs her heels in and says, “Nope, not going, no matter what you do.” Maybe this has never happened to you—or maybe it happens every day. Many parents may read this scenario and immediately respond, “I’d make my kid go!” But without using physical means, how would you do that? If a child outright refuses to comply, other than grabbing her arm and physically forcing her to do get dressed and get on the bus—which no parent wants to do or ever should do, for that matter—what options does a parent have?

In reality, once we let go of trying to control our child’s behavior and choices, we actually gain much more power.

Related: Defiance—or ODD? How to parent your defiant child effectively.

A very common theme in raising a defiant child, or a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, is control. First of all, things usually feel out of control. Your child or teenager is fighting against any attempts made to control him—by you (his parent), teachers or any authority figure.  Yet he appears to have little to no control over his own choices, impulses or behavior. Society demands that you “get that kid under control,” so parents fight even harder to control that child. You use every parenting technique you can think of that is supposed to work. In turn, your child digs in his heels, pushes back and becomes even more reactive, leading him to behave more impulsively. It becomes more about the power struggle than the behavior itself.

Why Do We Fight Our Child for Control?

  • Pressure from Society. Let’s face it, our society puts two competing messages out there. On the one hand, there’s a high value placed on individuality and “standing out from a crowd.” The Robert Frost poem hanging in many of today’s classrooms encourages finding your own way: “…two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Yet on the other hand, when our young people do make choices that aren’t consistent with the norm, there’s often a backlash and pressure to conform.  And when that child or teen refuses, the pressure is put on parents to make the child follow the path others believe is the right one.
  • Fear. As parents we’re often terrified of what will happen if we don’t control our kids. What if she takes that path less traveled and it’s the wrong path? What will happen to my child? Rather than thinking of our child as learning life lessons—the same ones we did—we believe she will surely meet with disaster. We picture our child heading a hundred miles an hour down the wrong road (one that’s a dead end ) and we’re standing in front of her, terrified and trying to save her from herself.
  • To Win the Tug-of-War. Sometimes we find ourselves in a dispute with our child and before we know it, we’re in a full-blown battle of wills that we become determined to win. It’s not something we recognize consciously, but underneath our own actions is the belief that to let go of control is to give in to our child…and that’s not going to happen! We continue to act in effort to gain control over our child’s behavior, and he becomes just as determined to keep that control. Who’s going to win in the end? No one, really, but our child will have the ultimate control over his behavior. Why? Because short of sewing some puppeteer strings on him, he physically has control over his own body.
  • It’s Human Nature. Take a day and pay attention to the idea of control as it relates to yourself and those around you. Listen to conversations. How often do you advise people on courses of action they should take? How frequently do others share their suggestions on what you—or anyone—needs to do? You’ll be surprised. Most of us know an Aunt Edna who just loves to tell people how things should be.  It’s human nature to try and direct things. Often we truly believe we know what’s best for that other person and maybe we do….but maybe we don’t.

Parents often believe it’s our role— our responsibility—to control our children. But the fact of the matter is, unless you use physical force, it’s impossible to control another human being unless they allow you to do so. You can threaten, bribe, reward, beg, guilt and shame that other person into doing what you believe is best. However, the only way to influence another person’s behavior is if they allow you to influence it—whether they’re eight, eighteen or eighty years old.

Giving Up the Need to Control Doesn’t Mean You’re Giving In

In reality, once we let go of trying to control our child’s behavior and choices, we actually gain much more power. Fighting every day with someone whose main purpose is to avoid being controlled will leave you feeling disheartened, exhausted, angry, frustrated, embarrassed and ashamed. Putting energy into what you can control leaves you feeling empowered, confident and stronger. Believe it or not, there’s actually more you can control than can’t—you’ve probably just been trying to control the wrong things!

Related: Tired of fighting with your child every day?

