Defiant Child Behavior: Is Your Child's Bad Behavior Escalating?

by Kim Abraham LMSW and Marney Studaker-Cordner LMSW
Defiant Child Behavior: Is Your Child's Bad Behavior Escalating?

"It started out with my daughter yelling 'NO' whenever she didn't get her way when she was a toddler. Then when she got into elementary school, she started throwing things and slamming doors any time she didn't get what she wanted. I thought it was just a phase. Over time, it got to a point where I was walking on eggshells — you never knew when she was going to have a fit because she wasn't happy. And it kept getting worse. Now that she's in middle school, she's throwing things at me, cursing at us and destroying stuff in our house. It's like being in a landslide — and she's defying me about almost everything."

Related: Do you have a defiant child or teen, or adult child? Learn how to manage their behavior.

Before you had kids, you probably expected your child to misbehave at times. Acting out behavior is nothing new, after all––you probably didn't follow all of your parent's rules growing up, yourself. You saw friends – and even strangers – parenting kids who had tantrums in stores or restaurants and it all seemed pretty typical. Children test limits and parents respond with consequences. That's the way life goes. It comes with the territory of having kids. What you probably didn't expect, though, was that someday — despite your best parenting efforts — your child would not only refuse to respond to your discipline, but the behavior would actually worsen over time.

What you probably didn't expect was that someday — despite your best parenting efforts — your child would not only refuse to respond to your discipline, but the behavior would actually worsen over time.

When Parenting Feels Like a Nightmare

When a child starts exhibiting behavior problems, parents will try anything they can think of to get a handle on the situation: Consequences for negative behavior. Rewards for positive behavior. Behavior charts. Talking about the behavior. Talking about how to change the behavior. Ignoring the behavior in the hope it will stop if you don't give it attention. Talking about positive ways your child can get your attention. If we can name it, you've probably tried it. When a child's behavior continues to escalate in the face of every discipline technique you can think of, it's terrifying. Kim Abraham has raised an Oppositional–Defiant child and knows the utter sadness, hurt and frustration that comes from parenting a child who fights against rules and limits. You start to question yourself, your ability to parent effectively, and what's worse, oftentimes others (teachers, family members, neighbors) start to point the finger of blame at you, too! Fear that you're failing as a parent can turn to guilt, shame and desperation.

Related: Does parenting feel like a nightmare? You're not alone—help for parents of defiant kids.

If your child's behavior has continued to escalate, quickly or over time, take heart. Here are a few tips that can help:

1. Rule Out Other Factors

If your child's behavior continues to escalate despite all your best efforts, you may want to see a professional to rule out other factors. Some children have undetected medical issues such as allergies (food or otherwise) that can truly impact their behavior. Other children who are chronically defiant, constantly breaking rules or having trouble handling frustration may be experiencing ADHD, Asperger's Disorder, anxiety or depression. If any of these situations are occurring, getting your child the proper help can help him manage his emotions – and behavior – more effectively.

There are many reasons a child's behavior can escalate. It may be that he is becoming increasingly frustrated and simply doesn't know how to express it. You might also find, after thinking it over, that your own reaction to your child is contributing to the intensity of his behavior. Are you easily irritated by your child, and if so, how do you respond? Dealing with a child's negative behavior can leave a parent feeling whipped; you may not realize the role your own behavior is playing in the interactions. Even your tone of voice or the expression on your face can affect your child.

2. Walking Away Doesn't Mean You're Giving Up

It's easy to get drawn into control battles with a child who argues about everything. There's often a cycle that goes something like this: Your child wants something or experiences an intense negative emotion. You tell her "no" or set a limit. She tries to get you to change your mind. You stick to your guns. She gets more upset; her emotions and behavior escalate. Your emotions escalate. She tries to get her way. You try to get her to understand your point of view and why the answer is "No." Things continue to escalate to yelling, swearing or even getting physical.

Related: Has your child been verbally or physically abusive?

During a conflict, kids sometimes go into "fight or flight" mode: they get upset, there's a rush of adrenaline and they don't know how to release that energy. The longer the conflict continues, the more their adrenaline pumps them up. Ending the argument by walking away shows your child he doesn't have to stay in fight–or–flight mode. You can offer him suggestions on how he can get rid of that energy in a more acceptable way than yelling or throwing things. This can help keep things from hitting the point where they continue to escalate.

