4 Tough Questions About Defiant Children

Mighty Mommy answers your tough questions about defiance based off her experience with her eight children.

Cheryl Butler
8-minute read
Episode #341

One of my favorite things is interacting with our wonderful subscribers and listeners. Each week I receive e-mails, comments on Facebook and Twitter, and great suggestions from my followers on Pinterest about dozens of family-related topics. There is one topic, however, that really resonates with the majority of parents across the board and that topic is handling defiant children.

So, I'm going to answer a few of your toughest questions about defiance with tried and true strategies.

Question 1

Dear Might Mommy,

My 13 year old daughter has persistent, defiant traits that are driving me crazy such as not attending to house chores, being careless with expensive items like iPods and her cell-phone, and overall displaying a lazy attitude to life in general. I find myself nagging and barking out demands and threats on a regular basis but that’s not seeming to make a difference. I’m at wit’s end!  Can you offer any suggestions to help? 


Dear Jennifer,

Most parents can definitely relate to your situation, believe me, so please know you are not alone. But here’s the thing—nagging and arguing with your children (or anyone else for that matter) never works. Do you have any one in your life—a spouse, co-worker or maybe a parent or inlaw—who uses nagging as a means to try and change a behavior or situation they are not pleased with? When that happens, what do you do?  Usually, you get frustrated with their badgering approach and then you simply tune them out.

It’s no different with kids. As parents, we can often get in a nagging rut—out of stress, sheer frustration, or just by habit—and so we do the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. It’s important to understand that nagging won’t get you anywhere—and will ultimately create a negative pattern between you and your child. The reason nagging doesn’t work is because kids understand that we are just going to say the same thing over and over and not follow through or hold them accountable. The more we nag, the more they disregard us and the rules we are trying to enforce, such as carrying out their chores. It becomes a vicious cycle. The good news is that when you can stop nagging and do things a little differently, your child will take notice. This new way of doing things may take time to be effective, but it will definitely capture your child’s attention.  See Also:  5 Ways to Speak Positively to Children

Start by keeping it simple and focusing on just one chore at a time rather than overloading your child with a laundry list of what you expect to see them accomplish. Say, for instance, your child is supposed to unload the dishwasher, take out the garbage, and put their clean laundry away.  In our household of eight kids, staying on top of the laundry is the priority, so I start there. This focus will help both you and your child set realistic expectations, follow through, and ultimately succeed.

Plan how you are going to intervene differently: We bark orders like: “Put your clean clothes away immediately—and I mean right now!” but then we neglect to follow through on the limits or consequences we’ve set. Instead, try saying calmly and with authority, “Your responsibility tonight is to put your clean laundry away in your dresser and your closet. Please get this done before you sit down to text your friends tonight.” And then turn around and leave the room.   This gives you the power because you’re calm and in control.

Not nagging, pleading, or yelling may feel strange and uncomfortable to you at first. Act as if you are confident and you expect the chore to get done, no matter what. At first, this might mean you have to try and play the role of an award-winning actor, but when our kids see that there is a firm but positive change in our behavior, it will catch them off-guard and they will start to realize that nagging is a thing of the past and they won’t be able to play “victim” to our whining, desperate pleas for their help.

See Also:  How to Get Kids to Help With Chores    See Also:  5 Surefire Ways to Say No to Your Kids


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.