It’s our job as parents to provide an environment that allows our child to learn lessons that will prepare him for the world, so he can survive—even thrive. Everything we do as parents comes back to this guiding premise.We control providing food, clothing and shelter to our child. We control whether or not we show our child how to cope and deal with conflict adversity and life’s challenges. And we control whether or not we allow him to experience consequences for the choices he makes. However, whether or not that child chooses to take those life lessons to heart is ultimately up to him.

Identifying What Is In Your Control

5 things you can and can't control as a parent:

  1. You can control whether or not your child knows what your expectations are: “Johnny, my expectation is that you will handle your anger without physical violence.”
  2. You can control whether or not you’ve given your child opportunities to meet this expectation: “Johnny, if you find you’re getting angry, it’s okay to walk away, go listen to music, talk to your friend on the phone to blow off steam, whatever will help you release some of that anger and we can talk again later.”
  3. You can control whether or not your child knows what the potential consequences will be if he chooses not to meet your expectation: “Johnny, you’re fifteen years old. If you hit me when you’re angry, that’s domestic violence. If it happens again, I will call the police. I would hate to see that happen, so I hope you choose to handle your anger without getting physical.”
  4. You can control your own behavior: When you get angry, you can model for your child how to cope effectively without using physical violence. You can walk away or practice other effective coping skills when you get angry yourself
  5. You can’t control your child’s behavior.  You can’t control whether or not he behaves in a physically aggressive way when he’s angry. Your power does not lie in the arguing, defending and power struggles that tend to go hand-in-hand with attempts to control an ODD child. Instead, your power lies in what you can control—your own behavior. Just as you can’t control your child, he can’t control you either! Some days it may feel like he can—but he can’t.

Related: How to parent a defiant child without going crazy.

Easier Said Than Done

We know some people will read this article and think, “Parents should control their children.” It’s tempting to judge parents of ODD children on what they should and shouldn’t do. But until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes, it’s difficult to know the pain and shame that comes from parenting a child who simply will not be controlled. For ODD children, being controlled feels as if they’re drowning. They will fight tooth and nail to keep control, arguing and outright refusing to comply with an authority figure’s directives. We can spend time, as a society, judging that child and talking about how they ought to behave. Or we can accept that our world has always had rebels—those who will take the path less traveled, even if it’s a path filled with bumps and potholes. And we can support the parents of those individuals in their own journey, without blame or shame. We hope this article will help those parents let go of some of the techniques that should work but don’t, and find strength in focusing on what they can control.

While we try to teach our children all about life,
Our children teach us what life is all about.
— Angela Schwindt


Enter your email address to receive our FREE
weekly parenting newsletter.

Kimberly Abraham, LMSW, has worked with children and families for more than 25 years. She specializes in working with teens with behavioral disorders, and has also raised a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, is the mother of four and has been a therapist for 15 years. She works with children and families and has in-depth training in the area of substance abuse. Kim and Marney are the co-creators of The ODD Lifeline for parents of Oppositional, Defiant kids, and Life Over the Influence, a program that helps families struggling with substance abuse issues. Their first children's book, Daisy: The True Story of an Amazing 3-Legged Chinchilla, teaches the value of embracing differences and was the winner of the 2014 National Indie Excellence Children's Storybook Cover Design Award.

READER'S COMMENTS

One thing that has helped me to "accept" my child's defiance is realizing that some of the character traits that make her very difficult to parent could serve her VERY well as an adult. She is a risk-taker, tenacious, persistent -- all attributes you could attribute to someone like Steve Jobs or other people who are successful in business.

Comment By : tdr

This is a really tough one, and I certainly do know those outside pressures. My son is displaying some ODD along with his ADD and it seems like everybody but me knows what I should do about it. It's a funny thing, though. They've never experienced it and they don't have to live with it. I'm working very hard at not buying into their opinions and doing the best I can to try to help my son overcome some very difficult obstacles. Thank you for the article. Like you said, until they've walked a mile in my shoes, they will never know how hard it is to parent an ODD child.

