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How to Control a Controlling Child

Controlling children can be very difficult to handle – even for the most patient of parents. Here we will uncover the answer to the question: How can I control my controlling child?

Anxiety workbook for kids

First of all, I need to apologize.

It is possible that I may have misled you a bit by the title of this post. I fear that you may have gotten the impression that controlling a controlling child is possible. It’s not. At least not in the way you are thinking. But before you hit the “back” button on your browser, hear me out. Just because we can’t exert control over our controlling children, it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. It doesn’t mean that we throw in the towel and give up. There is hope.

And I have the answer. Are you ready for it? Here it is:

The key to controlling a controlling child is controlling yourself.

Yes. The key is you. I said I had the answer. I didn’t say you would like it.

But before we go further, the very first thing you need to do is to identify if what you are seeing is actually controlling behavior. A while back I did a series on the different motivators of misbehavior. There are controlling children, attention-seeking children, revenge-seeking children and those children who simply give up in the face of adversity. I suggest you follow one or more of those links to try to figure out what kind of behavior cluster you are dealing with. Identifying the underlying motivation is the first step. Only once you have done that, can you figure out what to do about it. 

If, after reading those articles, you’ve determined that your child is in fact demonstrating controlling behavior, read the tips below. While you can’t control your controlling child, there are some things you can control:

Control your tongue

The easiest pitfall in parenting these types of kids is being sucked into a verbal argument. Let me let you in on a little secret. You will never win with words. There is no amount of logic or reason that will make your controlling child pause and say, “You know what? Now that you mention it, you are right. Thanks for pointing it out.” These arguments are almost never about the content anyway. It is about control. We can feel like if we stop arguing, they win. But it isn’t about winning or losing. We are on the same team.

Control the innuendos

You’ve heard it said that it’s not what you say but how you say it. A sarcastic tone, a roll of the eyes, a snicker or a sneer are all food for an adversarial parent-child relationship. These passive aggressive tactics may not be as obvious as a full-fledged argument, but they can be even more corrosive.

Control your temper

Controlling children are often devoid of self-control. If you have a controlling child, you will never teach them self control if you do not have it yourself. The moment you lose your temper, you give them what they want and feed their desire for more.

Think of it this way: every time you control your temper in the face of a provocative child, you are making a deposit into his or her self-control bank. Over time it will earn lots of interest and they will be able to make substantial withdrawals in the future.

Control your pride

There is nothing worse than feeling like you have been outwitted by your child. It pulls at every thread of pride we have. These feelings can bubble up and make that desire to “get the upper hand” even stronger. Swallow that pride. Humility is not the easiest path, but it is the better one.

Control the consequences

I put this last because the other elements are more important. We may want to jump to this step so we can exert our parental control and show them who is boss. Unless we can regularly and consistently control the other elements discussed above, controlling the consequences will not have the desired effect.

So how do you effectively control the consequences? You deliver them in love (“I am sorry that you chose to not come home when you were told. Unfortunately, that means that you may not go to Jason’s tomorrow after school.”). You deliver them without feeling a sense of vindication. You deliver them with the knowledge that a calm and unemotional delivery will help maintain your relationship with your child.

And a healthy relationship is the key element for dealing with a controlling child.

It is unfortunate that the answers to tough problems often begin by looking in the mirror. But once we see a clear picture of ourselves, we can better help our kids.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

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About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and moms in Connecticut. She is the author of More Than a Conqueror, A Christian Kid's Guide to Winning the War on Worry. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of the things she is most passionate about: God's word, parenting and mental health.


  • My 10 year old daughter is very bossy/controlling. I am broken hearted to see that other kids do not want to play with her and avoid her because of how she is. Any ideas on how to help that? She’s always looking for control over anyone she’s around.

    • Hi Tina,
      It’s hard to see our kids struggle socially. Sometimes those kids with bossy tendencies are little CEO’s in the making. Their gifts of leadership are just under developed and they do not have the ability to use them for their benefit rather than their detriment. You may want to check out this article on how you can help a bossy child. Also some questions for you to explore as you help her navigate her social world: Does she see her behavior as socially isolating? Is she bothered by it? Are there ways you can put those potential leadership skills to better use (volunteering starting a club of her interest at school)? What does she think are good qualities in a friend? Does she think she has such qualities? What are some ways that you can increase her emotional intelligence in social situations and relationships (ie: working on empathy, listening skills, etc)?

