How to deal with a disobedient child

I heard this psychologist called Clarissa Yakiara and loved the way she explained children transitional behaviour from babies to toddlers:

It is very important for parents and caretakers to observe more their children in the more attentive, observing and impartial way. It is important to take part of your day to observe your child, what he does, how he does it, the words and sounds he says, how he looks at you, to the world, how he plays. Be available for your child because the answers you re looking for to any challenge you re living with your child rely in there, in that relationship.

Around 2 to 3 years of age you can observe a change in behaviour directly connected to disobedience, stubbornness and lack of cooperation.
So why is the child changing? when she is born the plan is for her to stay connected and dependent of her caregiver so she can survive. Human babies are extremely dependable and demanding, they need someone by their side preferably their mother who full fills all their needs.

When she child reaches 2 years old in general she already walks, she communicates and feeds herself in a less dependable way. Nature plan now changes direction towards autonomy and to free herself from her caregiver. It s time for detach. Children understand this message and start right away expressing it. And they do this in the most simple way they know how: rejecting everything we say, our rules and orders. And this NO they say around 2, 3, 4 and even 5 years old is not to attack you, it s not because your child is annoying, stubborn, wants to test limits, fussy, unbearable and many other terrible adjectives we use to refer to the small ones. It s simple because he s following nature s plan and this is the best way he has found to show you that.

You choose an outfit for your son and he says no. He s simply saying mummy, i can choose differently from you. Or when you offer water to him, he says no and 30 seconds after he asks you for a glass of water – at the time he denied water he was testing his power to be autonomous and to choose things by himself which is so important to the future life of this being.

And sometimes because we lack knowledge or are not available to observe our little ones we cannot perceive this message and this would be the first point to start with: observing and reflecting if your child is in this stage of his life and is manifesting this disobedience. When we understand this we can seek more loving and respectful ways of dealing with our children beyond that point. Something that I think is fundamental for children to cooperate more is to establish a routine based on children’s needs, a routine that creates a safe space for your child to grow.

Here i leave you some simple tips i am trying with my son and from which i am already having positive results:

– Strengthen the affective bond -try to strengthen more and more the affective bond with your child. She needs affection and a time to “talk” with the parents (even if they don t know how to speak much) and also a moment of family play. The child should also feel valued in the home, taking her space on the table and their space on the living room sofa, for example. This way, she feels safe and part of the family routine and environment;

– Strengthen your child’s self-esteem – help her build a positive self-esteem by positively reinforcing her attitudes through praise, caring, and attention;

– Create rules and explain them: Children do not know what is right or wrong, so they need rules and discipline.The correct thing is not to impose but to explain the reason for each thing, for each rule, for each limit, for each NO. Children understand much more than we imagine;

– Give clear orders: use words she understands and always look her in the eyes while you speak, preferably crouched to the height of your child. When asking for something wait a little while and if after that she has not done it, ask her why. If necessary go with her until she understands that it must be fulfilled.
Don´t ask the child for something else before she even had the chance to do what you ve asked in the first place or have it finished. This creates confusion and increases the chance that they will not meet a future request;

– Focus on the problem – don t bring things from the past or something that can affect her self-esteem;

– Don t give up your rules – even if your child still behaves badly, breathe. Firmly and calmly explain to her what she did wrong and why she should have done it right. Do not go back on the rule;

– Do not expose the child: whereas the disobedience happened in a public place the guidance is to never speak loudly, exposing the child. The ideal is to get her attention,be firm and emphasise that at home you ll finish your conversation (and do not forget to do it yourself). And to avoid crying or some nasty scene, try to divert the child’s attention;


Hugs & Cuddles,

Maria Monteiro

Author: Maria Monteiro

I am a first-time mother of an 18 months old outstanding boy who insists on not having any sort of fixed sleeping schedules. I am a researcher, writer, animal lover, philanthropist, chef, and full-time mum. Having had such a hard time myself with this new role my goal is for every mother to feel they have someone to talk to and to share thoughts, worries, events. From my heart to yours, here s how i dealt and continue to deal with this beautiful miracle called motherhood.

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