Comment By : sams_mom

So, how do you get them to go to school? It's not an option to stay home? Thi addresses a real problem, but does not provide an answer

Comment By : Leah

I like this perspective about the fight for control. I don't know how a parent would deal with the logistics of a teen who refused to go to school. Should they call the school to report that their child refuses to get out of bed? Then what? Do they stay home from work or just head out the door and leave the kid to his/her own devices. These defiant behaviors create repercussions for other family members, which is really unfortunate because it's not just the defiant teen who is affected. I feel for families in this situation.

Comment By : GG

Great topic but I did not find a potential solution other than to control myself. I believe that children need to learn how to solve problems and learn to recognize when their (wrong) choices will cause them problems........any advice??

Comment By : TEC

So what do you do when they still won't go? Wait for the school to file truancy charges on you?

Comment By : Need to Know

* To “Leah”, “GG”, “TEC” & "Need to Know": You ask a great question. It’s extremely frustrating when your child has to go to school but is refusing to get out of bed. We often coach the benefits of natural consequences, that is, allowing the child to fail by his own choice. Instead of getting caught in the morning power struggle, we would suggest giving your child one or two prompts to get up and go to school. If your child refuses, then you would call the school and let them know he is refusing to go to school and it is an unexcused absence. He would then lose access to his electronics privileges for that day. If he gets up and goes to school the next day, he would earn his electronics privileges back. Sometimes, allowing the child to stay home isn’t an option, either due to the parent(s) having to work, the child’s age, truancy laws in your area or other extenuating matters. In that case, we would suggest coming up with a plan in advance for how you will address the issue when it comes up. Thinking about how you would handle the situation if your child was sick and had to stay home from school might help to give you some ideas about what you might be able to do. Maybe you could find someone who could come stay with your child if he is refusing to go to school and you are not able to stay home with him, possibly another family member, a neighbor or maybe even a baby-sitter. He would still lose access to his electronics privileges with the opportunity to earn them back if he gets up and goes to school the following day. You may also consider coming up with a reward or incentive plan focused on your child getting up and going to school on time. An example of an incentive James Lehman gives in his article “I Don’t Want to Go to School!” And What You Can Do about It is allowing your child to stay up later or listen to music when going to bed. It may also be helpful to talk with the school to find out how they may be able to help you address this situation. As Kim and Marney point out in their article 4 Ways to Handle Back to School Behavior Problems with Your ODD Child if your child’s school is open to working with you, it can be extremely beneficial. Ultimately, you can’t make him make a better choice and get up for school but you can change how you respond. When you step away from the power struggle and hold your child accountable for the choices he is making, he may make a different choice. We wish you the best as you continue to work through this challenge. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

To answer that last comment about truancy a school may file.[In my state, it doesn't happen] if you take the time to diary the events and reach out to EAP for help. CYA if it gets to that point. Remember, you are not the bad guy!

Comment By : SAM

My child at 16 pulled a knife on me. I calmly walked away to defuse it. He did it again. Along with the drugs, alcohol, smoking, joyriding, said ENOUGH. My kid is now at a therapeutic boarding school in another state. Obviously I lost the opportunity to demonstrate correct ways of behavior somewhere along the way. Out of my hands now. Hopefully the school will teach him some of what she needs to know. You cannot control what you cannot control just as the article says .. but in my case, I had no choice to make the terrible decision I did. I decided I was not going to die for my child when my job as the parent was to show her how to live. She is very angry at me, of course, for doing what I did. But I had to do what any reasonable parent might choose to do - save my own child. Everybody has different ways to try to work with their kids but in my case, my life was about to be carved up. I chose this over calling the cops and putting her on probation. I totally would have died if she was not removed from the home. This is what I did. Everybody has to make their own decisions. Knives, guns, joyriding without a license - 100% NOT acceptable for my ODD child.

Comment By : MODD -- Mother of Defiant Daughter

I empathize with all parents struggling with ODD/CD diagnosed sons and or daughters. I am one of you. There are no concrete answers,quick fixes,magical words or medications that will solve all the issues we deal with. I have found patients,detachment with love,and letting the natural consequences evolve may change things over time. In my experience time may mean years. Treat youself well. Its hard watching your loved one self destruct. Peace.