      Some schools have social skills groups run by the district social workers or therapist. That might be something to pursue if you thought it would be helpful.

      I hope that helps,

  • Hi there, I am a single mother of an 8 year old girl. Her controlling behaviour mainly happens at school. The behaviour is going on and off for about 4 years. She likes to control other children at school and if any child disobey her she lashes out on them and physically hurts them. She is the only child and at home is only me and her. All of our family lives abroad and even tho we talk regularly I don’t really have a good support system. I’m ashamed of her behaviour and it’s hard for me to talk about it openly to anyone as I feel as a failure. I’m quite strict with her at home and I always felt that this is my duty to structure her life. I realise now I may be in the wrong as she started manipulating me by lying to cover up her bad behaviours at school. What I can do to help us as the gap between us is growing. I’m tired of constantly coming up with “no TV for bad behaviour” etc. I don’t know how to enjoy parenting anymore. I will add that I have a day job as well and my daughter spends most afternoons in after school club ( and there is no problems there with her behaviour). We have a limited time together during the day but weekends we spend together in full. I feel tired of constant arguing and scared for the future. Please help us.

    • Hi there – It seems like finding a support system for yourself would be a great place to start. Are you involved in a church? Or maybe you could find someone in your area that teaches parenting classes. I think if you could find a safe place to be vulnerable about the struggles you are having, you wouldn’t feel so alone. I don’t know where you are, but in the United States you can dial 211 in most states and be connected with someone who could help you track down such a support group or class. I would also consider finding a trained child therapist for your daughter to see. Maybe someone with a specialization in play therapy. Your daughter may respond better to a less direct approach that would enable her to express what is fueling all this behavior.

      I hope that helps. God bless,

  • Thank you for writing this. You have no idea how helpful I find this information to be. Do you have any further reading material to suggest for parenting a controlling child? Books, articles, etc.

    • Hi Jenna –

      I am so glad that you found it helpful. I don’t know the age of your child so you would have to determine if these resources fit your needs. A book I can recommend is the Nurtured Heart Approach by Howard Glasser. It is a great method for diffusing controlling children and shifting dynamics in a controlling child-dominated home. Here’s the link. Look to the right bottom of the page, they are offering a free e-course that may be of interest to you.

      If your child is older, I like the approach of Empowering Parents – a very cut and dry approach to parenting. You can explore their articles on power struggles and see if anything jumps out at you.

      These two approaches are quite different, but each have their own merits. I hope you find something helpful.

      God bless,

      P.S. And there is always this article by yours truly!

