How do you discipline a child who insists on constantly breaking the rules?

It can be frustrating for mums and dads to get a stubborn child to listen. But it can be achieved. Read on for some expert-approved parenting discipline hacks...

What should parents do when their child repeatedly acts out or refuses to listen? To discipline a rebel child, mums and dads should be consistent, patient, and willing to do what it takes to make sure their child’s disobedience doesn’t become a permanent part of their behaviour.

Discipline a rebel child by remembering the 5 C’s: Clarity, Consistency, Communication, Caring, and Creating a sense of social responsibility, writes psychologist Ben Martin.

Discipline a rebel child by remembering the 5 Cs

1. Clarity

To discipline a rebel child who doesn’t listen, be clear and specific about rules, his limits, and your expectations. You can write them down somewhere he can read them daily.

It’s important to take the time to explain the need for these rules. And don’t forget not to overdo it with the rules. 

A helpful phrase to try: “I understand that you want to explore and express yourself, but this is what I expect you to follow.”

2. Consistency

Follow through on these clear rules, by consistently enforcing them. Make sure that consequences remain the same. However, it also helps to be flexible when it comes to enforcing the rules depending on your growing child’s needs.

A helpful phrase to try: “Do you understand why what you did has these consequences?”

3. Communication

Get your child involved in rule-making, too, to make sure they believe these were made with fairness in mind. This assures them that they do have a say. It also builds their confidence. Most importantly, it reassures them of your love and concern.

After they exhibit disobedient behaviour, be sure to talk to them about their feelings and needs. 

A helpful phrase to try: “Why did you do disobey the rules? How do you feel about your actions?”

4. Caring

Make sure that, when you discipline a rebel child, they know you are criticising their behaviour alone. It is not a critique on who they are as a person. Their actions do not define them, but they do have to change. 

Don’t lose your cool and make sure consequences are age-appropriate.

It’s also very important to praise your child and show your appreciation when they do follow the rules.

A helpful phrase to try: “I am upset at your behaviour, but not at you as a person.”

5. Creating 

Throughout this process of discipline, you should also prioritise instilling a sense of integrity and social awareness in them.

Create an atmosphere of moral responsibility by setting a good example. Build your child’s sense of self-respect.

A helpful phrase to try: “I believe you have what it takes to be a good kid and work well with others.”

discipline a rebel

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What if your child keeps breaking the rules over and over again?

It can be frustrating when your child refuses to listen or follow rules despite your constant reminders and consistent reinforcement. It gets even more upsetting when your child enters their pre-pubescent stages. At this age, behaviour starts to gain permanence.

We are in danger of “paralysis by analysis” when we frantically seek advice from fellow parents or the myriad of sites online, Devra Renner, a US clinical social worker tells CNN

“Then we become inundated, and we don’t know where to turn. I tell parents, try one thing and be consistent with it. Be calm with it. Be caring with it,” she suggests.

Psychologist Carl Pickhardt’s advice is to let go of the idea that parents can ever have full control over their child’s conduct, but they can control how they try to encourage good behaviour.

To approach a child about repeated rebellious behavior, here are a few things to keep in mind, mums and dads:

discipline a rebel

Image source: File photo

1. Determine the nature of their rebellion

Is their behaviour a response to overwhelming feelings, or a means to adapt to changes that are normal to development?

Take note of your child’s age, attitude, and present emotional needs according to their stage of development. This is where communication comes in. Try to meet them at the level of their understanding.

2. Don’t take it personally

Their rebellion is not an attack on you or a reflection of your poor parenting skills. Sure, some kids lash out as a response to parenting, but rebellion is often the result of some inner struggle they’re grappling with. The key here is to be as caring and patient as possible.

Don’t dwell on their past behaviour. Instead, respect and trust your child’s ability to change for the better.

3. Don’t give up on them

Even if allowing them to experience the consequences of bad behaviour helps, you should always make sure to be there to guide them. 

Strive to be positive and encourage your child. Are they kind towards their sibling or friend? Did they help you accomplish a chore? Highlight their good behaviour. Give praise where it is due, even if you are frustrated by their repeated disobedience.

4. Be reasonable

Rules should be clearly stated beforehand, but consequences should also be discussed.

Guidance instead of punishment should be a priority. Children will be more motivated to change behaviour if they understand it is for their own good.

Opening the doors of communication helps build a good relationship, which is the first step to inspiring any form of lasting change.

Sources: PsychCentral.com, CNN.com, Livestrong.com

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