Comment By : Raef

Great. It's so ture that those who haven't experienced a teenager with a mind of their own are full of advise. For close to 5 years now I've been dealing with this. Tiring, exhuasting, sick of people with advise (who don't know, no kids, neither been there) and even those so called friends who walk away as to hard. Hello I'm there living breathing doing every day, every hour. Work is the break away, (if you don't get the text or phone call). One day, one breath at a time. Telling myself it's a stage & eventually (please I pray) it'll get better.

Comment By : LoopyLoo

To LoopyLoo and others in similar situations, you're right, it is a stage, so hang in there because I too raised a son who was diagnosed with ODD by the school system. I hated that label, but didn't understand his personality and instead tried to control him. The article is right, that's the worst thing - nobody wants to be controlled! Eventually we realized that we had to let him make some mistakes and learn some real consequences and that meant allowing him to fail his classes and take two additional years to graduate from high school. It was bittersweet when he admitted to his girlfriend that he was where he was due to his choices and that his parents couldn't of done more. No parent wants to see their child fail, but for the strong-willed personality trying to control them is the worst way to handle them. Love them through this stage of their growth or you might not have much of a relationship left once they reach adulthood. And don't let anyone shame you or make you feel guilty because those who do haven't walked in your shoes. I used to feel that way until I started talking to other parents with children the same way. There are lots more of those parents out there, they just tend to lay low because they blame themselves. This stage will pass, but they rest of their adult relationship with you will be impacted by how you handle this shorter season in their life.

Comment By : DizzyIzzy

i forgot to make one more point. the home situation with parents and children is a TESTING GROUND for the real world. as a parent i possess the power (as having more life experiences than my teenager) to try to teach him and prepare him for real life. ex. keep your room clean=your wife wont tolerate a slob, do home work and hand it in on time=the boss wants the file on his desk by 9 monday morning, get yourself up and out of the door on time for carpool=the airplanr leaves at 9 AND WILL NOT WAIT FOR YOU! I think you get the picture.

Comment By : hinda leah

I truly believe you have the topics spot on, keep on the great advise!

Comment By : Dave

my son (13) is passively defiant (mostly). he just refuses to do what he doesn't want to do, and does his own agenda no matter what we do. he's been restricted from his 3 favorite things for 8 months because he refuses to do his schoolwork daily, and keep his face out of dogs' faces for 30 days in a row. my greatest stress is his influence on our 2 smaller children who dote on him no matter how rough & controlling he is on them--what are they learning? he refuses to leave them alone. he constantly tries to control everyone (and all animals) in the home. i'm exhausted and can hardly go on!

Comment By : ELC

I agree totally with the idea that we simply cannot control our children OR anyone else for that matter. It is simply a mistake to believe this! I have lived a life of defiantly not being controlled and have hence produced children with the same issues. It makes sense. If I am trying to gain control because I feel out of it all of the time, my children will certainly face those consequences as well. Also, my inability to focus has wreaked havoc on my children's abilities to focus because they have not been taught properly to begin with. I wonder how many of us suffer from the same issues as our children...I am sure if we take a good look at ourselves as individuals, we can see that as parents we have had more influence than we choose to admit. The alternative is always to teach through the identification of problems and solutions but WE must be able to stay on task in order to do it.

Comment By : LBS

When the child's defiance becomes a safety issue I believe one must indeed seek professional intervention. I had to make the difficult decision when raising my odd granddaughter and she was eventually placed in a juvenile facility for a year. There she learned to use skills and follow rules that I was not able to teach her in the home. She actually thanked the judge of the court for placing her there. A few years later, she is now a responcible woman and excellant mother herself.

