| Willful Disobedience and the Power of Respect
I know that you are committed to staying respectful to your kids. I also know that it is extra difficult to stay
respectful when your kids are being willfully disobedient:
• “No! No! You’re mean! I’m not gonna go!”
• “Leave me alone! Get away from me! Leave me alone!”
• “I hate you! I’m never gonna do what you say!”
If you let yourself get ruled by your emotions in these situations it can be very, very difficult to stay
respectful. It’s hard enough to stay respectful when your children disobey you. It is much, much harder
when they are also not being respectful.
This is when all your practice at remaining calm which you have learned as part of a spiritual discipline, or
as part of stress control, or anger management, or in preparation for childbirth, can come in handy.
• “I’m sorry you feel like that. I didn’t know that you don’t want to go.”
• “Okay. I’ll leave you alone for now, but we are going to have to deal with this.”
• “We both need to cool off. I’m going out in front. We’ll talk later.”
Acknowledge your emotions, feel them and if you want to, share them, tell your children what you are
feeling. Just do not let your emotions be in charge of what you do; make sure you, the whole person that
you are, is in charge of you.
If you ever cannot control your impulse to react disrespectfully, it might be better to leave the scene until
you have calmed down. Make a plan just in case: where can you go; who can watch the kids?
Let this be your bottom line: “I treat my kids with respect, no matter what.”
Although obedience is an integral part of our culture, if you wish to stay respectful, it is better to think in
terms of cooperation rather than obedience or disobedience. Believe that if you give them enough
information, your son or daughter want to cooperate. If they do not cooperate, then they have good
reasons for not doing so.
Find out why they are being uncooperative:
1. Are their needs different than yours? Sometimes doing what you want them to do, in just the way
you want them to do it, is going against their own needs. If this is the case, it is a good opportunity to
negotiate a win-win solution.
2. Maybe they have misunderstood your needs. Misunderstandings are some of the most common
causes of trouble among people. Make sure that your children have understood exactly what you had in
3. Perhaps you have misinterpreted your children’s actions, and think that they are being
uncooperative because they did not do exactly what you expected them to do. Sometimes what they
actually do really meets your needs, it was just not the way you thought about having those needs met.
4. Often children will not do what you ask the next instant after you ask it. Like many others, they
need time to adjust to what you are asking of them, and to end what they are already doing, even if it is
5. It might also be that they are just tired of being bossed around. Maybe they feel as if everyone has
been telling them what to do all day and they are fed up. That could happen to any of us. Sometimes
enough is enough and with you it’s often safer to disobey than with others.
Another thing you might look at is yourself, as a behavioral model. How cooperative are you with your
children when your needs are different from theirs? Are you ever, or even frequently, uncooperative with
When they let you know what they need and if it is not what you had planned, do you work cooperatively
with them to find a mutually agreeable solution? Remember, you are one of their primary models of
appropriate human behavior.
Once you understand more accurately what is going on with your children and what seems to be
disobedience on their part, it is much easier to be respectful with them.
When you take the time to figure things out and not just to react, you can often discover that situations
which seemed intolerable to you before are understandable and, with a little effort can be transformed
into peaceful, satisfying interactions.