How to handle bad behaviour in children

Children can be rude and argumentative. They can answer back, and not do what they are told. Such insolent behaviour needs to be corrected. But what are the right techniques to correct bad behaviour in children? They should be disciplined gentlly yet firmly. It's a trick that every parent must know.

There is this couple I know who often turn to me on issues involving their kids. Their complaints range from their kids not studying, to the kids constantly fighting among themselves. Their latest complaint is about their elder one arguing with them.

'Arguing' is a term that should not be used facetiously. Sometimes what parents see as children arguing is actually children just voicing their opinion. Some parents might want to be so in control of their kids, that they decide everything for them. They leave no room for discussion or an opinion contrary to theirs. This dominant nature creates more misunderstandings between parent and child. The child might listen to such a parent, but he would be fuming inside. The relationship between a parent and a child is not of equals, but yet it is one of equals. It is a complex sentence, with a deep meaning.

Coming to myself, I think that children should be able to share their opinion with their parents. Parents, in turn, should listen to their children with open minds. They should analyse the situation before announcing their verdict. A child's perspective must be considered, even if it is not agreed upon. Reasons should be given to the child for turning down his views. The "because I say/think so", is never a convincing response.

I consider a child with an opinion to be actually quite intelligent. It is a quality that I admire. Children should be encouraged to have opinions, it is what makes them think for themselves, it is what makes them stand up and express themselves. I am not supporting argumentative behaviour – but parents must learn to differentiate between sharing an opinion and being argumentative. Just because a child has different views from the parents does not make him argumentative. There is a thin line that separates the two conducts.

Most parents recognise when a child is arguing. And this argumentative behaviour needs to be curtailed. So, how does a parent react when a child is being aggressively argumentative? Such behaviour must be nipped in the bud. A child back talking is most certainly unacceptable behaviour.

Here are a few strategies that parents can apply to curb back chatting and argumentative behaviour in their kids –

Act like a responsible adult

It is difficult to remain calm, amidst your child arguing, screaming and being rude. You do not have to act the same way. Stay calm, this will send a message to your kid, who'll then tone down his temper. Once that's done let your child know that you will not have him talk to you like that. And the next time he behaves in a similar manner you will not respond to his antics.

Do not succumb to the child's pressure tactics and do not accept any of their arguments. The message that you need to send out is that you will not consider any requests that are accompanied by threats or tantrums. You are open to opinions, but not arguments and disdainful behaviour.

No losing your shirt. Stay calm when you deliver this very pertinent message to your erring child.

Be reasonable

How about choosing a middle ground? How about letting your child have some options? Children tend to answer back and retaliate when they feel helpless. They feel you control their entire world, which they might not be comfortable with. Remember they are individuals and have a personality and a mind of their own. Show respect, when you expect respect in return.

You can give your child options, and still be in charge. Your child does not want to do his homework. He doesn't have to do it right away. Give an option; let him choose when he'd sit down to study. Explain to him, that all other deals will go off the table if he does not keep his commitment.

What if your child refuses to tidy up his room? That's fine, let him live in the mess, but tell him you'll not do it for him nor help him find his stuff. Also, add that all other promises you've made to him stand cancelled until the room is tidied up. It could mean no going for a Saturday night movie!

Your child wants a pizza for dinner. Sure, provided he has a healthy lunch and finishes all that's on his plate.

Notice how you are not refusing anything, but giving him options and choices. It's for him to decide whether he wants everything his way or picks a choice that's given to him. He gets to choose, but you still win.

Arguments vs. discussions

Remember the thin line I mentioned earlier in my article – even though it's easy to see when your child is putting his view forward as opposed to being rude, most parents, take any sort of discussion from the child, as an argument. It's much like the 'my way or the highway' syndrome.

It's a discussion when your child expresses his views, on a subject. And an argument when he is unwilling to listen to what you have to say and wants things only his way.

As an adult, you can tell when your child is arguing and when he is discussing. Let him know that it's fine to express an opinion, but it's unacceptable if he throws tantrums and becomes rude. Let him see the difference between an argument and a discussion, by demonstrating behaviour that has been mentioned earlier. Discussions are always two-sided, you listen and you respond, your child does the same, and there is no aggressiveness involved.

Do incentives work?

Small incentives as an appreciation can make your child change his behaviour. Small rewards signal that his efforts are appreciated. It doesn't take too much to be appreciative, but it goes a long way in boosting a 'feel good' sense in your child, which will make him behave better in future. So, go ahead, let him play some video games if he finishes his homework. Be quick to reward!

Set rules

You need to let your child know what acceptable behaviour is. Your child must be taught to act with tact and responsibility. You have to have a talk with him that it's not fine to scream and shout and make a nuisance of himself. Let your child know that you will hear him out if he talks to you in a decent manner. Have this talk on neutral territory, not when there's a heated argument on or when your child refuses to listen.

Requests must also be timed right and worded right. Behaving responsibly is a duty for both you and your child.

Be firm

This might appear contradictory to what I mentioned earlier about giving options and hearing the child's views. However, when I mention being firm I mean the decision you make after a child has displayed rude behaviour. If you tell him no video games, stick to it; don't relent and let him play games because you feel sorry for him. If you do so, you'll never be taken seriously – remember the boy who cried wolf?

Similarly, stick to your word if you promise something. No going back on your words.

Support from your spouse

Disciplining children is a collective effort and both husband and wife must share equal responsibility. Very often one parent overrules the other parent's order, which is bad parenting. If one parent refuses something, the other must respect that decision. The issue can be discussed in private, not in front of the children.

Similarly, grandparents can spoil the grandchildren through excessive pampering. Children begin to misbehave because they have their support. Have a word with the grandparents about what you think is wrong with their attitude. Better still have your spouse have a word with their parents. Let it be known that you will not compromise in the way you want to raise your kids. Set boundaries – it's important.

And finally, your children are at an impressionable age. They watch how you behave and emulate your behaviour. Shape them through the right examples.

Here is multipronged approach that you must remember when children argue or misbehave -

  • Don't stifle them with too many rules, it can hamper their personality
  • Don't be rude or chide them at every instance
  • Children are individuals, treat them as one
  • Keep conversations open and use humour to outwit your kids
  • You are emotionally mature compared to your child, behave accordingly
  • Agree with your child's view when he has a point and admit to him when you've been wrong
  • Don't berate or shame him, if his reasoning seems silly
  • Let him know that you get his point of view, and why you think it's not right or that you would consider it
  • Treat him as an equal – tell him you like his difference of opinion and exchange a volley of question and answers to come to a conclusion

  • At the end of the day, it's all about building a bond with your child and inculcating the right values. Remember, you are there to guide and lead him, and not just boss over him or own him. Most times it is the parents who are at fault when their children misbehave. They ignore bad behaviour in their children when they are young and do nothing to correct them. They are poor role models, shouting and screaming at each other – a trait the child picks up. Communication is vital for your child's growth, and when you correct bad behaviour, it is also a form of communication.

Article by Juana
Juana is a freelance writer, with years of experience, creating content for varied online portals. She holds a degree in English Literature and has worked as a teacher and as a soft skill trainer. An avid reader, she writes on a variety of topics ranging from health, travel, education and personality development.

Follow Juana or read 551 articles authored by Juana

Related Articles

How to prevent acne scars?

This article explains various measures which keep acne under control. This decreases inflammation and consequently chances of formation of acne scars too decreases. Actions like not picking at skin, proper hydration, using sunscreen lotions, proper skin care regime etc prevent formation of acne scars.

How our manners are the indication of our persona?

Our behaviour is the recognition of our personality. The sweeter the mannerisms would be, the wider would be the friend circle. The very first meeting with somebody would suffice to tell you many things about him. The sweetness of our voice attracts everybody. How to acquire this mannerism is the subject for discussion of this present article.

Tips on how to become famous among your friends and family

In this article, I will explain you how to behave nicely with your friends and family. This article also contains useful tips for you which will help you to gain self respect within your inmates. One should behave polite and speak sweet with his close ones for maintaining a easy going and nice relationship.

How To Develop And Improve Your Personality?

In this Article, I am going to explain about how one can improve his/her personality. It's an art to attract people with your personality and impress them, but the important is to make such personality. If you want people to listen what you speak carefully, you need to work hard for such charming personality. Everybody can make his/her personality attractive by following some simple mannerisms' and charm people which are mentioned below.

More articles: Behaviour Children Problems Manage Children How to


Author: DR.N.V. Srinivasa Rao02 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 2

Ms.Juana has given a very good interesting article about handling of children.

Every parent should understand the desires of the children and encourage him to act accordingly, as far as they are ethical and non destructive. If you have to say no also, you should explain him why you are saying so You have to make him to understand your point but no boss over him.

Another important point is never compare him with anybody. That will hurt his feelings and may develop negative feelings.

Author: K Mohan02 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4

What I learned from my personal experience on nurturing children, I found that we cannot be rude, commanding and disrespecting their ventures and thus they get annoyed and even get irritated and feel like beating us. Children are used to seeing cartoon characters in television and the try to emulate the vengeance style of beating others and this is also one more reason we find in challenging children. Be a friend and not as a mother or father with the child. That will give them lots of room to express their views and choices and thus you can know what they want to try to suffice their needs. Some child wants to emulate other child or his competitor and it that case just convinces the child that you are going to make him better than the competitor child and hence he need not emulate him. Lastly never give any stick or rods to the child. When he gets irritated, he feels like hitting or beating others with that. One of my relative child who is naughty and always asserts what he wants, get irritated in seconds and thus throws whatever he has in his hands towards the plasma television and you know the result? So never ever train the child to vent vengeance. Be a friend and attend the woes.

Author: Pooja Mishra04 May 2017 Member Level: Bronze   Points : 3

Educating children with good ethics is not so tough. From ancient times our ancestors followed their parents, and same is happening nowadays also but the only difference is we as a parent, who are live audiovisual performers, are very much focused towards our children behaviour rather than checking ourselves that what lesson we are delivering and what we are presenting in front of them. They are noticing and enacting in the same manner. So it's much better to first do some major amendment in ourselves and surrounding from which child is highly influenced rather than confusing them.

Author: Juana05 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5

Srinivasa Rao, your view is absolutely true and signals good parenting. Most parents act bossy (if I may use the term), ordering children not to behave in a certain manner. The right way to correct children is to explain why something is wrong. Their young minds cannot understand why the parent is admonishing them, or what the parent wants. Spelling out the why’s and the what’s encourages better behaviour, because children learn to understand the expectations and the reasons better.

Comparisons happen because parents set high expectations for their children. It actually serves in a negative way as children get offended by comparisons. It also shatters their self-esteem and belief in themselves. A better way to get a child to behave in a nice manner is through encouragement and pep talk. A phrase like ‘you can do it’ or ‘I believe you can do it’ actually inspire children and make them work harder.

Author: Juana12 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 5


You have inadvertently taken the discussion to another level and that is violent behaviour in children. Violent behaviour in anyone (not just kids) should be corrected the first time it happens. I think the parents are to be blamed for failing to inculcate right values in their children. I am aghast by your statement that kids get irritated and feel like beating us. We cannot blame cartoons for this. This is where good parenting comes into the picture – parents must point out to their children how violent actions in cartoons (even if they are funny) can never be good.

When it comes to disciplining children, the parent is not a friend but is the one in charge. Parents are accountable for their young children’s behaviour. They must correct wrong behaviour the first time it happens. Parents should never ignore their role as disciplinarians when rearing children. They should be good listeners and good guides.

Author: Juana15 May 2017 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 4


I agree with you that children learn through observation. However, there can be no comparison between parents of today and those of the past. There was hardly any interaction between parents and children then; children were scared of their parents when they were growing up. There was a certain fear of the parent. Today, parents are more 'accessible' and children and parents share a different rapport.

In the past children behaved themselves because of fear - fear of the father or fear of canning. In the given scenario that we face today, disciplining becomes important, since there is no fear. Children feel free to do what they want. However, they should be taught right behavior and values, through words and actions.

  • Do not include your name, "with regards" etc in the comment. Write detailed comment, relevant to the topic.
  • No HTML formatting and links to other web sites are allowed.
  • This is a strictly moderated site. Absolutely no spam allowed.
  • Name: