Effective Ways to Deal with Child Rebellion

Rebellion is normal in children between two and six years old, and also in teenagers. It's important to understand and listen to the child. Be loving but firm.
Effective Ways to Deal with Child Rebellion
Bernardo Peña

Written and verified by the psychologist Bernardo Peña.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Child rebellion usually manifests itself in different ways, depending on their age. As they grow, many changes arise, many motivated by the definition of their identity. There are two classic stages of rebellion in children, between 2 and 6 years old, and when they reach adolescence. In these stages, the child or teenager wants to exercise and impose their own will.

There are other periods of rebellion, for example, when children suffer from changes in their environment, making it difficult to relate to parents. This suffering can be translated into rebellion.

This behavior, rebellion, is considered normal, so we should not be too alarmed. These stages of rebellion are to some extent necessary since, in these stages, the child forges their personality, their identity, and their individuality.

Given this, it is essential that you accept and understand the rebellion of your child, but also that you know what to do, as the case may be. Your challenge as a parent is to handle their rebelliousness in such a way that they forge their identity, without engaging in bad behavior.

Strategies to control child rebellion

You may have heard that during these stages you should teach them discipline with love. Even if they are small, they are able to relate what they do to what they were asked to do. You must gather all of your patience, responding to tantrums with calm and control.

Also, it’s essential to regulate their behavior by applying certain strategies, such as:

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1. Establish clear rules and consequences

A mother negotiating with child rebellion.

If your child knows the family rules and the consequences that they would face if they fail to meet them, they will find it easier to feel safe. This does not mean that they will never challenge them, so it is important that consequences are implemented, just as you have established them.

A home with clear rules helps children know where they stand. It also makes them be aware of the consequences of certain behaviors.

For the child or young person, this is nothing more than a form of predictability, stability, and control over their immediate environment. In other words, the rules and the anticipation of consequences will give them greater peace of mind.

2. Don’t celebrate inappropriate behaviors

Your child’s rebellion increases when, as a parent, you laugh at their bad behavior. Although you find it very funny at the moment, you are giving a double message to your child. As a result, you’ll gradually lose respect.

Likewise, as shown in this study carried out by researchers at the Cordillera Institute of Technology, such inappropriate behaviors may be influenced by poor communication between family members or by parents’ lack of interest in their children, which should also be taken into account.

3. Reinforce positive behaviors to control child rebellion

One of the most common mistakes that parents make is to highlight negative behaviors over positive ones. As a parent, you can indirectly reinforce these negative behaviors when you constantly comment on them and you don’t recognize what your child does well.
Praise the good that your child does, as this is just as important as reprimanding bad behavior in its proper measure. The positive parenting model, as pointed out in this study published in Avances en Psicología Latinoamericana, promotes parenting based on being kind, but firm at the same time.

4. Demonstrate unconditional love

A mother and child playing.

Even if your child fails, again and again, you must be sure that they can always count on your love. Explain that your annoyance is because of the way they act. Put yourself in their place, understand them and listen to them. Avoid yelling at them and strive to keep calm. In the case that they are already in adolescence, do not question their mood and let them have their own space.

Attachment, as evidenced in this article published in the Revista Latinoamericana de Psicología, is the relationship established with those people with whom one has an affective bond, which is important for good development and to consolidate the relationship between parents and child.

5. Recognize if you’re fostering your child’s rebellious attitude

Many times the rebellion of your child can be generated by a family situation that, as a parent, you do not know how to handle. The separation or emotional distancing of dad and mom is one of the most common causes. If there is some kind of tension between the parents, the children are likely to perceive this and try to divert attention from it. Also, the preferences for one of your children over another provokes rebellious attitudes.

6. Offer alternatives

Offering alternatives to children helps them reaffirm positively during the circumstances. Also, it contributes to the development of decision-making skills in their adult life. Offering alternatives to your child may involve, among other things, negotiating with them. For example, allow them to watch television until a certain time if they fulfill their homework beforehand.

7. Use positive language

A mother talking to her daughter.

Affirmative language is much more effective than negative language. Positive language doesn’t promote the defiant attitude that prohibitions produce. Don’t focus the language on what your child shouldn’t do, do the opposite.
When you address them, talk to them about what they can do. For example, say “you can ride your bike on the patio,” instead of “you can’t ride your bike inside the house.” For another example, you can say: “You can play the guitar in the basement,” instead of saying: “you can’t play the guitar in your room.”

Child rebellion

No child is born with a manual on how to educate them. Therefore, many parents face that task with very few tools. We can not limit ourselves to exercising our authority, without worrying about knowing what our children are living.
Each child is unique and special, and their way of reacting to situations will depend to a large extent on what they see in their home throughout their growth.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.