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Episode 90

What should I do with my defiant child? 

December 25, 2023
In Episode 90,  Sara and Kyle, LPCs, discuss the importance of giving kids power and control. When children feel they have no power and control in their lives they will be more resistant and defiant. Knowing they have the power to write their own story leads to kids being more resilient and confident throughout their entire lives.

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Episode 90 Transcript:

Episode 90 - What should I do with my defiant child?

In today's podcast, we're going to talk about how to change defiance in kids. Welcome to the Art of Raising Humans. Hello and welcome to episode 90 of the Art of Raising Humans. I'm Kyle.

And I'm Sara. And today we want to talk about changing defiant kids. A lot of power struggles going on in homes with kids when they're asserting themselves and their individuality, their autonomy, causing a lot of issues at times in families. But before we jump into that, we want to tell you something new that we're starting up soon. So once this podcast drops, it should be ready to go, is we're going to be opening up a Facebook group, so an Art of Raising Humans Facebook group. And we'd really love for you to go there and check that out because on that group, we're going to be putting a lot more content, specifically live content, you know, where Sara and I will be discussing certain issues sometimes tied into the podcast that week, but also time, you know, other types of things that pop up or we'll be giving specific advice, especially there'll be a place where people could ask questions.

People could like really get more specific help and support on your parenting journey. So that'd be exciting. I'd say just a space for parents to support each other. Yes. You know that where if you're, you know, kind of stepping out like we feel like we did where, hey, OK, we're going to adopt these new skills. We need to practice them. I mean, we've loved when we've had people we can talk to about that and journey with. And so it's sort of a space to let's journey together in this hard thing called parenting and practice these skills and working together at it and encouraging each other. I just want to take a moment to tell you about an exciting opportunity that we're doing in 2024. You know, the past decade, Sara and I have had the privilege and the joy of getting to coach so many parents in changing their the way they discipline at home, moving away from fear based approaches. And over those years, we've got a lot of calls from fathers, dads who are like, man, I want to make the change, too, but I'm really struggling with with the not yelling, the anger.

It's just, man, it just the reactions are so hard to change. And so in 2024, I thought it would be great. I really wanted to invite fathers who are wanting to change those dynamics to do some one on one coaching with me. So if you're interested in that or if you know a dad who you think would be interested in that, love for you to reach out to me at Kyle Wester at

That's Kyle Wester at And I'd love to set up a time to talk with you to see if you would be a good fit for the program. OK, so if you're interested, reach out, have any questions, reach out and look forward to talking with you soon. OK, with all that out of the way, let's jump right into the topic. So I know, Sara, whenever we are coming up with topics, you specifically, this was kind of on your mind, right, about how to change defiant kids or you originally say giving power and control to your kids.

So how come it was so important you to talk about this? Well, I can't remember what exactly made it pop into my head, but I was thinking how often, you know, you kind of think I've got to be careful. I've got to make sure my kids know I'm in charge type thing.

And there's that conversation. And and and then I feel like my kid is just constantly having this power struggle with me. They're always seeking power or control over situations. Always resisting me coming against me. Yeah. So we're having this back and forth where you're aware of the fact that there's this dynamic between you and your kid or all your kids, but this power struggle that's going on. And what do you do about that? And what's going on with your kids? That can look like is something as small as your little kid when you say, go do that or go pick up that. And they say, no, right. Can look like that or they're not saying anything at all, just ignoring you all the way up to the teenager. Right. And the teenager saying, I'm going to do what I want and I'm going to live my own life.

And so it can look as big as that. Right. The two or three year old who's the temper tantrum. I think the power and control thing is starts when they're very, very little and goes through the whole the whole thing, the whole thing. There's there's that thread that keeps popping up and can look very different. Like you said, the quiet one or the real acting out loud one. Yeah. And so it seems like we want to start with this idea that a lot of parents and I would say myself included as we got into the realm of parenting is I believe we believe we need to have the power and control. Right. Like I remember when Abby was first born, a little kid, I definitely thought that she needed to know I was the boss and I had the power and control. Right. And that what we're wanting to talk about here is that that's kind of a myth.

You know, that's a myth that we need to have the power and control. Yeah. Yep. It's it's something I think you hear it said you right away. You've got established. They got to know that you're the parent and you're in charge, which is really just saying you have the power and control, not them. Yeah. Yeah. And really what's important as you're raising kids is what we're suggesting is kids need to know they have power and control. Yeah. I actually want to challenge that because the more powerless and the more out of control they feel, the more they're going to seek power and control.

So if you see that arising in your kid, that means they're actually needing that. And so I just want to back up just a second and put out there it's just a regular human thing to need power and control. We all actually need power and control. So when we look at a kid and a child and think they're not going to need that, that's not true. So that's what is the myth is that we somehow need more of it than they do.

No, they need it, too. So, of course, we're going to come along.

