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You are here : home > Manners and Discipline > Disciplining Children > Dealing with Stubborn Children

Dealing with Stubborn Children

Stubborn as a mule 

"Mummy, I don't want to take the injection," said six-year-old Akash as he darted into the bathroom and locked himself in. His mother Reena was at her wit's end trying to figure out a way to persuade her son to come out and go to the doctor's clinic. In another situation, eight-year-old Pradip refused to eat unless all the peas were taken out of his plate. 

Some children can put mules to shame. When they decide to dig their heels in, no matter how much you cajole and threaten them, they just won't budge. This can be a truly frustrating experience for harassed parents just trying to go about the business of raising good children.  It becomes a battle of wills with both sides waiting to see who will give in first. While some children are more stubborn than others, all children display stubborn behaviour at some time or another. And most parents find that they are at a loss in such situations. Their instinctive reaction is to react with anger as they feel that their child's behaviour is a challenge to their authority. However, they soon find that anger only serves to fan the flames. 

Stubbornness is not necessarily negative

Stubbornness in children has always been viewed as a negative trait by their parents. But may be they should attempt to look upon it in a more positive fashion. A child's stubbornness may just be his way of demonstrating that he can think for himself and that he can assert his thoughts and beliefs. Stubbornness gives them a feeling that they have a measure of control over the situation, which in turn, boosts their self-esteem. Parents should also make a push to understand the root of their children's stubbornness. Stubbornness can have a range of causes. It may vary from irrational fears to resistance to change or just a simple attack of rebellion. 

The strategies

In the face of stubbornness, parents have just a few disciplining options. If the battle is about an issue of values or safety, parents should be prepared for a real battle of wills because there is no way that they can afford to budge from their stand in such a scenario. Do not get angry or argue. Simply state your stand, the reasons for it and the consequences of disobedience. Then follow through. Hopefully, your child will just throw in the towel. If the issue is not serious, there is no harm negotiating with your child and arriving at a compromise. In some situations, it is even surprisingly effective to just let go. Suddenly faced with no opposition, which constitutes a reward in itself, the child's rebellion will have the wind taken out of its sails.

Some useful tips

  • Identify the problem and involve your child in seeking a solution. You will cease to be the enemy and she will feel that you are both on the same side.
  • If you want your child to do something, try to time your request so that it does not interrupt her while she is doing something else. This is one way of avoiding conflict.
  • If your child is not very happy about change, give her adequate notice so that she knows what to expect and is willing to cooperate.
  • Be assertive when asking your child to do something. You are not asking them for a favour. Also, make clear the consequences of non-compliance.
  • Keep in mind that your requests should be reasonable. 
  • Praise her when she is cooperative and well-behaved.

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Recent comments (32 comments)
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Name: Benjoe
Country: India

My 11 year old ONLY daughter is getting stubborn and rude these days. She back answers everyone at home except her dad. We recently moved to a new flat and she has too many friends to play. She neglects her home works, studies. She is very irresponsible. We parents are working (left with no other choice) She often times asks me to be at home but I cant take sudden leaves at office. Please suggest. I am really worried about her. Shouting at her is effecting my health.
Name: Sayyonee
Country: India

My 11 year old ONLY daughter is behaving weird these days. She back answers everyone, acts very stubborn. She is only scared of her father and none. We are working parents and really worried about her weird behaviour. At times she asks me not to go to office and spend time with her. I go speechless because i cannot take sudden leaves. We both have to work. Im really really worried with her rude behavior. Please suggest!
Country: India

