Disobedient Children: What's the Cause of Their Behavior?

In this article, you'll learn to identify disobedient children. Learn about the causes of their bad behavior how to solve it.
Disobedient Children: What's the Cause of Their Behavior?
María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

“I’m tired of my son, he never listens to me”. Many parents often protest against their children’s misbehavior. However, disobedient children don’t wake up one morning and make a firm decision to display poor behavior throughout the day.

On the contrary, disobedient children are usually the product of a model of authority that their own parents exercise, be they authoritarian, excessively contemplative, or negligent adults. Although the adults may not know the reasons for this attitude, the truth is that if it persists, there’s a name for this condition.

Science has called this condition “Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which, according to statistics from the Spanish Society of Pediatrics and Primary Care, affects 15% of Spanish children before reaching 16 years of age.

Of course, these unwanted behaviors of disobedient children harm both the development of the child and their family environment. Today, You Are Mom will tell you how to identify this behavior problem in children, reveal the causes of their rebellion, and tell you how to correct that attitude.

Disobedient children, why?

Without a doubt, you’re tired of asking your child over and over again to put away the toys they’ve thrown on the floor or not to flip toys onto the roof of your house or throw them from the window out onto the lawn. But do you know the reasons why they’re so rebellious?

Psychology explains that children, between 2 and 5 years old, tend to develop a sense of identity, independence, and autonomy that’s much stronger than when they were just a baby when you were their world and their pattern to follow.

For this reason, to forge their personality while they differ from their elders, they begin to show resistance to impositions and oppose the established orders and rules. In short, they exhibit more rebelliousness.

Likewise, experts indicate that disobedient children, through this series of unhappy behaviors, also put their parents to the test while gradually learning to control their impulses, which requires a lot of time and patience on the part of the parents.

A woman holding a soccer ball explaining the rules to two children.

Incorrect models of authority, a reason for parents to take responsibility and reflect

Another cause that leads disobedient children to present inappropriate behavior in public or at home is the authority models of their parents. Specialists indicate that these patterns are incorrect, so we need to reflect on them:

  • Authoritarian parents. This is the case of children raised in an authoritarian environment, where they obey in order to avoid punishment but without understanding the reasons. What’s more, these children are easily irritated since their parents don’t listen to them and adults always have the final word.

What’s the result? We forge the development of disobedient, resentful, and insecure children with low self-esteem. So, disobedience has a close relationship with childhood rebellion. Therefore, it’s important to foster harmonious homes based on the teaching of values and the differentiation of good and bad.

  • Overly condescending parents. Here parents consider themselves friends of their children in order to ward off unfounded fears. In other words, the parents consent to the minors without educating them with firmness and discipline, thereby weakening the authority figure until it disappears. It’s just at this moment that the figure of disobedient children appears.
  • Negligent parents. The child’s education isn’t important and the affective bond is minimal. So, children simply seek affection from friends with the same emotional deficiencies. These disobedient children are often not very tolerant and have serious behavior problems as well as poor school performance.
An angry toddler pulling his own hair.

Steps to direct disobedient children

  • Identify disobedient children. These behaviors appear from the age of two or three. This is the age at which you should know when this attitude is excessive and may pose a problem in the future. For this, it’s essential to observe the first behaviors that make up a behavior pattern having to do with the continuity and hostility of their disobedience towards authority figures. It’s important to note that these behaviors are more frequent in boys than in girls.
  • Motivate disobedient children. The ideal way to start a path towards solving this problem is to stimulate the child’s motivation. This means reinforcing positive aspects of their behavior while ignoring the negative ones. It’s also beneficial to show a collaborative attitude in which the minor is allowed to express themselves more. Always explain the problems their attitude causes through dialogue.
  • Don’t lose your cool in the face of this childhood challenge. Control your anger, don’t let your nerves get the best of you. To do this, you can place yourself at the child’s height in order to produce direct eye contact. This way, you can speak calmly with the child.
  • Establish limits and norms to dilute rebellion. This way, you set a limit between what the child should do and what they shouldn’t do. However, these lines must be clear and reasonable and also adapt to the age of the minor. Likewise, it’s good to explain to the child the reason for each rule and the benefits of the same.
  • Establish routines. A good strategy when directing disobedient children is to maintain a stable schedule and rhythm of life. This helps you to avoid chaos. By implementing routines, you establish order and balance in your home while promoting a collaborative and assertive attitude in the child.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Ramos-Paúl, R., & Cardona, L. T. (2013). Niños desobedientes, padres desesperados. Punto de Lectura.
  • Egan, P. G., Batz, R., Pauley, D., Gibbons, J. L., & Ashdown, B. K. (2014). Niños buenos vs niños malos: Etnoteorías de un Grupo de Madres Guatemaltecas. Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 48(2), 183-193. https://www.redalyc.org/pdf/284/28437146005.pdf
  • Huamán Girón, J. H. (2020). Técnicas de modificación de conducta en una niña con comportamiento desobediente. http://repositorio.unfv.edu.pe/handle/UNFV/4085

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.