We'll get into that. We need to help them, you know, structure that. But if you power and control is a healthy piece, when I say I feel like I can control my future, I feel like I have control in my life and I have power in my life. When you feel that way, when a child feels that way, that's actually a component of resiliency. I'm a powerful enough person that when something hard comes my way, life doesn't go my way.

Yeah, I can actually rise up because I am powerful. I am not at the mercy of everything around me. I am not powerless. I am not out of control because, you know, hard things are going to come. So when you're a little one or your teen, whatever, is trying to develop some power and control, reframe that in your mind to go, oh, they're working on resiliency.

Oh, they're working on self-confidence. They want they need something inside of them is driving for feeling good about themselves, feeling like they can they can do this thing called life. Yeah. So we don't want to actually squish that down. Yeah. That's a cry out for their naturally.

That's just going to rise up in them. When you see that, you want to go, OK, great. This is happening. This how can I come alongside them?

Because I want a resilient kid. I want a confident kid. I want a kid who does feel like they can go out in this world.

And that's their whole childhood. They're building that next layer, that next layer, that next layer. So hopefully by the time there is an they're an adult, they can feel great and go out in the world. So what I hear you saying is you started out with a big statement that everyone needs to have this.

We as humans need to have some power and control. We need to have that. And so then you went into saying they need that so they can then feel like they can navigate this world. Right. That even when the world and life isn't going their way, they can do something about it. Right. So they have this resiliency.

They have this confidence. You know, but there's also, I guess, this counterpoint, Sara. It seems like you don't want to give all the power and control to the kid. Right. Why not?

Like, OK, why not? Just let me handle it. Can you talk about that balance? Because I think that's really what we're hinting at is it's not the power and control isn't something that the parents should have all. And it's also not something the kid should have. Why not? Why would it be unhealthy for the kid to have all that power? Well, really, that's getting to, OK, you want and need things in life.

And we're in relationship together. And I want and need things in life. So it doesn't have to be my way or your way.

It's not a black or white. You know, it's not this or that issue. How can we come together to get this done?

You know, and so. Yeah. And I hope our listeners are hearing this, Sara. I was asking that question because when we keep demanding my way with our power and control, we're actually raising kids who only know one way. And that's demanding their way. Right. Or I guess they develop just giving in to everyone else's way. Right. So they really have this dichotomous way of approaching the situation. Either it's all my way or it's all your way. Yeah. It just increases that. Yes. I'm either going to grow up and learn to just be in relationship with people who are going to tell me what to do or I'm going to be the person telling everyone what to do.

And that's how I think relationships are structured with this dynamic of one person or there's these tiers instead of it us together. Even my little two year old, I can share power with my teenager. And that's that's going to be a real great relationship where it's OK. I see your needs and wants and I see my needs and wants. Yeah. And we can come together on this.

How can we do this together? But what you're saying, even at a young age, we're wanting the kid to see that the power and control we have as parents because we do is we're not saying we don't have any power control.

We obviously do. Like, yeah, it's a both. Everybody needs it. Like the very thing that we're wanting as parents to say many times we want the power and control because then we feel less scared. If we have the power and control, we feel less scared. It's scary to give up that power and control to the kid. Yeah, right.

But I think the kid feels the same way. Yeah, like the kid may be demanding power and control, whether through a tantrum or something else bigger as a teenager. But it's actually scary for them to have all the power and control. Right. So for them to have it all, it really, I think, scares a kid to have all the power and control because they don't know what to do with all that. But as the parent, a lot of times we, out of fear, try to have all the power and control.

And that's the dance that ends up happening. You know, and we're really trying to show the kid that our power and control that we have is to keep you safe, is to help guide you. It is always to be for you and always to support you towards something better. Well, as a parent, you're looking at it as a developmental stage, a developmental need, just like you see other things that they need to do. Learn to ride a bike, read a book, do algebra, whatever it might be. It's a normal developmental stage for them to assert their power and control. Yes, yes. So and it's going to look different at each age, but you're going to keep seeing it through the years because they might be working on autonomy or they might be working on their identity as a person.

So I want to dress the way I want to dress because I'm working on my identity. And so it looks like a power control. It is. But but at the core, it's that identity. So something is going on inside of them that needs that power and control. So our job as a parent to go, oh, they're working on some power and control here. And that's related to something going on in their development. So I'm not just going to go, oh, here you go.

Have it all. Yeah. No, I'm going to I want to help create boundaries and safety around that. So I hear you redefining instead of looking at the defiance and the resistance and saying that's something I need to stop. Instead, you're saying the defiance and resistance is communicating. I need to practice some power and control in this moment. Yeah, that they're building us. Yeah, yeah. They're saying in this moment, I'm trying to exercise the power and control that we all have as humans. And maybe the reason why it's coming across as defiance or resistance or whatever, is because I believe it.