My son is 3 years old. he is so Stubborn that if he want something he cries and holds is breath. He had the breath holding from 3 months baby and was pampered by everyone at home. He does not want to go to a play home hold his breath once we leave him class. I am worried about is future how to handle the situation if i try to be harsh to him he hold his breath .I am frighten to even frighten him in any way. Please advise
Name: anum
Country: United Kingdom

my son hits every child and is so stubborn,he is 3 yrs old, plz suggest me something
Name: Joma
Country: India

i get disappointed very often with my daughter. she is very intelligent. but i think she is oevrconfident about herself and does not try to do her things properly. my each encounter with her is a fight.
Name: Saddiqa
Country: Bahrain

am feeling vary bad toward my relationship with my kids (boy 8 years) he is vary stubborn kids and am keeping shouting at him... i dont want to lose his love..!!
Name: shaily
Country: India

my son is only 10 1/2 month old and is becoming stubborn.he reacts violently if prevented from doing anything.he cries at every little thing that displeases him.any suggestions?
Name: Amy
Country: U.S.A.

are you kidding me? my child will do what i tell her to do and eat what i tell her to eat, this is not up for debate. if she does not, there is consequences. parents have gotten entirely to weak, the things we ask our children to do are for their own good and have reasons behind them. and for a child to defy you by not obeying your requests needs to be punished.
Name: gemma
Country: United Kingdom

my daughter is so stubborn even the teachers have problems with her. when she doesnt want to do somethink she wont do it,ive tried everything..its a loosing battle
Name: Ned.
Country: Australia

i'm sorry, but amy's comment sounds awful. you sound like you would sooner crush your child than work with her for a positive outcome. don't you think you are just teaching her to deal with situations that she doesn't agree with by caving in. you are crushing her self-esteem and she will not respect you and rebel when she is a teenager. maybe you could show a little more respect for your daughter and explain to her why you need her to obey you instead of being forceful. discipline with love, not with anger.
Name: sue
Country: Singapore

i have a problem with my child too. she does not listen to a single thing that i say. always defiant. lookslike she is born to go against everything in life. she is every intelligent but wants to push her boundary and upset not only herself but the others around her.
Name: Bikermama
Country: U.S.A.

i am a homeschool mother of 3 kids (6, 7, and 10) my 10 yo is the most stubborn child. it is good that he has a mind of his own, is confident about himself but when it comes to me teaching him the better way to do things, he does not listen to it. like today, he keeps arguing with me that he wants to pass out his visuals for his public speaking speech to his homeschool mates while he's giving the speech. i explained to him he needs to wait until after the speech but he does not want to have anything to do with it. he argues and complains. he is a stubborn individual and i am at my wit's end.
Name: Samir N
Country: Yemen

i have a 2 1/2 year old girl. she's very smart compared to her peers, which makes it harder to deal with her stubbornness. when she's being stubborn, i change the subject to "daddy loves you". i let her know how much i love her, and that's she's a good girl. i simply let her go. astonishing results. not only she complies, but she comes and tells me she did it (both to please me and to get a praise or a hug). "love you" works when least expected!
Name: arabyana
Country: U.A.E.

i have a similar problem, but with my siblings! when-ever my mother keeps me incharge of them, they never listen to me! or follow my instructions!i am much older than them, i raised them because my mother is a very busy business woman! but whenever i am incharge they keep playing the "you're not my mother" card.. i really hate that because i get in trouble for giving up after a while! i am loosing it! really!! what should i do?
Name: sandhya
Country: India

my son is 3years old n now a days he has become very stubborn n wants his way all the time.if it doesn't work he starts crying a result me n my husband both lose temper n sometimes hit him.
Name: Meenakshi
Country: India

i have a 20mths old daughter she is very stubborn and i am afraid whether her stubborness is just one of the phases or whether she is going to develop that stubborness. when i tell her not to do something, she makes it a point she does that at least 10 times (she enjoys doing so). as a last resort if i shout at her, she comes and hugs me. she also beats me and my husband a lot and u can c the anger on her face when she does that but we are unable to understand why is she getting so much anger as we dont do anything as such that she beats,bites and pinches us. i just dont know how to deal with her.
Name: Keerthi Delhi
Country: India

i resigned my job as i have no one at home to look after my child. he is now 11/2 years old. he is very stubborn and i am afarid whether his stubborness is just one of the phases or whether he is going to develop that stubborness. when i tell him not to do something, he makes it a point he does tath at least 10 times (he enjoys doing so). as a last resort if i shout at him, he comes and hugs me. i just dont know how to deal with him.
Name: grace
Country: U.S.A.