Comment By : mayree

My daughter is 14 and i have been struggling with her going to school for almost 3 years. Literally she refuses to go at least one day a week and succeeds. I do feel like a terrible parent and i agree with all the other parents that they are tired of hearing others peoples comments. If you can do a better job with my child, then by all means, please do. I'm a single mom who battles this alone and its exhausting and tiresome because i feel as if i am raising a child who only cares about herself. She has no idea how this affects others in her life. Because of all of the issues regarding school, they (school) had me get her tested for an IEP because they thought she had a learning disability (tested a 90+ in each test), ADD testing (not ADD), on medication for depression and anxiety and has to do counseling. Counselors are now telling me she has school anxiety? is that even a real thing? She constantly fights me about school and therapy sessions. Everywhere else, she goes with the flow. I appreciate all the help and feed back and yes, i too, feel as if though i am the only parent going through this. It is heart wrenching to argue with her all the time. I have given up because apparently this is a battle i will never win. Thanks for making me feel that i'm not a bad parent by basically giving in or choosing my battles! I will let her receive the consquences she deserves and will maybe get some sanity back in my life! My biggest fear is what if there are no school consequences, will she feel she can get away with anything and will it harm her in the future? Is cyber school an option or a cop out for these kids? Thank you for bringing ODD to my attention, - maybe i can get her off of medication that she may no even need!

Comment By : Tay\'s mom

To Tay's Mom: We tried CyberSchool with my other child. What a joke. I actually love the idea of OnLine School ... but learned in this family that that if they hate bricks-and-mortar, they will hate this too. My child 'bragged' to me that s/he figured out how to scam the teacher. Actually 'bragged' that another friend taught him how to scam it. By 11 am, they were all out playing with their bikes ... Bottom line is, not motivated in A, won't be motivated in B ... Online is for kids that are motivated to do it. They are on sports teams, competing for IDOL (Jessica Sanchez) training for the Olympics, like school but are being bullied there .. have a good reason to do Online, in other words. If you think the fighting is bad now with bricks-and-mortar ... wait till you see them do 6 hours a day of schoolwork in 6 minutes and then say anything under the sun to convince you that YOU are crazy ... Hope my experiences help in your decision and of course, it is your decision.

Comment By : MODD = Mother of Defiant Daughter

* To “Tay’s mom”: It sounds like you have been dealing with some challenging behaviors over the past few years. It’s understandable you would feel exhausted and at wit’s end, especially if you have been trying to address these behaviors as a single parent. Although stopping the argument may feel like you’re giving in, it is more about stepping away from the power struggle and allowing the natural consequences of your daughter’s choices to take effect. Even if the school doesn’t have consequences specifically for your daughter’s absences, there are still going to be natural consequences, such as having to take a class over or having to go to high school longer to earn enough credits to graduate. James Lehman discusses the benefits of natural consequences in his article Why You Should Let Your Child Fail The Benefits of Natural Consequences. It’s not unusual to be concerned about how these choices are going to affect your daughter’s future. I think most parents do worry at times about how their child is going to turn out. It’s probably better to focus on the present and try not to awfulize about the possible outcomes of her choices. No one can predict the future and, even if she may be making poor choices now, it doesn’t mean she won’t start making better choices later. Here is another article you may find useful for your situation: 4 Ways to Handle Back to School Behavior Problems with Your ODD Child. We wish you and your family the best as you continue to work through this challenge. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

How do we respond to an extremely argumentative 13-year-old who badgers her parents nightly, screams at us, forgot all the "please" and "thank you" niceties that she learned as a toddler, and torments us with jealousy at her better behaved younger brothers who earn privileges?