Remember: your child doesn't have to understand why you're setting a limit. In the old days, parents never spent a lot of time explaining to a child why they were setting a limit. They might give it a sentence or two, but then that–was–that. Discussion over. You never saw Pa Ingalls arguing with Laura over her chores. Why? Because he'd have said something to the effect of, "Because I said so, now get in the barn and clean up after the horses!" Then he'd have walked away! Over the years, parents have fallen into the trap of talking to our kids too much. We talk about everything, and we want our kids to be okay with our decisions. The fact is, sometimes they're not going to be happy about a limit or a consequence and that's okay. That's part of learning and growing up and that's life. You can validate for your child that it's hard to accept things she doesn't agree with, and that she may be really upset, disappointed or angry. But don't fall into the trap of believing you need to justify yourself – or your decisions – to your child and then stand there until she's okay with it. If you do, you may be standing there a very long time—ripe for getting further drawn into the power struggle!

3. Accept Your Child

Everyone has their own unique temperament (or disposition) and kids are no different. Some kids tend to be cooperative while some seem to argue about everything. Some are easygoing while others have a low frustration tolerance and are quick to anger. There are kids who are quiet and shy, and those who want to be heard….every moment of every day! With Oppositional –Defiance, it can be hard to accept a child's basic personality. You could spend years trying to change your child into someone else, but the bottom line is: this is your child, right now, in this moment. Accepting your child doesn't mean you accept his behavior or agree with all of his choices. It does mean that you accept him at a basic level of being human– with his own feelings, flaws and struggles.

4. Continue to Set Limits and Follow Through With Consequences…Even Though It's Hard

It's not easy to stand firm in the face of a tornado of emotion your child unleashes on you. It can seem easier to give in and sometimes it is…in the short run. But in the long run, if you can hang in there and remain consistent, your child will come to know that arguing, throwing things and getting physical won't change your mind or your house rules. Because it can be so draining — emotionally — to follow through with consequences, you may want to target the most serious behaviors you're seeing with your child first and then work your way down the list. Don't give a consequence if you know you're likely to give in. Go with a shorter consequence or response you know you'll be able to stick to, until you're feeling stronger.

Related: Learn how to set "fail proof consequences" that even work for defiant kids.

5. Think of Parenting as a Marathon…Not a Sprint

Parenting is for a lifetime. There's no specific moment where you think, "Well, this is it. My job as a parent is done." When you're 50 and your child is an adult, he'll still be your son. And you'll still be parenting him (though hopefully in a different way). Your relationship may look different, but it's still parent and child. Your goal is to help your child understand the world, how to live in it and what he can expect from others when he behaves in a certain way. Your home is the first place he will learn limits and rules that exist in our society. Parenting means being in it for the long–haul. Believe it or not, when you continue to consistently provide limits and consequences for your child, over the years he will learn what to expect from you — and from society.

Related: How to start turning around your child's behavior today.

It can be very frightening and frustrating when a child's behavior continues to escalate. Sometimes we — as parents — go into fight–or–flight mode ourselves, reacting out of emotion rather than remaining calm and providing consistent consequences and limits. Your child has the ultimate control over his behavior and choices. As a parent, you can provide discipline, love and guidance. You can support your child by offering positive alternatives to dealing with frustration and you can model those same techniques in the way you respond to your child's behavior. Remember to take care of your own emotional wellbeing during these times, as well — get support from friends, this website, other parents or even a professional if you find your strength is suffering in the face of your child's behavior. Parenting takes determination, pacing oneself and keeping an eye on the long–term goal. Remember, you are not alone in this marathon!


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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.

READER'S COMMENTS

These updates always seem to come when I need them most. It's a struggle but I feel better knowing there is hope and things don't have to be this way. Thank you!!

Comment By : marlee

Many thanks for the advice. Yes parents do need to take a step back, its so easy to get into that battle with your child. I will being doing this from now on. Great advice. Thank you

Comment By : kate

I am getting therapeutic support for my 16 year old ADHD son who is in the throes of not listening to or believing what I say or ask for and playing parent against parent. (we are divorced)( Get help and support through this. It's essential.

Comment By : plicqu

My kindergarten boy is going through this at school. His teacher hs totally giving up on him by sending him to the principle office when he is distrustive to the class. I think in the long run, this will effect his future behaviour towards school and education system. I got the school councilor involve now. He is also a very sensitive boy and care very much so on what his friends told him, sometimes he will come home and said :" Luke said no one in the whole school likes me and they don't want to be friend with me" and he remembers who were laughing at him when the other little boy said these things. What suggestions can you help me with ? Thank you, you always have great articles to share.