i cannot believe this debate. for over a hundred years people have been disciplining their children. sure, there has been some extreme cases, but for the most part discipline was done in love. now since people have decided not to discipline their children"for fear that they might become abusers" the rest of society has to deal with these "brats" and not of their own accord. it is the parents that made them that way by not showing them direction or boundaries. i have disciplined my children because i love them and do not want people to look at them as "brats" .
Name: sue
Country: U.S.A.

i have an 8 year old son. he is very stubborn. he talks back alot. he hates to do school work and only wants to play games. he would spend hours watching t.v. once it's time to do some school work, he has and attitude. he really gets on my nerve, and i don't know what else to do. i'm a single parent and it's really hard. i can't talk to him about nothing, he said i'm shouting at him.
Name: Phyllis
Country: U.S.A.

my 11 yo gdtr has an anxiety disorder called selective mutism, meaning she doesn't talk outside the family and sometimes even speaks in whispers when a family member she "doesn't like" is present. she is very mildly retarded. her 16 yo sister is in the tsunami of teen rebellion, consequenses of whice include drug use and police contact. her 8 yo bro is adhd and psychotic (although that's not a usual diagnosis for a child. he's medicated for both and doing well, actually. ok now you know her. i'm a single grandmother with custody of the 11 and 16 yos. i'm a widow of 5 years and am being treated for depression. i'm not at my wit's end just yet but the knot at the end of my rope is very frazzled. i've tried all of the suggestions in the main article and they don't work with this child. i am afraid for her future because of her handicaps and wonder what the future holds for her when i am gone. because i am in treatment for breast cancer right now, i don't have the emotional strength to deal with much of my family life. any suggestions for the 11 yr old? her mother was/is the original strong-willed child (of dr. dobson's etymology). the 16 yo followed/is following the same patter. we thought that the mother would eventually use this quality as a strength to make a life but that hasn't really happpened. will "f" have the skills to be able to survive into adulthood with success? will welcome any thoughts and suggestions. thanks for reading down in this too-long submission.
Name: SOHA
Country: Lebanon

my kid is almost three years old,i have tried my best to raise him disciplined and with understand and care,but due to his grandparents spoil,he became very stubborn and never listens to any request...i even sent him to day care center so at least he meets other children cause i once thought it might be due to jealousy of his 1 year old brother..nothing has changed and really confused what to do to make him at least listen.i don't shout at him... i try my best by talking to him, but so far nothing works..i want him to be disciplined and at least partially obedient ...just to sit on chair while eating..and such things..oh kidsssssss
Name: SOHA
Country: Lebanon

my kid is almost three years old,i have tried my best to raise him disciplined and with understand and care,but due to his grandparents spoil,he became very stubborn and never listens to any request...i even sent him to day care center so at least he meets other children cause i once thought it might be due to jealousy of his 1 year old brother..nothing has changed and really confused what to do to make him at least listen.i don't shout at him... i try my best by talking to him, but so far nothing works..i want him to be disciplined and at least partially obedient ...just to sit on chair while eating..and such things..oh kidsssssss
Name: Janice
Country: Canada

take a parenting course. read some books on parenting and child development. don't yell or hit your kids. spend as much time as you can with them. good luck.
Name: Deborah
Country: U.S.A.

i'm very concerned about my son. he is four years old, he is in program called the vpk program here in south florida. his teacher told me today they did flash cards and he just stand there and would not say anything the teacher told she even called in someone else. and he knows the words. so i'm at my wits end.he will soon be starding school and if he keeps that up they will think something is wrong with him. any advise please call let me know.
Name: farah
Country: Jordan

my daughter is 3y old shes very opinionated and stubborn. its hard to please her or convince her of doin anyth. i hate goin out with her coz she never behave and shout all the time .....plzz help me coz i started to think its a hopless case

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