How To Deal With A Disobedient Child

Every momma wants to know how to deal with a disobedient child.  We all want that secret sauce to create the best kids. Because we fiercely love our children, we moms desperately want to do this thing right.

So we search for the parenting and discipline strategy that will make our kids obey. We have to, right? I mean, really… Who wants their kid to grow up to be a psychopath or self-centered narcissist?


The world and the church tells us that it is all up to us moms. That raising a functioning adult (or at least avoiding the psychopath part) requires us to know the secret sauce as to how to deal with disobedience in our kids.

How to Deal With A Disobedient Child: Get A Mirror

Good for you if you are the lucky mom who has this thing nailed down.  If you know how to deal with your disobedient kid, or you have one of the “good” ones who makes you look good wherever you go, this post is not for you.

Now, if you are like me and so many other moms in this world or in the church, it’s time for us to get real.  Being a mom is a wonderful experience. It grows us in so many ways. But it is in no way easy or simple.

As I’ve learned the hard way, parenting requires adults to demonstrate the discipline and patience we desperately want to impart to our kids. That takes work and effort. And a good look in the mirror.

First Parenting Instinct: Reaction

If you were raised in a traditional home, your default for discipline may be to put a stop to bad behavior ASAP.

This was certainly the case for me. Maybe you can relate.  Your response to deal with a disobedient child may be to offer a quick stern warning.

“No, ma’am! You do not behave that way!”

And many times that approach to parenting children appears on the outside to work.

Want A Disobedient Kid To Acquiesce?

That disobedient child may acquiesce in the face of fear and the behavior might stop, at least momentarily.  But is that what we want?  And what about our kids who are wired-differently?  Our kids with ADHD, Autism, or other executive functioning differences?

God looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7

Fear-Based & Firm Approach To Discipline

When my oldest, now 14, was little, I was very confident in how to deal with a disobedient child.

Any hint of disobedience was met with that firm approach that allowed no room for mistakes.  While I was a very loving, highly-engaged, and super fun mom, I was also parenting my kid from a place of fear.  Deep down, I feared that if I didn’t approach outward disobedience swiftly, I would be opening the door to having “that” kid.

And that would be my fault. I would be a bad mom.

Parenting Mindset That Fails: Outward Good Behavior As The Goal

Outward behavior is generally seen as the be all end all within the church and our culture. Regardless of whether or not we admit it…  For me, the message was loud and clear that the slightest crack of the bad behavior door was unacceptable.

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The Parenting Model Of The Church

The messages that tell us…

1. That our value as a mother is based on our kids’ behavior

She had better nip that behavior in the bud.

2. A good mom has a good kid.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

3. A good kid behaves the way all the adults around them wants.

You need to give your Aunt Sally a hug regardless of how you feel. It’s just polite.

I think I just threw up a bit. Ugh.

Dangerous Parenting Pattern

But is the ultimate goal of our parenting to simply stop bad behavior in the moment?  I am not so sure anymore.  Friend, there is a problem with this “nip behavior in the bud” parenting and discipline mentality.

The problem lies when our pattern of parenting is based only on reaction to perceived misbehavior. Without stopping to make sure our perception is correct. When we get so caught up in our kids’ outward behavior that we fail to reach their hearts.

  • When we assume a child who is screaming bloody murder in the church foyer is just being a brat.
    • Except he is overwhelmed by all of the sounds, smells and fear of being left with strangers
  • When we judge that teen girl because she is dressed all in black covered in piercings and dark eyeliner
    • We fail to ask her about her broken heart over never being enough

God looks at the heart, right?

Raising Kids to Be Adults

God willing, our kids are going to spend roughly 75-80% of their lives as adults. So when we are looking for the most effective parenting and discipline strategies, we need to keep our end goal in mind.

Let’s set our kids up for a healthy future by teaching them that outward behavior is not the be all end all.

It’s their hearts that we must be after.

A child who feels loved, valued and connected to the adults around them feels safe to process through the heart issues that precede negative behaviors.

Let’s learn to seek relationship with our children regardless of what things look like on the outside.

As a believer in Jesus, I cannot strive for anything less than a relationship-based approach. That is what the Gospel is all about.

In spite of our outward ugly behavior, God seeks us through relationship with His Son. We are internally changed through relationship, not punishment.

The Greatest Discipline Strategy? Mom’s Grace

The greatest parenting strategy as we navigate how to deal with our kids’ disobedience is for us as moms. We need to train ourselves to see behind the behavior and seek our kids’ hearts.

A mom willing to look beyond the parenting paradigm. The mom willing to “look bad” in front of others who want her to “nip that behavior in the bud.”   You’ll know her.

  • She is the mom whose kid is screaming and melting down in the middle of the grocery store.  Instead of dripping with sweat worrying about what everyone thinks, she’s offering her kid grace during a meltdown.

And when that momma hears an old lady saying something like,

“She had better get that kid under control,”

That momma could care less.

Trusting God’s Provision To Choose Us 

She knows the truth of humanity’s brokenness is covered in the grace of God through relationship with His Son. Grace and truth.  Let’s go with God on this one, Friend. For the sake of our kids, let’s go with God.

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12 thoughts on “How To Deal With A Disobedient Child”

  1. I’m not a parent, but this blog post spoke to me because I’m a teacher. I agree with you that building trust is the foundation in every relationship. Like you, my favorite teachers were those who took the time to know me and helped me solve problems. Thank you for writing this piece.

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  2. What a great post! I agree that discipline is very important, but also appreciate how you point out the importance of building that relationship and being the greatest influence in our children’s lives.

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  3. Great post Lindsay! It’s a hard road, that’s for sure. Mine are now 15 and 13 and I reckon, through all the trials and tribulations, I did okay. It’s a minefield at the moment with a 15 yo daughter but I’m getting there.

    Anne xx

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