At some point, all parents are faced with concerns related to defiant or disrespectful children. These broad terms often refer to and can be applied to a variety of specific behaviors. If you have a defiant, disobedient, disrespectful, sassy, or rude child with impulse control or self control issues, you may relate to these parents and their situation.
Question: Our 8 year old has become so defiant lately, to the point of swearing and telling us to shut up. He gets a wide range of vocabulary from the school bus.
We have tried to be patient and ignore his outbursts. This has only made the swearing seem more impulsive and it comes so easily now. We have taken items away from him, and he has to earn them back with good behavior. He doesn’t care.
We have tried to send him to his room and he runs away from us. We are an older couple- reaching 50, and we just don’t know what other kind of discipline to use on him anymore. We are at our wits end.
Signed: Heeelllp ….
Mark Twain wrote “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty one, I was astonished by how much he had learned in seven years.”
Right now it seems your son thinks he knows best and so do the other kids. The good news is that this sort of attitude is usually outgrown.
The part that worries me is his impulsiveness and seeming lack of self control. There could be a number of different explanations for this sort of behavior. I think you need to talk with the school counselor, and the child’s pediatrician in order to find an appropriate child mental health professional. There are a number of different childhood issues or disorders that involve these behaviors, and I strongly advise you get it checked out.
I can hear the desperation in your letter, and I have to point out that this is a glimpse into the inner life of your child. Kids who act this way feel out of control. This sounds like a call for help.
I want you to understand that this is probably not just intended to drive you nuts. There may be something in this kid wiring that causes him to implode. Fortunately there are sound interventions for these sorts of issues.
I would also advise you not to punish him by taking things away. This can exacerbate an already out of control situation. You may want to try some behavior modification techniques. For instance you can set up a chart with different parts of the day. Every time he behaves for a set amount of time he gets a star. If he has an outburst, he does not, but can try again during the next time frame. It’s best that the time frames not be longer than an hour or two at most. Then make up a reward system, so if he gets three stars a day he gets a small treat. The idea is that you want to positively reinforce his good behavior. Studies show that this is far more effective than punishment.
If you think he would be embarrassed, or laugh at the star chart, keep a private hourly log on a notepad for yourself. Make sure to treat him and encourage him for an outburst free hour.
I know this seems counter-intuitive. You may even feel angry, or that this goes against the grain. You may be thinking “Reward him-no way!!” Trust me I have worked with many kids from all different backgrounds, and all sort of issues. I have observed far more success with this technique, and others like it, than with punishments.
Have him evaluated and remember-positive encouragement!!
Odelia Schlisser is a life coach with a Masters Degree in Sociology and a Masters Degree in Education, and is trained in Family Therapy. She currently lectures Psychology and Behavioral Science in Mercy College and has spent the past several years counseling children, teens, and their parents and teachers.
You may also find this book by Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D. helpful: 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child: The Breakthrough Program for Overcoming Your Child’s Difficult Behavior