See this Face?

This is the face of a child who has been nothing but an angel since the day she was born.  Seriously, she’s had about 9 time outs in her entire life and has always been compliant, joyful, and sweet.  She has been easy to parent and we’ve never had any real behavioral challenges with her. 

Until last week.

This is now the face of a child who has apparently decided that we are morons and she no longer has to listen to us.

And I honestly don’t know what the heck to do about it. 

I have threatened and followed through on time outs this week that have barely made a dent. 

Here’s a classic example: 

She climbs onto the livingroom chair and stands up. 

I remind her that we don’t stand on furniture and to please sit on her bottom. 

So, she squats down (still on her feet!) and says, “I do this?”  To which I reply, “please sit on your BOTTOM.” 

So, she sits on the arm of the chair and says, “I do this?  I’m on my bottom.” 

Which leaves me fuming, but technically, she has done what I asked, although she is well aware that I’ve left her a HUGE loophole.

Last night she decided to put her feet on the dinner table DURING DINNER. Out of ideas, I threatened to take away her beloved stuffed kitty, the one that she sleeps with every single night, if she didn’t take her feet off the table.  She sat there, looked me dead in the face, inched her feet to the edge of the table, and threw me a glare that said, “No watcha gonna do?”  So, the kitty slept with me last night. 

Although I want her to grow independent and learn to make good choices, defiance isn’t on the menu here. 

So, I’m opening this up for advice from you all.  Any words of wisdom?  Are there any glorious stories of success or humorous tales of failure that you’d be willing to share with me?


  1. Sunshine

    Welcome to the world of your child learning to assert her independence!! Hopefully you'll be through with this around college age, but it could last a lifetime!! Ugh!!

    Elizabeth will just defy me. I ask her to put her cup on the counter. She'll say, "How about the table?" Me, "No, please the counter." She'll say, "How about on the chair?" Me, "No, the counter please." It makes me crazy because it is so simple and she just blatantly defies me!! (she's 4) One day it is fine, the next day not. My voice has hurt from yelling (usually it is behavior around her brother – wait until Matthew is more mobile!) which I hate and other times I've just started crying (but that usually gets her to stop whatever she is doing!).

    Some kids work well with rewarding good behavior – I've heard things like child gets 3 books at bedtime, arguments with teeth/potty/whatever and the count goes down, or a sticker chart, marbles in a jar for a treat (but I would hate to set a precedence for rewarding behavior that should just happen). Mine doesn't work so well with that (stickers did work with potty training though).

    You could try withholding (toy goes into "time out", no tv/games, etc.) which you did – did it work? Mine works better with this.

    It is harder to get better behavior when she is tired/hungry, so I try see if she needs food (she doesn't generally nap anymore). Or I try distractions (help me with dinner/cook/do playdoh/puzzle) to move on.

    I would say try not to stay mad/hold a grudge (I know I have to work on letting go), because chances are, she'll forget about the behavior long before you do.

    Good luck! I'm interested to see what others will say!

  2. bad mummy

    I remember those days. They still come up every now and then. There's a couple of things that worked for me:

    – Do not engage. Keep your directions short and simple. For example, our chair sitting rules are: knees or bum. If she's not on her knees or bum, I say 'you need to be on your knees or your bum". Ween she doesn't follow your directive, she is trying to engage you. She's just begging for attention. Don't give it to her. Same to you @Sunshine. Tell her once and follow up with 'do as you're told' and don't let her engage you. My kidlet is 4 1/2 and gets time-outs for 'not listening'. So much 'unacceptable' behaviour' stems from not listening, I find.

    – The consequence should relate to the 'act'. If my kidlet throws a toy, that toy is confiscated. If she dawdles on getting ready for bed, she loses one of the two books read to her at bedtime.

    – Choose your battles. Feet on the table? Not cool. But let her have her moment of goofiness, then give her a warning. If she doesn't comply, then remove her from the table, or pull her chair back so she can't reach the table, and don't allow her to rejoin you at the table til you've made your point.

    What you are seeing is some seriously toddler strong willed-ness. It will DRIVE YOU CRAZY but you want a strong-willed child. No, really. It will serve her well later in life when it comes to peer pressure and the like.

    As for sitting on the arm of the chair…well, I would let my kid do that. As long as it's a relatively safe thing to fall from, why not? We all have to learn our limits at some point. If you're looking for my kid, she's the one with the the bruised knees and skinned elbows and grass stains on her butt.

  3. QueenB

    I never had problems with defiance. I guess I'm either really scary or I have remarkably compliant children.

    And we have a great relationship. Occasionally I make attempts to be strict. But they know I'm not serious and I know I'm not serious, so we end up laughing about it and moving on.

    My niece however, is another matter. I could pull my hair out around her. I'm really not used to having children say no to me.

    The last time (and believe me it was the LAST time) I took her to the beach she threw such a tantrum about coming home that I ended up carrying her screaming down the street. Which was mortifying for me. And apparently excruciating for her, because she refused to forgive me for two whole days. And the kid is three.

    I don't know how some parents manage. Because some kids are just hard work.

    Yours does look like an angel, though.

  4. angelynn odom

    This is a tough one. My sons are 2 and 4 and they both do this all the time. They will push and push as far as they can. My husband is a stay-at-home dad and he runs a tight ship while I'm at work. The boys act out in the evenings and on weekends because they have the opportunity to play us off each other.

    I miss so much time with them during the week that I try to make up for it by being a little too lenient when I'm home. I was recently able to get my 4yo in the car by telling him he would miss out on video games. That worked pretty well. Like Sunshine said though, positive reinforcement can work too.

    What I've noticed frequently is that they respond to how I scold them. If I'm stern, angry, and raise my voice they get more defiant. It's like they enjoy seeing us get ticked off. If I'm able to keep my cool and ask them to do something firmly but without being intimidating the results are much smoother.

    A lot of my problem is not wanting to say no to certain things. I like seeing them explore their environment, but I'm setting us all up for some trouble. I need to be more consistent and clear and remember that I'm working with toddlers who are still trying to figure out their place in this world. I'll be interested to hear what others say too. Good luck!

  5. Coma Girl

    I'm not exactly qualified to give you any advice since my almost 4 year!

    I've heard that 1-2-3 Magic book or the Love & Logic book are good resources, but I haven't bought either.

    I do count to 3 and always give my daughter choices. It does work, but I have to do it CONSTANTLY and by the end of the day, I'm done.

    Good luck!

  6. Nichole

    You could have been describing Katie in your reply, Sunshine! The cup debate is not at all unlike what I've been dealing with.
    I completely agree with you about having a set of expectations that should not require reward aside from acknowledging good behavior. I want her to understand that we have house rules that we ALL live by.

    Taking the kitty did work, but it made me sick, since I know it brings her happiness at bedtime. I was just so angry in the moment that I chose the first thing that I could think of to take away. Not a proud parenting moment, by any means.
    I also agree with you about the worst behavior occuring when they are hungry or tired. I find that to be true here as well. I also struggle when I have many things that I'm trying to do, i.e. laundry, dishes, picking up, etc. I'm certain that her poor behavior is an attempt to get my attention, which it does.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Sunshine! I especially appreciate your advice to not hold a grudge or carry it out for too long. That is such a great point.

  7. Nichole

    I used to try to explain in great detail why I was asking her to do/not do something. I thought that if I gave her all of the information, she would understand and feel respected. Yeah, well, then I realized that she glazed over about three words into my monologues!

    I appreciate your point about having the consequence relate to the act. I like that there is an immediate connection between cause and effect. I have found that saying, at 3pm, that if she doesn't do "X" then she loses one of her three books at bedtime just doesn't work. She's too little to remember for that long.

    And I know that you are so right about wanting her to be strong willed. I just wish she would do it when it was more convenient for me!

    Thanks for commenting…I spent some time poking around on your blog and I'm loving it. I'll visit again later to comment, but I love your grace in small things posts. Those are the things that it is really all about. :)

  8. Nichole

    Yes, you really are quite lucky.
    I'm hoping that once we get through this phase, my sweet girl will return to me!

  9. Nichole

    I hear you about being tired. I love these kids beyond reason, but I have to admit that I may love bedtime just a little bit more. :)
    I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. I just wish it ran a little smoother sometimes.

    Thanks for the book suggestions, I'll check them out. :)
    I tried to visit your blog, but the link doesn't work for me…

  10. Years ago, before Carter broke me, I taught discipline workshops to parents and child care providers. These are the basic tenets that I taught, based on various books I'd read and mostly what worked with my older kids, all of whom are NT.

    Whatever method of discipline you settle on, these are the keys:

    FIRM: Never ask (Would you sit down, please?); always tell (Sit down on your bottom, Katie.). Never discuss reasons until AFTER the fact. Once she's on her bottom, you can discuss (Thank you. Standing on the chair is not safe.). But always, always use the fewest possible words.

    CONSISTENT: Once you decide that standing on the furniture is unacceptable, you have to make sure that it's ALWAYS unacceptable. Most kids, beyond infancy, don't fight the carseat. That's because most of us never, ever move the car an inch until the kids are buckled in tight, so they know there's no use fighting because you've proved that you'll stand firm 100% of the time. On top of that, you always buckle YOUR seatbelt. You want to create the same thinking about other firm rules in your family. The strictest parents (and I mean strict in the sense of firm, not harsh) yell, fuss, remind, and discipline the least because they make sure they get it right at the outset.

    (BTW, I'm not listing possible consequences here because they aren't nearly as important as the three basic tenets. Anything that's immediate, safe, and sufficiently painful (not physically, of course) to communicate what you need to communicate will work.)

    LOVING: Doing what you tell her the first time earns a smile, a thank you, a hug, or some other expression of warmth. Also, after you've issued a consequence and it's over, start over with something to indicate that it's finished. Carter comes to me after a cooling off to apologize; we talk a little if we need to, then have a hug and a kiss and we're finished. Catching them being good goes here, but keep it simple. "Wow, Katie! Thanks for remembering to sit on your bottom in that chair!"

    Sadly, my well-honed techniques do not work for teenagers OR my son with emotional disturbances, so I am entirely screwed. It all worked great with our older kids, though, and the hundreds of kids and families I've worked with over the years!

  11. Peggy

    I really liked "bad mummy's" advise.
    The consequence should relate to the ‘act’. I know you were thinking of the 1 thing that would really be a punishment for Katie, by taking her kitty, but by the time bed time rolls around, it just brings more drama, and makes you look like the big meanie.
    And you know I'm all about "picking your battles". Try not to sweat the small stuff.
    And remember, she is learning who is in control, and deep down, she's thankful and more secure knowing that it's you.
    Oh…and it helps to pray for patience…every night for the next…15 yrs.

  12. tara

    It gets better. No, I'm totally kidding. It gets worse. She's testing you. Have you tried ignoring her. She may be doing it for attention and you're giving it to her. When she wants desert or something from you, say "Don't be silly, you know I don't do those things for people who put their feet on the table." And then walk away. I found time outs to be a complete failure. They wore the whole family down and actually did little to change behavior. Now I am stern, repeat myself, and if need be walk away.

  13. bad mummy

    Ha! I bought a mini trampoline at Goodwill (you know, one of those exercise rebounders) for The Mook. She can bounce all she want on it, but it's usually kept leaned up against the wall, tucked behind a table. She needs my help to get it out and she has to clear the living room of toys if she wants to get it out. It helps burn off the extra energy she has and keeps her occupied while I make dinner, use the bathroom w/o her "supervision", etc.

    Best $40 I ever spent.

  14. Gina

    LOL!!!! Welcome my friend! Pick your battles… Definance just may be an inherited trait. That girl has spunk just like her momma. Don't get into power struggles with her. Try to remain clam and unemotional and always follow through. Teach her to be kind and good but don't break that glorious spirit that IS Katie Grace. Remember she gets that from you and that is my favorite thing about you!

  15. Nichole

    That is so true about the connection between our tone and their defiance! Why is that?
    When I was a child, if my mother even glared at me, I knew I had to shape up.

    I have two sides too–the one that wants her to explore her world and truly experience things, and the one who needs her to be a team player and follow our family rules. Perfect example from Monday: I pulled the mattress off the guest bed and dragged it into the kids’ playroom for her to jump on. I was letting her jump off the sofa, onto the mattress and she was having a blast. When she finally wore herself out, I returned the mattress to the bed and told her that she was only allowed to jump on it when I was able to set it up and supervise her. Yesterday I was doing laundry and I heard a huge thud and then, of course, crying. Yep, she was jumping on the bed.

    I’m not sure if I shouldn’t have let her jump in the first place or if I should just deadbolt the guestroom door! :)
    Thanks for commenting and reassuring me that I’m not the only one going through this.
    I’m looking forward to visiting your blog.

  16. Katey

    I'm stopping by from SITS. She sounds just like my darling daughter. Terrible Twos are made for for a child like mine! I have found one thing that works well with Addison, a sticker chart. She LOVES stickers so we do a chart every night before bed. I have 5 things on there that she has to do all day (Granted I remind her a LOT!) I have Listen to Mommy and Daddy, Help Pick up Toys, Brush Teeth like a big Girl, Go to bed like a big Girl and NO Back Talk. I picked those since they are some of our major issues. It really has gotten a lot better. I hope this helps you.

  17. Nichole

    I like the idea that you give your daughter a sticker for each of the five goals that you've set for her. That's a much better plan than an all-or-nothing approach.
    I think that Katie would like this idea, as she is a list maker and rather organized.
    Thanks for the great suggestion.

  18. la.pfeifer

    "1-2-3 Magic: Parenting Solutions using Positive Discipline" by Dr. Thomas Phelan has some great stuff — cooperative instead of coercive — and really effective.

  19. Nichole

    The first thing I did when finished reading your comment? I hit "print." This is now on my fridge as a reminder of some of the things that I need to work on.

    The crazy part is that I worked as a nanny off and on for over 13 years. I was hired and retained because I was firm, consistent, and no nonsense. Then along came Katie.

    I had all of the answers when I nannied, but what I hadn't factored in was just how much my heart would melt when my own child looked at me. Easy to help someone else raise their children, not so easy to be a total toughie with my own.

    I love these three tenets and I've caught myself repeating them in my head when she has challenged me today.

    Thank you so much! I'll let you know how it goes.

  20. Nichole

    Katie doesn't know what to do when I walk away. I've found she responds one of two ways. She either ceases the behavior or she ups the ante. There's no predicting which way she'll go.

    I have had a similar experience with time outs. They are so distracting for the rest of us and I will say that I end up fuming for the entire three minutes rather than using that time to calm down. So, time outs aren't that great of a plan here either.

  21. Nichole

    You couldn't be more right about picking my battles. I used to respond immediately, but I noticed that I was saying no to things that really weren't a big deal. So, I'm trying to slow down and really ask myself if it is something that is perhaps not that huge a thing.

    I like the unemotional part. I keep reminding myself to just breathe. I hate raising my voice. It doesn't work, it makes her behavior worse, and makes me feel lousy.

    And thank you for your sweet words…you know I love you!

  22. Nichole

    Thanks for the book suggestions. I also have "The Happiest Toddler on the Block" and "Postitive Discipline." Now I just need time to actually read them!