  • Hi Laura, I have a 9 year old step daughter I’ve been helping my fiance raise since she was 5. We also have a 4 year old together and expecting another in a few months. There is a definite constant power struggle between me and my fiance, with my sd. She is extremely rebellious and constantly seeking revenge after she is punished, or caught in a lie. She lies about 6x/day about homework, chores, antagonizing her little sister, hiding things, taking things etc….she is very very very sneaky and will do anything to get away with something..whenever her lies are exposed (I’ve mastered doing this), and we assign homework or chores for punishment, she gets a look of evil on her face and then she’ll turn around and do worse…for example, her last name is hyphenated with her mother and fathers last name. She will write her whole name out on paper and cross out her dad’s last name, & leave the paper out for us to see. Or, she’ll run all the hot water in the tub to prevent others from showering. Or she’ll hide her sister’s toys, or leave things out in the middle of the floor for others to have to pickup, or she’ll tell outsiders personal things about our household. The list goes on. And when we confront her, she immediately lies and says either she didn’t do it, or she didn’t know what she did was inappropriate. How do I know shes lying? She’ll mention the incident months later when she’s feeling emotional and she’ll tell the truth. Or, I’ll have a long talk with her about honesty and she’ll eventually confess. Or sometimes, I’ll witness her doing such things from a different part of the house. Once I tell her I saw her do it, she’ll get more mad and make excuses for why she did it. She’ll even slam doors, stomp up stairs, and lie to my in laws about how she’s being mistreated.
    I’m fed up. She consumes so much of my energy during the day. I asked my fiance to move out because of her. I can’t deal with this, esp being pregnant. I hate to split my family apart, but it’s to the point where other adults are looking at me funny because of things she’s told them that’s not true. For instance, she always asks me to do her hair in a certain style. Then when she visited her aunt, she told her that kids @ school pick on her for having that style. The aunt confronted me with empathy for her niece, like.”can u do her hair differently”……she was super surprised to find out her niece asks for that style on a weekly basis. She wants a pity party. She claims everyone is mistreating her. She even caused us a daycare provider due to lying saying that the provider hit her. She later admitted to lying about this incident because the provider wouldn’t give her any candy. I feel I’m putting my kids in danger because she Iies and is revengeful. I feel 1 day she may lie to school officials on us. She loves what I do for her(cook, clean, nice house, neighborhood, car & stability), but she hates that I pull her card on a daily basis. Her mother abandoned her, but she still goes to visit her every summer, per court order. Even tho her mother is mean to her and does hardly anything for her, she puts her on a pedestal. When her mom buys her something once in a blue moon, she praises it. When I buy her something, she puts it away in a box and never touches it. She’ll draw pics of her with her dad and not include me and her little sister, then she’ll hang it on the wall. She makes it very obvious when she’s being retaliatory. If I tell her to finish the dishes that she lied about doing, she will pull everything her mother got her out her room and bring it in the hallway and try to rub it in my face. Sometimes this causes a clash between my fiance and I, because I view things like this as very disrespectful and he tends to ignore her when she does things like this.
    I’m just really at my Witts end. Any suggestions? Thank you for reading.

    • Hi Floresta – Thanks for stopping by. It sounds like your step-daughter is in a lot of pain. In addition, you both seem to be stuck in a vicious cycle – she has become the “criminal” and you have become the “detective” – and once she has been caught and given a consequence, she becomes the “victim”. This pattern is not working. Have you tried counseling? I think family counseling (and maybe some individual for your step-daughter) might help break into the cycle so you can figure out what is fueling it and repair your relationship. There may be some underlying hurts that she is holding onto that are being manifested in these acting out behaviors. Keep in mind children with any kind of trauma history will “revisit” the trauma at various developmental transitions. Her age, coupled with your impending new family member is likely stirring up a lot of hard feelings for her. She needs help learning how to deal with them in an effective way. You can find a counselor by contacting your pediatrician, your clergy, your insurance company or psychology today’s database of counselors (you can pick criterion based on the issues at hand).

      I pray that helps get you headed in the right direction.

      God bless,

      • Thank you for replying Laura. We considered counseling, but I fear what she could possible lie about, which could put me and her dad on the hot seat. I wouldn’t worry so much if I didn’t have another child. But I have to think about her well being also. If she lies on us about random things, I feel it can jeopardize my family. Are counselors pretty good at figuring out that a child is a habitual liar?
        Also, do you feel that I am wrong for being upset with my fiance for downplaying when she does things that I consider disrespectful? Like slamming doors, stomping, ignoring me when I’m talking to her, or sitting by my bedroom door rubbing her mom’s gifts in my face? Sometimes he tells me I react to petty things. But I didn’t do things like this to my parents growing up. I think it’s unacceptable and there should be a punishment everytime she does it. Sometimes he shows frustration with me, because he does not want to deal with her reaction to the punishment. He instead would like to brush it under the rug and ignore her. I don’t think this is appropriate. I really don’t think it’s appropriate for him to disagree with me in front of her. I notice when he does this, her attitude becomes very giddy and she’ll even start skipping around the house.
        Thank you again for your advice.

        • I would get a recommendation from a trusted friend or a pediatrician and meet with the therapist without your step daughter for a parent consultation first. You will have greater confidence in their judgement if you get to know the therapist first. To answer your second question, you will have to pick your battles. Sometimes a hyper-focus on the negative can fuel it. Here are some articles that may help you break the negative cycle:

          I hope that helps!


          • Hi Laura,
            So here I am 2 years later and the revenge seeking passive aggression has worsened with my (almost 11 year old) step daughter. My fiancé has learned of her tactics because she admitted to several things in 2015. But for some reason, when I tell him “she’s doing it again”, he argues with me and tells me I’m the problem. She will have a grin on her face when she hears her dad side with her. I wonder if all men are not in tune with things like this. I don’t see why it’s so hard for him to notice what she does. It’s to the point now where she waits for me to get home in the evening (if I work late), just to start picking at me. I will see her head in the upstairs hallway window looking for my car, and when I pull up she disappears and avoids me when I get home. Then she’ll play with a ball and when I walk away she’ll neatly leave the ball in front of the kitchen sink and hurry to bed before I see it. She will see me trying to get in the house and the chain lock will be on the door and she’ll just stand on the stairs watching me struggle (hands full with baby) and sneak back upstairs to bed. When I finally find a way in the house, she’s suddenly “sleep”. She opens and closes her closet door repeatedly if her dad and I are having a disagreement about her behavior. She won’t slam it, but it’s just loud enough to hear it. She puts water in her face and fake cry and swears she’s relly crying. 9 out of 10 times, her dad argues with me in her defense. Sometimes it’s because he doesn’t wanna address the issue. But most of the time it’s because he didn’t witness/see her actions. Is it wrong for me to get a camera system installed to expose her? What she’s doing isn’t ok. I feel it’s beginning stages of sociopath behavior

            • Hi Floresta,

              I can hear your frustration and your feelings of helplessness. Does your step daughter demonstrate these behaviors in school or other settings besides the home? That would help determine if this is “opportunistic” behavior or something more serious. Furthermore, I would like suggest that you try to focus on getting on the same page as your fiance. Your step daughter will continue to pit you against each other unless she views you as a united front. Maybe you could try couples counseling with the focus being on your communication and creating a parenting plan. My concern in that as long as see sees that she can divide you, she will. While the camera may provide “proof” for your fiance, it may have the undesired consequence of dividing you and your fiance further over your step daughter.

              I have said a prayer for peace and restoration for your family,

          • Hi Laura, in response to your 1/27/17 comment, yes she has demonstrated a lot of this behavior at school, but she is getting older and she is learning how to hide her sneaky behavior. In kindergarten her teacher who was pregnant at the time called and emailed us several times about her behavior and how she stole a stack of hall passes from her and how she seem to have a complete lack of respect for authority figures. Her first grade teacher contacted us about her behavior and said that she threw scissors across the table when she was frustrated. Her second grade teacher said that she was the most difficult kid in his class and would ignore him and refused to do her work if she was upset. She Lied on our daycare provider when she was around six years old. She said that the daycare provider spanked her and later admitted that she lied because she was upset that she didn’t get any candy. Another daycare provider reported the same thing as her get kindergarten teacher saying that she seems to have a lack of respect for adults.
            What do you mean by opportunistic behavior? She’s now in fifth grade and the only complaint that we hear from school now is that she is consistently too chatty during class.
            As of lately I am training myself to ignore her behavior and focus more on my little ones because this is definitely an attention seeking tactic

            • Hi again,

              I think it is time for a counselor for your step daughter. I would not wait. Your step daughter may be managing her behaviors in school better now but the turmoil still seems to be inside of her. She has a lot of hurt manifest as anger that she directs at others (you seem to get the brunt of it, sadly). My concern would be that this anger may become directed at herself as she enters the pre-pubescent phase. Adolescents become insular by nature and walls that they erect for protection/separation during this stage can be hard to break through under normal circumstances. She is hurting and needs to find a safe place to process that hurt. Please reference a previous reply that includes ideas for finding a counselor. Thank you for reaching out.

              God bless,

  • Hi Laura,
    What are your thoughts on adolescents and control? Our daughter seems to have trouble in peer groups. Whether it’s a classroom project or a sleepover, she reaches a level of noticeable irritation/frustration with her peers when things dont go her way or when she has to go with someone else’s plan. How can we get her to go with the flow?