Comment By : Nate

* To “Nate”: Many parents struggle with coming up with an effective response when their child is being disrespectful and defiant. On the Parental Support Line, we coach parents to disengage and walk away, as James Lehman discusses in his article Why the Word "No" Sets off an Oppositional, Defiant Child. In the moment, it’s going to be difficult to address the behavior or problem solve other ways of dealing with the situation. It may be easier to look at your daughter’s defiant behavior as an invitation to an argument. Since it takes two people to argue, if one person leaves, the argument isn’t going to be able to continue. You can go back and hold your daughter accountable after things have calmed down. We would also suggest having a problem-solving conversation with your daughter, like Sara Bean discusses in her article The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems". Another article that you may find useful is How to Walk Away from a Fight with Your Child: Why It's Harder Than You Think. We wish you and your family the best as you work through this issue. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

A friend of mine referred me to this site and I have to say, hands down, wonderful reading, examples and chats. I was raised in a home where the parent 'rules' and I was taught to respect authority and at a school aged child 'feared' not doing what was right. I know, not quite the norm for today's kids, which is why I was referred to this site. My mom was left as a single parent to her 7 children when my dad passed away suddenly. The ages ranged from 21-9 years old and in the middle were 4 boys who all desperately needed the 'fear' of dad. She went through a very similar situation as 'MODD' went through where her son pulled bats, knives, etc on her and she finally called the police and had him arrested. He moved out shortly after and into another friends house where he was a model child and my mom was left feeling like a failure and even being told that she was a failure by the family who took him in. It wasn't until years later after several arrests that same boy as a young adult is now a state trooper (his strengths are now used positively) and has since gone to my mom and asked for forgiveness and thanked her for making him accountable for his actions even though she couldn't 'control' him. I too am now in a position where I am a single mom with a very defiant son of 12 years old. I thought I was raising him the right way to respect authority and I have to say that, as God as my witness, I am, but like so many of you have said they have a mind of their own and you cannot physically make them be, do or say what they should. Long story short, I am on here because even though my son has a very capable dad and spends the majority of time with him, he is far from apart of co-parenting and dealing with the raging temper I have to deal with, as in dads own words "He's fine when he's at my home, therefore its your problem and I won't discipline him for something I don't see first hand". Reality check is that wouldn't be the statement if the Principal from my sons school approached him in the same manner, he would buckle down and make attempts at helping not hindering the process. Some advice that has been given to me is to have an adult conversation when tempers have subsided and there are 'no immediate problems' and discuss the guidelines for good and bad behavior, expectations and consequences good and bad. Pretty much going back to the basics of parenting a 2yr old and tell them the do's and don't's and how it will affect them positively and negatively :) Another area after the discussion has taken place is to simply walk away during a tantrum and when the child has 'calmed down' discuss then what the ramifications of their behavior now is (will probably start it back up, but at least you will have made yourself perfectly clear on the reason behind your decision). So far, some of the thoughts that were raised in the article work if they are stuck to. It takes parents acting like adults and remembering debating with a child is just that and even though we are the parent and we think we are winning, we really aren't cause we look like children in their eyes because our actions are the same. It took a process to become a parent, not just a mom or dad, and in order for us to be one step ahead of our kids whether young or teens, we need to remember our only failure is to not care. We too are learning as we go and gleaning from each other thoughts on what to do, how to, when, and still pulling our hair out. Thank you for the many thoughts and posts ... it has jogged a few more ideas that I am going to try with my son and with any luck be able to repost that it works. What we all need to keep in mind is that what may work for one person may not work for the other, but never does it mean we are failures.

Comment By : Enlightened MODD

Walking away from an argument is the easy part. I have walked away from my oppositional defiant 15 year old child, locked my bedroom door and tried to "calm down". In the meantime, I have to grab my 11 year old and 5 year old children too and keep them locked in the room with me. At this point, he begins kicking walls, kicking my door (one of the panels is literally glued back together), picking the lock of my door, barging in to finish cursing and spitting at me. At one point, I did call the police but they only gave him a warning not to let it happen again. They are nice people who live in our town too and decided to blab what happened to several neighbors and friends of ours. Subsequently, my other children's friends are no longer allowed to play here, my husband and I have stopped being invited places by people we thought were our friends, we can't go out because we are afraid to leave our kids with a sitter and can' t leave them home with the 15 year old. Our entire lives are being impacted by this child and our younger children are beginning to mimic his behaviors and saying, "_____ does it and nothing happens to him." What do you do if you try and stay calm and walk away but he continues the verbal and destructive attack. We can't afford to fix all the holes in the walls and broken doors, etc. And even cutting him off financially, it will still take us months to save enough money to fix all the things he has broken. In the meantime, we are ashamed to have people over and see our house like this. I am so glad to read others comments because I feel less alone and less ashamed but I don't know if my family will stay in tact while we wait for him to learn from the natural consequences or outgrow this stage of his life. Loving him through it is also virtually impossible. I hate to come home and so does my husband. Our family and friends have all disappeared slowly but surely.... We have tried to implement the Total Transformation Program - but find it extremely difficult and unrealistic when you have other children who want "normal" lives to implement the consequences on one child - because we are all negatively impacted by them.

