Poor Responses In Children: What to Do and What Not to Do

Poor responses in children can end up becoming a real headache for parents. Here, we'll tell you what the possible causes may be, what to do, and what not to do.
Poor Responses In Children: What to Do and What Not to Do
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

On many occasions, poor responses in children, which are nothing more than the manifestation of their feelings of rebellion, try their parents’ patience. The right way to answer or respond will be different depending on each age.

All children, when they stop being babies, believe that the world should revolve around their needs. It’s then when they react to the authority of the parents in a provocative way and by talking back. When we scold them, they respond in bad ways or don’t pay attention to what we say; they want to impose their opinion and the problem is that they do it in a bad way.

Possible causes of poor responses in children

There may be different causes that produce these rebellious situations and that aren’t suitable for the healthy psychological and emotional development of our children.

A other trying to reason with her young daughter.
  • The arrival of a new baby brother (before the child is 3 years old) can trigger jealousy and envy that end up causing poor responses in children to anything we say to them.
  • