How To Respond When Your Child Disobeys You

Parenting just might be one of the hardest things in the world! I tell you, some days I feel like I am on the verge of crazy. And I only have one kid!

Photo Credit: lightandform via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: lightandform via Compfight cc

I far too often parent out of laziness. When I do, I look and act strangely like a dictator enforcing strict obedience. “Do what I say, now, or suffer the consequences, you little minion!” And I fully expect him to respond like a minion, running as quickly as he can to follow my orders.

Yeah right. Maybe that would happen if he was a compliant child with no history of trauma, abuse, and neglect.

The Difference Between Authoritative and Authoritarian Parenting

Honestly I have had to work on learning the difference between Authoritarian and Authoritative parenting.

Sometimes when my son is disobeying me, I feel my eyes bulging out of my skull as I think to myself, “I just want him to do what I tell him to do!”

I went through a phase that when he disobeyed me, I first threatened him with punishment. Then if he didn’t comply, I gave him a pop on his bottom. That defines Authoritarian parenting.

Yep, me. The guy who has taken multiple classes on Connecting parenting. The guy who has even taught a few classes on how to empower, connect, and correct.

Well let me tell you, at least with a child from a hard place, what they teach you is right. It doesn’t work. He either responded with anger, hitting, and yelling. Or he ran away from me with his hands covering his bottom shouting, “No don’t spank me Daddy!”.

Sure enough, my tyrannical, authoritarian parenting pushed him immediately into fight or flight mode.

How is Authoritative parenting different?

  • Balanced approach – any child benefits from a balanced approach, but especially children from a hard place. This look like giving high structure along with high nurture. The authoritarian approach is almost exclusively high structure. The total opposite is a permissive parenting style. When dealing with a child from a hard place, we can inaccurately assume that they need all grace “because of all the suffering they already faced”. Not true. The child needs to know what the rules are. They need to know how to interact well with others. They need correcting when they make poor choices. However, combine correction with high nurture.
  • Discipline vs. punishment – I find this takes pre-planning and intentional parenting. These two words might mean the same to you, but they are very different. Above we talk a lot about punishment. The goal is immediate obedience and behavior modification. Whereas discipline, while also interested in obedience, is focused on internal change. The word discipline comes from disciple. A disciple is one who follows a teacher or a set of beliefs. Punishment is usually quick when administered. Discipline or discipling takes time to explain and teach.
  • Long-term vs. short-term – Authoritative parenting is disciplining in the sense of making a disciple. That is a long-term approach to parenting. I want my son to learn how to make good choices, relate well to others, to love well, etc. If I take an authoritarian approach, I want him to make good choices, and so on, now or else.
What does it look like when I take an authoritative parenting approach?
We know what it looks like when I am the dictator and authoritarian! But when I am more sane and Spirit-filled, my parenting is much different. I intellectually understand why I need both high structure and high nurture.
When I do this well it looks like:
  • Patience – This really takes the Holy Spirit for me to respond with patience. It’s not only with patience but also with compassion that I look at it as an opportunity for my son to learn an right response. This looks like me sitting and holding him to explain why I am correcting him. It looks like giving him an opportunity to do things over so that he practices the right action.
  • Sharing of power – That might seem strange to you if you are not familiar with this type of parenting. I look for ways to empower my son. I stay in control as the parent, but when I give him control of things, he learns how to do life instead of it dictated to him. I disciple him.
  • Room to make mistakes and room to succeed – Making mistakes and having opportunities to do things well are great teaching tools. I can teach him how to handle different emotions. I can support him as he tries different ways of doing things. I offer a safe home base as he learns how to relate to others.
 It does take more time, effort, and patience to parent this way. But it’s an investment. As I invest good parenting into my son, the results are not only better behavior, but also better connection. That’s a strong foundation for me to train and teach my son in ways that will mold him forever.

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I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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