  23. Kris

    Wow! Everyone has left such great advice!

    Leaving me with nothing to offer, but . . . my giant mocking laughter!

    HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!!

    Welcome to my world.

    "Phase?" Please.

    I am all snorty with laughter at that lying word.

    Big fun ahead! Buckle up.

  24. Sooo true…always easier to deal with someone else's children than one's own.

  25. Nichole

    You, my friend, are not helpful here.
    You are, however, fabulous comic relief, which I know I'm going to need in the years to come!

  26. Susan Merritt

    I do think I can tell you some words of wisdom. I have four grown kids and they are healthy, happy, successful adults, with a good relationship with each other and with their parents. They have healthy friendships and good marriages and are blessings to their in-laws. They are all Christians and are basically, good people. So, let me tell you what we did to accomplish this.

    First let me say that we put God first (or tried to) in our marriage. That was laughable at times because we didn't always act or respond that way but we would always go to our separate corners, get convicted and come out putting God first. We taught the kids about the Lord every day. This in of itself will not work. This is like the host of a web site. You have to have the host or you can't have the site. It has to always be in the background. But I know a lot of people that taught their kids about the Lord but didn't follow through well with discipline.

    Second, the rule for the parent is that you NEVER lose a battle. NEVER lose a battle. That means that if you say to get your feet off the table, no matter what it takes, those feet are coming off the table. This is your job as a parent. That tells them that YOU are in control and not them. They need that.

    Now, how do you make them obey, well that is what you have to work out and it seems that you are doing it. But the consequences should be immediate and they should be hard enough or uncomfortable enough that they don't want the consequences again. Kids will analyze from a very young age whether the consequences are worth the action.

    Personally, I believe in spanking. Not right off the bat and not in anger but spanking completely gains control over the situation and you don't have to do it very often….if they know it is an option, they will curb their defiance. It is scriptural. The Bible doesn't mention Time Out…..though I love the time out thing and I think it is completely appropriate for things such as hitting a sibling or throwing a fit because they want to go outside. But it does mention the rod of correction.

    This is the way you know the difference in what discipline to use. If they want to go out and start crying and rolling in the floor, I think you can use all sorts of things to stop the behavior… the threat of not going out all day etc. But when you have told them to stop throwing their fit and they look you in the eyes (you see that moment of recognition that they know what they are doing is in defiance), it is time to threaten the spank…..and only once. Don't threaten it over and over….just once. Then, take them into another room and use something besides your hand….we used a wooden spoon…..and pop their little behind.

    This may sound terrible to people but I believe it is partly what is wrong with our nation. We have a lot of kids running around who needed lots of spankings but society is all about not doing that right now.

    On a side note, the Dallas ISD has reinstated corporal punishment. They have only had to use it once and the test school has completely changed. The kids now know they are not in control and it has calmed down all the defiance.

    I hope that didn't offend you but when my oldest child was 3, she was in control of our home. I had no idea what to do either. An older woman in our church sat me down and told me how to win the battles and that every battle had to be won.

    The next thing you have to do is CHOOSE your battles wisely. Defiance, straight on, must be squelched. You do have to be specific. That is human nature. We all do that. Sit down? How about here? So normal! Put a stop to that. Tell them that you know that they know exactly what you are telling them and compliance is required.

    Sounds simple and it really is. If you do this now, you will have awesome teenagers. They will also test the boundaries over and over but there won't be disrespect. My children just weren't disrespectful in their teen years….at least not often and they didn't get all involved with the wrong crowd. They did test the boundaries and they did do things that were not the best choices at times, but the bottom line is that they always came home to do what was right in the end.

    Raising children is THE HARDEST JOB in the world but even if you do it wrong today, you can start again tomorrow. That is the beauty of it. Kids are forgiving and God will guide you if you ask Him.

    Happy parenting!


    Learn the difference between defiance and doing things to test boundaries and limits. Defiance comes after they have been told NO.

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