Comment By : BrokenHearted

* To “BrokenHearted”: Thank you for writing in and sharing your story. I can understand your concern around the effect your son’s acting out behavior is having on the rest of the family. It’s a concern many parents who call in on the parental support also share. It sounds like you have a safety plan in place for the other children when their brother starts to escalate. That is an effective way of addressing possible safety issues in the moment, as James Lehman suggests in his article The Lost Children: When Behavior Problems Traumatize Siblings. We would suggest holding him accountable after the fact by requiring him to be responsible for the damages, as you are currently doing. It sounds like the damage he has done to this point goes beyond what he would normally have available to him. One thing Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner suggest in their article Is Your Defiant Child Damaging or Destroying Property? is considering using birthday or Christmas money towards those damages as a way to also hold him accountable. I am sorry to hear the response you got from calling the police wasn’t beneficial for your situation. Even though it may not have been helpful at that time, you might consider seeing if there is anything your local police department may be able to do to help you with this. In their article How to Talk to Police When Your Child is Physically Abusive, Kim and Marney give some excellent advice on how to talk with the police when your child is being physically abusive or damaging property. There is also a worksheet attached to the article you can download that gives you an outline to help you prepare for the conversation ahead of time. We would suggest calling the non-emergency or business number at a time when your son isn’t out of control. They may also be able to suggest other local supports or services that can help you and your family deal with these issues, for example court appointed programing such as CHINS (child in need of services) or PINS (person in need of services). The 211 National Helpline (1-800-273-6222 or 211.org) is another resource that may also be able to connect you to services in your local area. We wish you and your family luck as you work through this very challenging situation. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

i have a soon to turn 18 y.o. son (step) who thinks nothing of cursing his mother when he does not get his way. he refuses to think about why he does this. the horrible part is she does not back me when she calls me home from work to handle his nonsense when he is fighting/wrestling out in the with his older brother. he has yelled out to his highly impressionable (special needs) brother to curse his mother. he is a manipulator and appears perfect to outsiders. i have begun the process of letting nature and his own personal decisions take their course. if this behavior doesn't die off soon, he'll be sleeping in another location besides the house i pay for.

Comment By : dad o\'many

I've had a rough evening (or 1000) with my daughter, and her defiance has caused me to miss work, problems at her school and on and on. I've felt so alone until I read this blog. Thanks for all the positive words...will definitely be coming back for more meaningful help.

Comment By : Chrissy49erCal

I teach parenting and this article will be useful. we have the TT program.

Comment By : sam\'sgram

Rate this article by clicking the stars below.

Rating: 3.3/5 (87 votes cast)

Related keywords:

defiant teen, behavior, behaviour, control, giving in

Responses to questions posted on EmpoweringParents.com are not intended to replace qualified medical or mental health assessments. We cannot diagnose disorders or offer recommendations on which treatment plan is best for your family. Please seek the support of local resources as needed. If you need immediate assistance, or if you and your family are in crisis, please contact a qualified mental health provider in your area, or contact your statewide crisis hotline.

We value your opinions and encourage you to add your comments to this discussion. We ask that you refrain from discussing topics of a political or religious nature. Unfortunately, it's not possible for us to respond to every question posted on our website.
If you like "Your Defiant Child’s Behavior: 5 Things You Can—and Can’t—Control as a Parent", you might like these related articles: