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Curbing disrespect and fostering compliance in children


Our two children, ages 7 and 9, are very defiant. They bicker all the time and refuse to listen to my wife and me. Consequently, I feel like we are fighting with them daily. We do everything for our children and feel like they are ungrateful.  How can we instill respect in them?  

When we discipline them it is usually in the form of removing a privilege, such as taking away their cell phones or video games. 

My daughter (age 7) even took money out of my wife’s purse. I calmly but sternly told her why this is wrong, but think this is yet another way to lash out at us. Please help.



Our main role as parents is to teach our children the necessary skills to become successful adults. Most of these skills are socially related and pertain to such skills as following instructions, accepting consequences ​and respecting others. Typically, telling your children what to do will not be enough. Children learn best through consequences and repetition.  

You would like your children to accept your decisions without argument, so break down this skill into simple steps. Be specific so they understand exactly what you expect. Tell them that this has been a problem behavior for them, so you want them to use this skill when they are listening to decisions that have been made or instructions from you. They will then have more time to do the things they enjoy because they will not be spending the time arguing with you.  

When you give them an instruction or decision, they must:

  1. Look at you so you know they are listening.
  2. Say “OK” so you know that they understand.
  3. Don’t argue and go do the task immediately.

Now that they know your expectations, have them practice. This can consist of role-playing or playing games that require them to follow instructions and accept decisions. "Simon Says" and "Mother May I" are two examples.  

Then let them know what the consequences will be if they do not use this skill.  Also tell them what the positive consequences are if they DO use the skill appropriately.

The value of respect is essential, and it is important that parents remember the difference between a need and a privilege. When parents overindulge their children, they deprive them of a fair chance to learn value and respect. Things like computers, cell phones and video games are privileges, not rights. They should only be given to children who have attained the maturity and responsibility to use them wisely.  

If the atmosphere of your home is tense due to fighting, it might be time for you and your wife to “clean the slate” and start over in order to have your children earn the privileges of playing video games or using a cell phone. They can do this by demonstrating respect and compliance to you and your wife.  

Also, consider what is age-appropriate for your children. It is a mistake to give your children too much at too young of an age. You run the risk of having nothing left to give them or remove from them when they are older and consequences are needed.