Friday, May 18, 2007

Rude and Defiant


My name is Vicky and I am a mother of an 11-year-old going on 12. This has been the most trying year I have had with him. He is rude when speaking to others, swears, defiant, disruptive, and argumentative, and lies. He has escalated this year to the point that last night he was kicked out of our Tae kwon Do academy until he can rationalize his behaviours to our Master. I am in the midst of reading Positive Discipline and do believe that it works, at the same time I am struggling with thinking up consequences for these types of behaviour that are both kind and firm.

I was not raised in this form, rather I was raised w/ fear of my father and so I did not do most of these behaviours. I understand the empathy part, but what do I do if I can't empathize with him because I was not in those types of situations? I am at my wits end with him and really would like to have a good relationship with my Son. I am tired of being disappointed and embarrassed by his behaviour. I've told him calmly many times that I want more than anything to praise him more and to have more good times w/ him, unfortunately the battles are coming between us.

Please help



Sorry to be so long responding. By now you have probably read the whole book and found answers to all your challenges. :-)

I can't know for sure, because I don't know all the details; but I think that your son may be responding the many children respond to parenting that is vertical instead of horizontal. Vertical parenting is top-down. It usually involves parents who think they need to "catch" kids being "good" so they can praise or reward them; or "catch them being "bad" so they can punish them. Horizontal parenting means focusing on solutions "together" (and all the other Positive Discipline tools that are both kind and firm at the same time).

Two clues you give that you are still thinking in terms of vertical parenting is that you are looking for consequences that you can "impose" (which is usually disguised punishment), and wanting to "praise him", which is still top down. (Be sure to read about the difference between praise and encouragement.)

I do hope you keep reading the book because you will learn many tools for horizontal parenting including:

1) Family meetings where everyone learns to give and receive compliments, brainstorm for solutions, and plan for family fun.

2) Joint problem solving to focus on solutions together.

3) Helping children "explore" the consequences of their choices through curiosity questions instead of "imposing" consequences on them.

4) Or, allowing children to "experience the consequences of their choices without lecturing or punishing. Show empathy and have faith in them to deal with their feelings and to learn from their mistakes.

5) Making sure the message of love gets through without rescuing or fixing.

Of course there are many more respectful parenting tools that can be used. I'm mentioning just a few.

Sometimes parents need to admit to their children that they have made a mistake and can see how they have helped create a power struggle (or a revenge cycle), and express faith in themselves and in their children that they can find more respectful ways to relate to each other.

Even though I emphasize how important it is to get children involved in solutions, there are times when parents need to "decide what they will do" instead of what they will try to make their children do. When children talk back. the parent may need to decide to leave the room after saying, "I look forward to talking with you later when we can both be respectful.

Vicky, I hope this helps. You may want to seek some parent coaching to help you make some big shifts in your parenting style. There are some Positive Discipline coaches listed on

Jane Nelsen

1 comment:

EP said...

Parents can learn how discipline for a defiant child can be different but not impossible.