Comment By : Ita

Very informative. However, how does one handle a child who becomes physically abusive. My 5 year old grandson was unhappy with the amount of hot chocolate he received from his mother's friend. He proceeded to kick the gentleman in the genitals, knowing full well the pain he would be inflicting.

Comment By : michelej

* Hi Ita. It sounds like you are pretty worried about your son and how his behavior will affect him in the future. One thing you can do is try some problem-solving conversations with him about how to handle it when his teacher asks him to do something or when someone says something hurtful to him. For example, you can teach him to say, “Please don’t say things like that to me” when peers say mean things to him. When he gets in trouble at school, you can ask him what was going on right before he started the behavior that got him in trouble—this will help you know what he was trying to accomplish by acting out. Then, you can talk about one thing he can do differently next time. We’re glad to hear you have some help from the school counselor on this, that’s a great idea. Here are some articles for more idea and information to help your son: The Surprising Reason for Bad Child Behavior: "I Can't Solve Problems" & Young Kids Acting Out in School: The Top 3 Issues Parents Worry about Most. We wish you and your son the best of luck as you work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I'm interested in the part about parenting a defiant adult. Our daughter turned 18 and a month later moved out of the house to live with her boyfriend that she had a secret for several months. We only found out last month this is where she is living. Her only contact with us is when she needs something that requires us to be involved. Any texts/emails about how she's doing are answered with one word, if at all. We require her to pay her part on her phone each month, we are not enabling her. She's basically silently hostile towards us. Last year, she was having emotional problems, turned out to be hypothyroid, though she was always resistant to anything church-related as she was growing up. Certainly living with a boyfriend was against our teachings, and so was the dishonesty of sneaking behind our backs and lying to us about when she was and who she was with. While growing up, she did tell when we told her to do things, we put her in time-out, then she did them. There was much drama about being too tired, and years ago, Vitamin D deficiency explained that one, too. Whenever there is an adult conversation, she resorts to the drama, yelling, and tears about being tired of us doing blah, blah, blah. We've said things like, "this is disrespectful, you need to talk to us in a calm tone of voice, " etc. but this doesn't change anything. So, what are the appropriate methods of "parenting an adult?"

Comment By : MomOfDefiantDaughter

I live in nsw Australia, my teens behaviour is out of control and now she runs away regularly, I have no rights as a parent, the system is failing her and I need help desperately, she won't attent counselling. What can I do??

Comment By : Ssd

I have tried talking to my son and even when he shouts at me i stop talking and move away but recenly it got worse. I really need help. my son never listens to anything even if its the smallest detail but only reacts by shouting and crying eventhough he is already 16. He has only one person, his unchle who he looks up too and i will always have to go through that person to reach him. Both my husband and i have no say but we will always have to say ok to everything and when the moment we say no he freaks out. how do i handle this.

Comment By : shirley

In response to Ita. Your comment is just like what happened to my son in kindergarten. He came home so hurt one day saying "they say I'm the meanest boy in the class and everybody hates me, I'm always on the bad list, never on the good list!". I had to bring this to the teacher and principal's attention. Thankfully they handled this reverse bully situation with compassion. My heart goes out to you and your son. My son was diagnosed with ADHD a year later. His behavior is still very defiant. These articles help a lot. I also took him to neurocore therapy (braincore therapy) and it helps him behave a bit calmer. Good luck!

Comment By : Marie

What about when you feel like no matter what i do my children are never going to behave and do as their told it seems like everything i do including every technique in this newsletter doesn't work my children have been in therapy for 4 years and it doesn't seem to be helping at all what do you do then?

Comment By : michelle

We have a 14yr old boy, he thinks he knows... everything!! Even what kind of consequences he should get, when he is in trouble. We know our child is very smart about a lot of things, but when it comes to not getting his way he throws a fit! He will destroy things in the house or out, he has put his fist through the walls and can be just all around nasty. We are doing all the exersises that we have learned so far but it seems like we will never get to the end!? Our son has a very high selfesteeme (something we instilled in him at an early age), he will stand-up for anyone he thinks is getting bullied or if he sees someone pick a fight he will try to stop it. I know my loving son is in ther somewhere I can't reach him right now but I'm hopeful I will get that boy back. He has so much potential which we try to tell him all the time. I realise this is a different time from when we were young but that can't always be the fallback line with our children today...values don't change from one generation to the next just because of those ignorant few think they should, for a lack a better analogy.I will keep working with our son to get him on course again no matter what it takes, no matter how far because we Love him. Thank you for the tools we need to accomplish this, we will keep up the good fight......