I'm living in a world as a kid. It has to be my way or your way. And this moment, I'm going to fight for my way. So I'm going to resist you. I'm going to defy you. Yeah. Maybe they're just want they're just trying to just build their own autonomy. I do it myself. You know, and so it's nothing to do with you. Exactly. I just want to do it myself because I want to feel competent in this moment.

I want to know I can do it. Let me try it. I want to do it on my own. Right. And so that then I look at that and go, oh, there's a need here. It's not against me. Yeah. It's really something is developing here in my child.

Maybe they can't really do it. Yeah. So, of course, I help structure that, you know, to keep them safe, to support them, to help them possibly more successful there or to be there to catch them if they fall. Right. Something like that. And maybe it's, you know, I think of a little kid trying to zip up their own jacket. Yes. And they want to do it themselves.

And and so maybe that day you have time. You're like, OK, come on. You know, you're you want to encourage them. You want to build that confidence and give them that. There may be other times you can't. Yeah. But you look at is, oh, we need to get out the door. You want to try doing something on your own.

So I just want to give it voice. A real simple example would be with Ellie playing soccer and her not being able to tie your own shoestrings, you know. So I noticed the last game she had a teammate help her tie her shoestrings, you know. And then when we were going to go to soccer practice, I said she asked me to tie him. And I said, Ellie, I think you can tie those.

You know, you can do that. And her immediate response was, no, I can't. I can't do it, you know. And then within what, like when you came in, she asked for some help from you. We watched a little YouTube video within five to ten minutes.

The smile on her face was huge. She's like, look, I'm doing it, you know, and the sense of power and control that she no longer in a soccer game needs to run to the sideline to have her coach do it or have a teammate do it. I mean, just you could feel the confidence of like, oh, now I can tie this at any point in the game. And that's kind of like a small example, but that bleeds into every. You want to look for places your child can exercise power and control. And you may not always like the outcome, you know, so that you need to make sure it's a space where I, I may not like their choice here, but I can live with that because I want to develop this in you. Yeah. So maybe when they're little, it's their choice of outfit, you know, it's not going to hurt that they don't match that day.

So that's a place I feel like I can give them some power and control. Let them build a skill. Maybe when you're when you have a teenager, it's what elective are they going to take or what sport are they going to do? You want to be looking for spaces. They can exercise that as much as possible, but you just do it and know ahead of time. I'm going to be okay with whatever the choice, whatever choice they make. I'm going to be okay with that because there are lots of spaces. We can't give them the power and control, and that's a really aggravating for a child. So just own that.

It's going to be hard. I would say they spend most of their time in that space, right? Most of the time, adults, coaches, all the adults in their life are telling that they're using their power and control to tell the kid what to do, right? Their schedule usually isn't their own, their food. We're constantly driving them around places, and they're like, they're just having to go with it, right? So by the time they're little, there's little moments, and it can be kind of annoying for a parent because you're like, no, not in this moment because we don't always get to pick and choose the moments they want to assert that. I was even thinking with food, that can be a big one, right? Another one where lots of kids will try to use their power and control when it comes to what they eat, you know? I mean, I specifically, I always tell parents there when I'm helping them in sessions and coaching them is the places you really see the power and control. If a kid is really trying to double down that you can't, that they have the power and control is eating, it's pooping, it's sleeping, and it's talking, you know?

When they're young, but even as they get older, right? So even through the teenage years, I find those four are where parents finally come this realization they don't have all the power and control. And that's how the kid, well, I mean, the kid can hold onto that poop as long as they want, you know, and it's even kids going into elementary and have all these stomach issues or, you know, there's all these. So as early as we can, if you could give an example, like I remember one example I'm thinking of, Sara, is even like when we're changing diapers on the kids, right? When they were little, is it be ways in which you would give them power and control in that process?

Can you speak to something like that? Yeah, it's to, you know, kids will run off and play or they don't want to stop to get their diaper changed or get in their pajamas or something like that. And and so, yeah, I would try. I didn't want the power struggle, especially around those types of things, food issues, things like that.

I didn't want that. So, yeah, so I would turn it into a game or I would turn it in. You know, I would I would give them a few minutes. I give them a warning. Hey, we're going to do this so that their brain could start moving ahead because they're very much in the present moment and and, you know, they would help pick out their outfit.

Do you want this one or this one? Yep. Do things where they're a part of it and it's not being done to them.

Well, also, it's not a win, lose. It's not like I need to get your diaper change.

So I win, you lose. Yeah, it really is trying to at that early, early age, understand that they are not you. Yeah. ÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿÿ Yeah.Dictionary. Yeah, it really is trying to at that early, early age, understand that they are not you.Dictionary. Yeah, it really is trying to at that early, early age, understand that they are not you.Dictionary. Yeah, it really is trying to at that early, early age, understand that they are not you.Dictionary. Yeah, what that reminds you, if the parent is the one who's, this has got to be my way, what it also sends the message of is your choices, yeah.Dictionary. Yeah, what that reminds you, if the parent is the one who's, this has got to be my way, what it also sends the message of is your choices, yeah. Yeah, what that reminds you, if the parent is the one who's, this has got to be my way, what it also sends the message of is your choices, yeah. What that reminds you, if the parent is the one who's, this has got to be my way, what it also sends the message of is your choices, yeah.

Yeah, what that reminds you, if the parent is the one who's, this has got to be my way, what it also sends the message of is your choices, yeaher choices, yeah. Yeah, what that reminds you, if the parent is the one who's, this has got to be my way, what it also sends the message of is your options, yeaher options, yeah. Yeah, what that reminds you, if the parent is the one who's, this has got to be my way, what it also sends the message of is your options, yeaher options, yeah. Yeah, what that reminds you, if the parent is the one who's, this has got to be my way, what it also sends the message of is your choices, yeaher choices, yeah. You can do this, you're a capable person, so you want that to be built in them, you can do this, you're a capable person, so you want that to be built in them, not the shame, the doubt, the I don't know how to make good choices, and apparently everything I'm choosing is wrong. You don't want those messages to come across.

We wanna raise human beings So you wanna, you know. Yeah, and then eventually what that leads to, Sara, is we wanna raise human beings Cuz we all know these human beings, some of us listening to this right now, us included, can, when we got into adulthood it very much was a lot of knowing what we actually wanted to do in life, you know? Knowing how, knowing that, and believing and trusting that we have power and control in this life to write our own story. Yeah, that we can do it, and it can be a good story. And even if something doesn't go well for us, we can make different choices, we can do different things. I think almost all the ways I'm helping college-age kids or adults who are struggling with life is they believe life has the power over them.

They believe their circumstances dictate the outcomes, right? And a lot of that comes because of the parenting they had as kids, that it was life that seemingly did it.

It was all the more powerful beings. You have that doubt, I can't decide. I need to look outside of myself to tell me. Or to give me power and control that I don't have, yeah. I need something else. And that even goes back to peer pressure. You want your kids to exercise saying no and making their own choices. So someday, when they're in those other situations, they're really practiced in thinking, what do I want?

Do I want this? I can say no.

I can be powerful here. How awesome would that be? Then they have the power. They don't have to go along with the other kids. They don't have to go to that party or something like that. They don't have to deceive or lie to their parents and get away with stuff, right? So instead, they have the power in that moment to be the human being that they want to be, no matter what the crowd is doing. They've been practicing that since they were really little.

Yes, I love that. Even if it's what they eat, what they wear, what they play with. I'm sure the listeners would all love to have that. To have kids who, in the moment, know the path they want to take and they're not powerless to where the peer pressure is taking them. And that starts, though, at two, three, four. It does, and you're doing it with them the whole time. And it's like, okay, I've got what I need and you've got what you need and we're doing this together. So I hope, what I'd love to leave the listeners with is this. Just noticing and being aware of how are you helping your kids practice power and control. Understanding it's a human need to feel like you can write your own story. That you have a say in every moment.

All the way down to the one-year-old, the two-year-old. It doesn't matter how young they are. It's just going to make for a better teenage years and into adulthood they have power and control to dictate their life and where their life is going. And they're not constantly looking to outside sources to tell them what to do. And what the next step needs to be. So I hope that helps clarify this topic and really helps expand how you can make win-win situations with your kids.

It doesn't have to be win-lose. We're not asking at all for you to give the power to the kid and then you lose out. It's really about you two working together cooperatively towards what grades do you want to make this year. What kind of friends do you want to have. These kind of conversations can be really beautiful conversations when you're working together and using both of your power and control to create a beautiful outcome. And when they feel like they have that power and control you'll see a lot less of that resistance. A lot less of that fighting for it because the need is met.

They don't have to fight anymore. When you do see that, listeners, when you do see them pushing back just know it's them saying, I don't feel like I have any power or control. I need more.

I'm trying to grow here. I think the only way to do that is to push against you or to just fight for myself. And just understand that I want to make them know you don't need to do it that way. You don't need to fight against me. We can work together towards a better outcome.

So I hope you found this episode really helpful. And once again we'd love to go check out the Facebook group The Art of Raising Humans and get that free material we have the video course about moving away from fear and shame. We want to equip you families with as many tools as possible to be able to have, to be able to raise these humans to be like world changers when they grow up. Where they're fearless, they're self-controlled, they're respectful kids and we're really looking forward to hearing your feedback. I'd love to hear your comments about ways you practice this or moments that you find this and I think that group would be a great way to touch base with. So we hope you have a great day. The Art of Raising Humans podcast should not be considered or used as counseling, but for educational purposes only.

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