    • Hi Abby,

      Control or underdeveloped leadership skills? I wonder if some points in this article might help. It was written with younger kids in mind, but the principle of finding ways to encourage empanthy is good for all ages. I would say that anything you can get her to do that would increase her level of empathy would be helpful. She has to learn to use those leadership skills to her advantage! Helping to see the world through the eyes of others will be a long way in helping her develop those skills.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!
      God bless,

  • Hi Laura,
    I have a question about “say it once and walk away”. I can maybe see it working for things that are not essential like tidying their room, but what about when they won’t get dressed for things that really need doing in time for the school run like getting dressed or putting on their shoes? If I said that once and walked away she’d just happily miss preschool! (She’s 4 years old).
    Also, if I say no to something she later wants after she has not complied with a request she just goes ahead and takes or does it anyway which creates another power struggle where I have to attempt to remove her from the situation. I am exerting control over her by saying she can’t have the things she wants which creates a power struggle in itself. Also she’s getting physically stronger and is actually starting to hurt others and break things now when she is angry so I’d really like to help her with this (she is always so upset and sorry once she has calmed down but at the time is totally out of control). I’ve read the advice in the anger section and will try those out with her this week, there’s some great ideas on there. I just wanted to get some advice to help with days like today when it took her three hours of raging before she agreed to get dressed…

    • Hi Tabby,

      I can hear your frustration. Not every tool will work in every situation – there are so many variables. I do have one additional idea: If your daughter is having a consistently difficult time with one aspect of her morning routine, I would suggest you replace a pleasureable activity with some practice time. If she enjoys watching a show in the afternoon, explain to her that because of her extreme difficulty in getting ready, you think she needs more practice. Have her get into her pajamas and start from the beginning of the routine. Continue to have practice time every afternoon during her show until she shows improvement in the morning. Also, choice for controlling children can be helpful – as long as the choices you offer are acceptable to you. For example – you can ask “Would you like to pick out your clothes for tomorrow, or should I?” or “Would you like to wear your shirt inside out or right side out?” Giving her control might help diffuse the situation. Regarding the physical acting out, I would suggest you talk to your pediatrician about safe ways to restrain an out of control child. He or she could give you a demonstration or refer you to someone who could.

      Best wishes,

  • Hi, Thankyou for the article, it has, along with the revenge seeking child put into words how I’m feeling but haven’t been able to explain. My 12year old stepson, has been living with us for 4yrs after his mother had him removed for neglecting him. So for you to explain the underlying issues has really helped me understand why he shows these behaviours (you could have been writing this about him, it is so similar). I have started feeling, powerless, resentful, unappreciated (even harder still as I am his stepmother) and feeling like I am being controlled by a child, to the point where I am sinking into depression and I don’t want to get up in the mornings, so I can avoid him, which id impossible as i have a one and two year old, so obviously have to get up, but i don’t want to, i feel like i hate the life I’m living and to the point where I feel like my day and my life is controlled by him and how he’s feeling. But to be more positive, your articles have really helped, I was able to show them to my husband, and felt that I was able to explain myself more with the help of your articles putting my thoughts into words. It gave us a starting point to communicate and we had a really good talk. At times I feel like I can’t say a thing as I feel that I am viewed as the wicked stepmother, which results in me giving into him as I don’t want to be accused of favouring my kids, he plays guilt trips with me and all I’m trying to do is be responsible and raise him right but I’m struggling. There is a books worth of stuff I could add, we have been living this for years but we have lately been getting to the point where the answer seems to be divorce but that’s not what we want. My husband and I have been communicating much better, thanks to your articles and some from I would still appreciate your advice for my situation.

    • Hi EW- I am so glad that you found some help and encouragement from this article. It think that communicating with your husband is a great place to start. A united front will be a great help in dealing with this situation. The other avenue of intervention I can suggest is your relationship with your step-son. Trying to forge a relationship in this conflictual situation is hard, but not impossible. This article might be some help in that area.
      It seems that his hurt is spilling over onto others: Your step-son has dealt with rejection, so he rejects. He has little control, so he controls others. He feels hopeless, so he creates that feeling in others. Openly talking to him about the fact that you know he is hurting may help (here is another article on how to really listen to kids so they feel heard). If that is too much at this point, start by simply connecting. Do some one-on-one fun time with him. Carve out time to show him that he is important to you. You may have to do this before his attitude softens. Cultivate connections whenever you can. You both will be more invested in working on the relationship if you have a solid foundation to work from.