Comment By : Moms Tired

These articles are excellent. I have a 3-1/2 year old grandson who is having some behavioral issues - especially in his daycare setting. We are working with him at home and the teachers at the daycare are trying to hang in there with him, but it does get very frustrating. We want to get a handle on these issues NOW before he starts regular school because it will only get worse.

Comment By : highlyfavored1

My son is 13 and has horrible self-esteem issues. I don't know where they come from as he is an A student, an athlete and an all-around fun kid. He says no one likes him, he has no friends, and won't ask anyone to do anything for fear of being rejected. He snaps at me when asked to do anything. His cussing has gotten out of hand and he refuses to do things. I cannot physically place him in the car and make him go. He plays his dad and I against each other, knowing we have issues anyway. We are still married and trying to make it work. My daughter is stuck listening to the battles that ensue almost daily, if not multiple times in a day. We have taken away xBox, iPod, computer, phone, etc. We have tried rewards such as a new baseball bat, vacations & movies. I am so frustrated. I am a high school teacher and have never dealt with a more frustrating kid. I love middle school kids, so this isn't the problem. I hate seeing my kid suffer and be so hard on himself - a huge perfectionist. He says he's bullied at school, but when asked about it by principal/counselor, he denies it and says it's not that bad. Some of it, unfortunately, is the way boys talk to each other, but he wears his heart on his shoulder and is easily hurt. He always stood up for the kid being bullied and can't understand why no one will come to his defense.

Comment By : dallasfan1969

* To ‘michelej’: It’s so tough to deal with children who use physical aggression. James Lehman states that children act out like this because they don’t know how to solve their problems in a more effective way. With kids this age it’s helpful to set firm limits in the moment and redirect them. For example, “We don’t kick. You need to calm down, go color for a little while.” Later when the child is calm, have a problem-solving conversation to talk about a different way to handle the situation. For a 5 year old, it might help to practice some things to say instead such as, “May I have more hot chocolate than that please?” Role-playing and acting out this new skill is very helpful as well. Here are some articles for more information and ideas: Good Behavior is not “Magic”—It’s a Skill The Three Skills Every Child Needs for Good Behavior and Hitting, Biting and Kicking: How to Stop Aggressive Behavior in Young Children. We wish you and your family luck as you work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

* To ‘MomOfDefiantDaughter’: It’s so hard to deal with a young adult who has moved out of the house but not behaving in a very adult way. A couple key strategies for parents of adult children are having clear, solid boundaries that promote independence and taking care of yourself when your child is making poor choices. You’re doing a great job of setting good boundaries around the phone and how your daughter speaks with you. You might try talking to your daughter about what she can do differently when she is upset with you instead of yelling or shutting you out. That said, she might continue to do these things and if that happens, it’s important to continue to respond calmly and consistently and take care of yourself. A key idea from Debbie Pincus is really helpful here: “When you EM need EM something from your child, you put yourself in a very vulnerable position because they don’t have to give it to you.” Debbie talks about this more in her article about adult children: Adult Children Living at Home? How to Manage without Going Crazy. While this article is intended for situations where the adult child is still at home, most of the concepts and ideas can still apply to your situation. You might also want to check out the rest of our articles about adult children here. We know this is hard and we wish you luck as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

* To ‘Ssd’: It’s so difficult as a parent to feel like your hands are tied while you watch your child slip through the cracks. James Lehman talks a lot about being an empowered parent. This means reaching out for help when you feel like you have lost your authority. Even though your daughter won’t go to counseling, that doesn’t mean that you can’t go. Look for a counselor or therapist who can help you learn some skills to get your daughter’s behavior under control. You might also talk to your daughter’s doctor to see if that person can make any referrals for you. It might also help to call your nearest courthouse to see if there are any programs through the youth or family court that can get you some support and oversight through your juvenile justice system. Local support is very important in these types of situations—keep looking and searching until you find someone that can help you. I’m sure there is someone who can. In the meantime, here are some articles that might be helpful to you: Running Away Part I: Why Kids Do It and How to Stop Them and Running Away Part II: "Mom, I Want to Come Home." When Your Child is on the Streets. We wish you and your daughter luck as you work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My 12yo son is acting like someone I don't even know! I can't seem to make him understand that it is unacceptable to be disrespectful of me and his Dad. He argues about EVERYTHING (really)!I am at my wits end. It has escalated to foul language, threats about leaving, physical threats, door slamming, throwing things...you name it, it's going on. He has virtually no friends and all the other kids say he is mean. I know he has no tolerence for anyone teasing him and maybe that is part of why he can't seem to get along with other kids. He is ADHD and on medication, but I don't know where to turn or what to do. I am afraid it will get so far out of control that something very bad will happen if we cannot figure out something soon. Anyone have any suggestions?

