Every parent wonders at one time or another, “why does my child disobey?” You’ve told them over and over what to do, you’ve talked about the reasons why, you’ve discussed the consequences, and so you are left wondering, “what the heck?” when your child STILL does not cooperate.
Don’t be shocked by your child’s disobedience. They are born imperfect humans like all of us, and quite honestly, we should be shocked if our kids never disobeyed us at some level.
It might be helpful to take a closer look at the reasons why a child disobeys. Armed with this understanding, you will be wiser in your dealings with your uncooperative child.
Sometimes your child disobeys simply because they forget.
A child should not be punished for forgetting. They can, however, be admonished to make more of an effort to remember in the future.
If a child habitually says they forget what you told them, while having no problems remembering the things they desire to remember, then a simple rebuke may not be enough. In that case, a child could be doing a sort of passive rebellion, which happens often when a child is unable to get away with openly defying their parents.
There are many reasons kids are forgetful, including stress and lack of sleep. Being hungry can also have a big impact. If that is the case, an admonition will not solve the problem.
You know the frustration. They forget their lunch, homework, sweaters, backpacks, library books…and on and on! They forget, and you nag, yell, complain, threaten and punish. If you really want to help your child “remember,” then…
- Stop remembering for them
- Don’t say “I told you so!”
- Don’t tell them what will happen, let the consequences do the talking for you
When parents constantly remind their children, they rely on the reminders and become incapable of remembering for themselves. You may think, “how can they not remember? I tell them all the time!” But it’s the telling over and over that ultimately creates forgetfulness.
Your child may not obey because they misunderstand or don’t think clearly.
When this happens, don’t just dispense a punishment. Your child truly needs to understand in order to really learn their lesson. Calmly rebuke them and be sure they agree that they did wrong. If you know that they knew better, then they should suffer some consequences for making a bad choice. However, if you did not set a standard in advance, the child should not be punished on the first infraction.
This is where proactive parenting is so helpful. Proactive parenting talks about standards and values before kids violate them, so that when a child does go against them, they cannot claim “I didn’t know”.
Your child may disobey as a form of direct rebellion.
When this happens, the child should be chastised or reprimanded and given a consequence for breaking the standard. When you rebuke your child, tell them what they did wrong and why it is wrong. No need to ask them why they did it; it only gives them an opportunity to justify their infraction.
The child should not be “punished” until they are rebuked first. In other words, talk to your child about what they did and why it was wrong, let them admit their wrong and THEN mete out the consequences. And ALWAYS be quick to forgive a child–quickly and unconditionally–who has admitted their wrong.
Children can be motivated to disobey by tensions displayed in the home.
Kids sometimes act out when things are happening at home. It may be financial tension,marital problems between the parents, sibling discord, family tension with neighbors, parental work-related issues, or tension with grandparents. Always seek to understand the why behind your child’s what to see if there is more to the situation than meets the eye.
Not all disobedience is the same.
The problem that many parents have is that they clump all disobedient behavior together. Your kid doesn’t do what they are supposed to and you react by immediate punishment or maybe by the ineffective strategies of nagging or yelling. Either way, you are not taking the time to understand what is going on behind the disobedience.
Yes, it takes more time and effort. Yes, it is exhausting. Yes, it is easier just to let disobedience be disobedience instead of seeking to understand what may have motivated it. But when parents remember that the true reason for punishment is to teach and guide kids to manage their own behavior, not just curb their uncooperation now because it’s annoying to Mom and Dad, then they will take the time to be sure that their kids are truly learning from their mistakes.