      I hope that helps. You are on the right path.

      God bless,

  • Hi my child (4 yr boy) has a controlling issue, I can feel I handle it to the point where it is not a huge negative issue at home. I use a star chart in regards to good behavior and consequences in regard to bad behavior. However I notice it is affecting his relationships with other children at school, he tends to be very bossy and finds one friend and will only play with that one friend and if that friend wants to play with others he falls apart. He gets very intimidated by groups of children. I want to help him learn to socialize better so that when he goes to kindergarten he can interact better with groups of children. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Malia – Since you have had such good luck with the chart system at home, is there a way that you can ask the school to partner with you on this? If this is an issue that they are dealing with, then I would assume that they would be happy to help. The school can send home a quick note with a rating scale (1-5) on how he managed his friendships that day (particularly sharing friends) and you can respond accordingly. In addition, I would suggest having some playdates this summer. First with one child and then with two. By having two children in his home he will have to learn to navigate this type of situation. But you would want to make sure that he is well prepared with several talks from you ahead of time that explain what being a good friend is all about. You might want to consider a children’s book that addresses this issue to read together. This one looks good. It has helpful discussion questions at the end.

      I hope that helps!

      God bless,

  • While I think your article is valid, I don’t know if it encompasses exactly how far the problem of a control-obsessed child can grow.

    The “Say it once and walk away” bit only works if you actually have some amount of control over the environment your child lives in.

    If you say “no” to a child who asks for dessert, and they are particularly obsessed with control, they will simply steal it.

    True rebellion has no bounds, and there are cases when children will take it to that extreme. I’ve a 9-year-old niece who would much prefer to take hours of miserable punishment standing up in a corner with soap in her mouth, rather than take a quick spanking, just so she could feel in control of events. She steals, screams, bites, fights, and absolutely refuses to be anything but the center of attention – even if that attention is anything but pleasant.

    I’m certain is has something to do with the fact that her parents split up, and she goes unsupervised much of the time because her mother works night shift – but it’s progressed to a point beyond what any normal parenting wisdom can reckon.

    Forgive my misgivings, but I don’t think that dispassionate parenting and consistency are enough all by themselves to handle the most severe cases of controlling children. They will get what they want, regardless of how dispassionate and self-controlled the parents are, and it will teach them that their behavior is rewarded.

    Of course, it may be that I simply cannot think clearly because I just watched such interplay unfold between my niece and her mother.

    • Hi E.T.

      Your comments are appreciated. I do recognize that the suggestions in this article may not be enough of a salve for parents of children who are experiencing behaviors that are as severe as you are describing – “easier said than done”, as the say. It is also important to realize that your niece did not become the way she is overnight. Behaviors that have long been tolerated or un-addressed are harder to eliminate. But at the same token, they are not impossible to modify. Unfortunately, it sounds like your niece may not be in the optimal environment for those changes to occur. Good thing she has an aunt like you who cares. Don’t underestimate the impact of a healthy and positive relationship for a child who may feel “lost.”

      Let me just add a couple of suggestions.
      1) Check out Empowering Parents. This site is dedicated to dealing with oppositional defiant behaviors in kids. They have a very cut and dry approach to parenting the most extreme behaviors. Like all parenting methods, full and dedicated parental involvement is essential for success. Maybe her mother could find the help she needs there.
      2) Check the state statutes on children being at home unsupervised. This site has the age restrictions listed by state. It is very concerning to hear about a child of that age with that many behavior difficulties being unsupervised.

      Controlling children is an illusion. Ultimately they are in charge of how they act and respond. A parent’s job is to hold them accountable for the decisions they make and sticking to those consequences. The more difficult the behaviors, the harder this is. This is why having support people in place is so essential for success.

      Thank you for stopping by and for your comment. I sign this off with a prayer for your family.

      God bless,

      • Heh, it’s uncle, actually, but thanks for the encouragement. I confess I feel woefully inadequate to help, though.

