The Power of Defiance

defiant jesusJesus was defiant.

He defied Satan’s temptation. He defied the religious structures of the day. He defied legalism. He even defied death.

One of our problems as parents is that we treat our kids’ defiance as if it is entirely bad. We then seek to make it go away – sometimes at all costs.

What if instead of a thinking of defiance as a problem we saw it as evidence of a gift God put in our children, coming out in unrefined, selfish,  or sinful ways?

After all, it takes boldness, conviction, strength of will, and a plan to be defiant.

What if our job was not to make defiance go away, but to affirm and re-purpose those talents after the pattern of Jesus’ defiance?

Apply It Now

When Kids Say “I Hate You!” How Can Parents Respond?

“I hate you!” There are certainly plenty of parents who have heard those disrespectful words.

Some parents are deeply hurt (“I can’t believe you would say that, after all I do…”) while others get intensely angry (“It’s not okay to talk to me like that!”). Parents often feel attacked and unsure about how to respond.

A popular parenting approach suggests when a child says “I hate you” or a similar comment, that parents respond with “Aren’t you glad I don’t believe that?” At first glance this may seem like a clever, calm way to respond, but it also is pretty condescending, communicating a message that, “When you’re upset, you are a liar” or “Your thoughts and feelings are unimportant, even invalid to me.”

So how can we really get to the root of the issue when our kids yell that they hate us?

What to Do When Relatives Criticize Your Parenting

What to do When Relatives Criticize Your Parenting

Do you ever feel like your family is under the microscope at holiday gatherings?

Your lively kids – in unfamiliar places, without their usual toys – often reflect the stress all around them, which can mean they get loud, obnoxious, and argumentative. The icy stares or sidelong glances from relatives — especially your parents — can communicate, “That is soooo disrespectful, and clearly needs some firm discipline.”

You may even get some direct comments like, “Aren’t you going to deal with that?” or, “You really shouldn’t tolerate that disrespect!”

You know that you are learning more graceful, wisdom-building ways to parent and you want to stay the course, but you don’t know how to respond without sounding disrespectful to your parents. You may even second guess yourself and get harsh or firm in unnatural ways with your kids, just to avoid the criticism.

So what can you do?

How do I get my son to stop talking back?


A mom wrote in with the following question:

How do I get my 7-year-old son to stop talking back to everything we say? He is always right and we are always wrong! … We try discipline, taking away some of his toys, etc. but nothing seems to work. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!

Parents get justifiably exasperated with incessant backtalk, but the typical reflexive response — punishing backtalk — is like putting fertilizer on it.

What do I do when my child just says no?

stubborn no child what to do

greg westfall | iStockphoto.com

Connected Families Q&ARecently we received this question from Michelle:

I am struggling with a tween who often says no to my requests. She is a good girl most of the time, but she will be disrespectful to me and I have no idea what appropriate/related consequences to give her when she tells me “no” and then in essence dismisses me by looking back down at her book, ipod, etc. I try to remain calm but when I tell her this is a warning and that she will have a consequence for not obeying, she will look at me and ask what it is. And normally say, “oh well, no big deal” and still not obey me. I also realize that hormones are playing a part in her behavior but she can not say no to me when I ask her to do something. HELP!!! Normally she will apologize later that night when we are praying together but she still didn’t do whatever I asked.

How to Turn a Parenting Fail into a Parenting Win

angry parent drawing fail to win

It was a Sunday evening. I was emotionally and physically done for the day and looking forward to a quiet house. Suddenly I overheard squabbling about who was the rightful owner of a large stuffed panda bear.

My engagement with sibling conflict has often aggravated my son’s anger: he feels criticized by my effort to protect his younger sister. I should have known better than to get involved in this panda bear affair, especially when I was already a little bit cranky! But I was tired and I just wanted them to go to bed so I could have a little peace and quiet to start my week.

This kid changed overnight! Here’s how.

father son talk

Sometimes it takes a while for parents to change in ways that lead to deeper respect from their kids. Sometimes it can happen fast. When Dan attended our weekend workshop he saw an immediate change by practicing what we call a “do-over.” Here’s his report:

An hour before we left for your seminar I was getting ready to go. Our 12-year-old son Will was sitting on the steps. He asked why we needed to go to the seminar. I explained that his mom and I were going so we could learn to control some of the chaos in our household. His reply was, “If you think that’s going to work, you’re retarded!”

Turn “You’re a Butthead” into Creative Sibling Connection

“You’re dumb!”
“No, YOU’RE dumb!”
“Well you’re a loser!”
“I know you are, but what am I?”
“You’re a butthead!”
“MOMMMMMMMMM!!!!”

Name-calling between children is a challenge in many families. Once kids get on a roll of slinging names back and forth it can seem like an express train to a sibling meltdown. But it doesn’t have to be that way — you can help your kids turn their angry words into an opportunity to connect and rebuild even stronger relationships.

It is said that it takes four kind statements to “undo” one unkind statement. With this in mind, our family implemented a “four kind and true things” policy. Each time one of the kids said something unkind and/or untrue (“You’re STUPID!”), they completed a “make it right” consequence of four kind and true statements before resuming privileges.

Not wanting to make anything a parent-enforced drill, we encouraged the kids to take the calming time they needed to be sincere. The first “kind and true” was about directly correcting the hurtful, untrue statement, at least two had to be fresh and not used before. (“You’re NOT stupid, you’re really good at reading, I’m glad you shared your Legos with me, you’re fun to play Uno with.”) Occasionally if the “name-caller” got stuck, the “name-called” child would help out by suggesting a few creative ideas of his or her own personal strengths.

This practice set a wonderful tone of reconciliation in our family. Adding a discussion of Ephesians 4:15, about speaking the truth in love, helped cement the biblical nature of this activity.

This approach flows from a perspective that it is much more helpful to train than to punish. It is interesting to note that the child in our family who most often needed to complete “four kind and trues” has become the strongest affirmer of others. One morning we found a note our eldest, Daniel, wrote spontaneously to his little brother. “Dear Noah, Thanks for being a neat, fun, little guy who defuses conflicts wisely and says funny things all the time and is smart like crazy, who makes me a proud big brother.” (Wow, even more than four!)

With the intense personalities in our family, conflict will never be eliminated, but the blessing of this approach is that we easily return to a place of connection and joy.

Apply It Now:

  • Read Ephesians 4:15 with your kids and talk about what it means to “speak the truth in love.”
  • The next time someone (even a parent!) says something unkind, encourage them to take a break to write down “four kind and true things” about the person they hurt. Make sure your tone communicates – “I’m for you, I believe the best in you.”
  • Celebrate the contrast between the feelings of name-calling, and how it feels to speak the truth in love to one another. This is how God designed our hearts! 🙂

Take 15 minutes to learn how to give consequences that teach, rather than simply punish, by downloading our free ebook Consequences That Actually Work.



How Will Your Kids Remember Your Discipline When They’re 90?

parents argue discipline child

Recently I attended a family reunion. We did lots of catching up, including reminiscing over family memories. A conversation that continued to pop up over the weekend was prompted by the question, “What is the maddest you ever saw your mom/dad?” Some people shared memorable stories of pure rage, like one relative who, after saying “Shut up!” to his mom as a teenager, had his father’s hands gripped around his neck with the understanding that he had a choice to pack his bags or show his mom the respect she deserved.

Some people shared touching, heart-felt stories of undeserved grace, like another relative who hid in the closet for what seemed like hours after she broke a lamp while building a fort in her living room. She was terrified of what her parents’ reaction would be — but felt so relieved when her parents responded to her clear remorse with gracious kindness.