Comment By : Worried and Frantic Mom

Great article. I am going to print this for my husband who gets in control battles with our 6 year old who as ADHD and possibly ODD - he is a strong will child. My husband gets mad when I walk away because I am not providing discipline, however it does no good when my son is out of control. I do find that I can now see the rush of emotion and when he is going to throw a fit or throw something - because I have stuck to my guns in the past - I can say is that action going to change my mind usually he will stop and say no it won't which calms the situation some. I also found that talking about behaviors in transitions before it happens helps alot.

Comment By : laurie

Thanks for mentioning food issues. My first comment hasn't shown up. Maybe it's because it included a brand name? Anyway, food sensitivities as well as vitamin deficiency should always be considered when evaluating a child's behavior. The Total Transformation is full of good advice and I recommend it, but in my daughter's case she wasn't able to respond to the techniques until we fixed her dietary problems.

Comment By : Elizabeth

* Hi Shirley. It’s so hard to feel like you are constantly walking on eggshells around your child. Getting control back in your home is going to be a slow process and one that you will need to do in small steps. Your first step might be to give yourself permission to say ‘no’ more. Start with just one thing that you really want to set some limits on, such as turning off the video games at 9pm, or homework must be done before he can use electronics. Choose one limit that you will enforce consistently with a short consequence and let your son know what the new rule is going to be. You might do this in writing or simply say it to him and walk away. Expect that your son will respond angrily—unfortunately there’s no way around it. Kids don’t like limits, but they need limits and they actually need to know that you are in control in your home, too. So when your son gets angry, remember that sometimes kids act out of control in order to gain control. Let him know that what he’s doing isn’t going to change the rule and walk away. This might mean that you go into another room and lock the door, staying in there until he’s calm. And remember this is a cycle that’s going to repeat itself. You might ask for the uncle’s help in supporting your authority, letting your son know his behavior isn’t okay, and coming up with a plan for what your son can do differently when he’s angry. Here are some articles that might be helpful for additional information and ideas:
No Means No: How to Teach Your Child That You Mean Business
Saying 'No' to Your Child: How to be a More Assertive Parent
How to Walk Away from a Fight with Your Child: Why It's Harder Than You Think
We know this is very difficult for you and we wish you and your family the best of luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

* To Michelle: It sounds like you feel like you’re at your wit’s end with your children and you’ve been working really hard to make some positive changes in your household. When you feel like nothing’s working, it can help to take a step back and look at the big picture. Make a list of all the behavior issues you would like to work on and choose just one thing to start with. With this one thing, find a clear way to communicate the rule to your children and make sure your expectations are clear. Come up with a reward or short consequence that you can tie to that one behavior and hold your kids accountable for following this rule. When you have so much going on and are feeling so overwhelmed, it can be really helpful to break the issue down into tiny pieces and work on just one at a time. If you haven’t already talked to your children’s therapist about your concerns, it will be helpful to do that. Here are some articles to take a look at for more information and ideas: Why Child Counseling Doesn't Always Work & "My Kid Will Never Change." When You've Hit a Wall with Your Child's Behavior. It’s also going to be helpful to find some positive ways to take care of yourself when you are feeling exhausted, if you haven’t already. Often when we get too worn down, it’s very difficult to parent effectively. Don’t forget to take time to care for yourself each day. We know this is extremely difficult and we wish you and your family luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