        Her mother’s under a lot of stress both as a single mother and at work, and I’m essentially acting as her live-in babysitter for the nights she works. Of course, I only really have to house-sit while she sleeps.

        The main period of “unsupervision” comes on weekends when she has no school and her mother sleeps in the mornings, so she’s not being left home alone, merely free to get into trouble. She breaks things and makes messes, and steals (she’s managed twice to purchase hundreds of dollars worth of online apps after being told exactly what it means, despite supposed password protection) without any thought or hesitation.

        I don’t know if I should offer to take up the slack time on the weekends, or not. I’m a full-time student, and I need the weekends for study, but neither do I want to fail to earn my keep.
        … I confess I just have doubts about my patience. Watching her mothers’ wear thin, I doubt I could fare much better.

        Thanks for the reply, though – I honestly didn’t expect one, at least not so fast. God bless you, too.


        • Hi again –

          How presumptuous of me to assume gender! She is blessed to have a concerned male figure in her life. That, in and of itself, is more helpful than you may know.

          It sounds like it might be time to reach out for support. I know it may seem impossible to find the time, but some short term counseling might be the next logical step. If communication has broken down, having an impartial party to help get the ball rolling again may be just what everyone needs. Talking to her pediatrician, or even her school is a great place to start. Also, many towns offer free or reduced rate counseling through the Youth and Family Services department. Or 211, is another great way to get connected with services providers in your area.

          I am always happy to respond to comments. I admittedly don’t have all the answers – human nature is too infinitely diverse for any one of us to pin it down – but I try to share what I do know to give people hope and encouragement.

          Many blessings,

  • i am a single mother to a 4yr old girl, my daughter is very controling and i dont feel very confident in being a parent, my daughter shouts and screams at me and ignors me and will not do what i say, she hits and bites and scratches me sometimes,everything i try to get her to do, like getting dresses,eating her meals and putting on her coat, is a struggle, but very often is very loving and just wants to be cuddled, i have spoke to her dad about this and he tells me to smack her when she gets out of control, i dont want to resort to smacking because i dont want my daughter to be frightened of me,the naughty step does work at times but i just feel very angry with myself for not being in control of my daughter who i have waited for all my life and now i feel that i am a bad mother.

    • Hi Andrea,

      I am sorry to hear that you are struggling – the kind of intensity your daughter is displaying can zap all of the joy out of parenting. I think the best place to start is to do an assessment of the situation by thinking through some questions such as:

      How long has this been happening? Was there a disruption in her life that coincides with the onset of these symptoms? When are these behaviors not present? Has anything worked to manage these behaviors in the past? Is she like this only with me or do these behaviors show themselves across the board? Have I discussed my concerns with her pediatrician? Do I have sufficient support systems in place to help me parent?

      This age can be trying for many parents. This article may help. If you feel like you are lacking confidence, this article can help by giving you new tools for your parenting tool belt.

      Praying God’s best for you and your daughter,

  • What if your child seems to have all the diffetent motivators of misbehavior? We feel pretty worn down by parenting him a lot of the time and it often zaps the joy of parenting in general which is disheartening because we have 3 smaller children (8, 4,3,1). We need to create some positive memories for our family but are struggling.

    • Hi Tara – Sometimes the “soft sciences” (social work, psychology) like to quantify things – but human nature is often much too complex to be rigidly categorized. Sometimes these classification systems break down in “real life” – but they can be very helpful in helping parents get their bearings and make a plan to intervene.

      On a personal note, your question seems to indicate that attention-seeking is the most troublesome behavior you are facing. Even though you have four children, he is consuming all your time and you feel worn down. I would first make sure that he is getting the attention that he needs, rather than the attention that he will settle for (negative). Because of the age gap between him and his siblings, there are easy ways to build in time to connect with him (later bedtime, reading a book for older kids together). Your relationship will be the key factor in bringing about change. If it is damaged, work on that first. You may want to read this article for some ideas on how to do that.

      If you are a family of faith, starting the day with a private prayer with your son before the day begins can be a great way to connect and commit your day to Lord together.

      God bless,

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