* To ‘Worried and Frantic Mom’: It can be scary and confusing when your child’s behavior seems to take a turn down the wrong path. It’s very important to work hard not to give your son’s behavior a lot of attention or power. The best way to do this is to set a limit and walk away when he’s talking disrespectfully. For example you might say, “I don’t like it when you speak to me that way. I won’t tolerate it,” and walk away. You may find it helpful to go into a locked room after you walk away because your son could decide to follow you, looking to bait you back into an argument with him. After things calm down you can have a problem-solving conversation and then give him a short time & task oriented consequence, such as no computer until he goes 2 hours without speaking disrespectfully. Two hours might not seem like much but it might be all your son is capable of right now. If you work on these tips for a while and you still feel fearful that something bad is going to happen, it would be a good idea to find some support in your local area. You can do that at any time by contacting 211, an information and referral service, at 1-800-273-6222 or by visiting them online at www.211.org. We know this is very difficult and we wish you and your family luck as you work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I am so greatfull for this site. You have just answered so many questions I have especially about the way I am feeling myself and have reassured me that what I am doing is probably right. Thank you so much

Comment By : Carmel

My daughter is 4 years old & in preschool. She has been very defiant for over 6 months now. Whenever she started acting up, it didnt worry me as much because I thought to myself, ok, I need to be more consistent, or try different ways of punishments, talking to her, etc. I told her doctor about what was going on, and she told me it sounded like oppositional defiant disorder. She wanted to refer her to psych for it. I was really sketchy about taking my then 3 year old to a psychologist, so I figured id take things into my own hands and try to do different parenting methods. Now a couple months later, shes gotten even worse than before and its affecting my relationship with myself and her dad. She doesnt understand the concept of authority figures. When she gets in trouble, she has tantrums lasting over an hour. When you try to talk to her she freezes up and doesnt respond at all. Its gotten to be very stressful and what seems an everynight thing. Shes very disrespectful and doednt follow rules. I feel like ive tried every method possible, and its just going in circles. Its hard to imagine that as a parent, I cannot control my own child. I will be setting up an appointment for her to see psych to see what else can be done, your opinions would be greatly appreciated..

Comment By : stressedoutmom

To Moms Tired - we also have a 14 y/o son that sounds a lot like your son. I'd just say to you to keep going and doing what you know is right. Don't give up!

Comment By : Doing Our Best

I have a 15y/o daughter that has a very awful attitude and failing in school. She's rude, disrespectful, a storyteller, and she seems to have a lot of pinned up anger and when I try to talk to her about it we get nowhere. When you chastise her or simply questions her about something she responds to you with a "why are you talking to me?" demeanor but when she wants something she's sweet as pie. I currently have her in counseling but I'm to the point where I don't like to be around her and I'm starting to not like her. I feel like I'm losing my mind because it's something every single day with her and I have 10 and 4 y/o to raise as well. Please help with some advice please. I stripped her room, took her cell phone, no TV and this doesn't seem to phase her.

Comment By : beyondstressed

* To “beyondstressed”: Thank you for writing in and sharing your story. Parenting a teen can offer some pretty difficult challenges, not the least of which is teen attitude. Backtalk and attitude are a reflection of your daughter having poor problem-solving skills. She gets upset or frustrated and doesn’t know how to handle that in an appropriate manner. So, she talks back (or slams her bedroom door) as a way of dealing with those feelings. It’s important not to take the behavior personally. As Janet Lehman suggests in her article Teenagers Talking Back: How to Manage This Annoying Behavior, it’s also going to be helpful to try not to overreact to the behavior and learn how to walk away from the fight. One way to do this is to set a limit and then walk away. For example, when your daughter starts to talk to you disrespectfully, you can say something to her like “It’s not OK to talk to me that way. I don’t like it” and then walk away from her. This is one way you can walk away from a fight and not over react. It’s not unusual for parents to not like their child from time to time though it often is something many parents find difficult to admit. Being able to admit the feeling is the first step in learning how to effectively deal with it. Debbie Pincus gives some great suggestions on how to do this in her article "Sometimes I Don't Like My Child." From our perspective, it usually isn’t effective to take everything away from a child. Oftentimes, this can lead to a sense of indifference or helplessness for kids and privileges begin to lose the motivating factor. We suggested using privileges as task-oriented consequences, meaning there is an opportunity for the child to earn the privileges back by making different choices and behaving appropriately. For example, when your daughter talks to you disrespectfully, you could tell her that when she can go for 24 hours without talking to you disrespectfully, she can have her cell phone privilege back. Janet Lehman gives some excellent tips on giving effective consequences in her article How to Get Your Child to Listen: 9 Secrets to Giving Effective Consequences. We wish you and your family the best as you work through this challenge. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

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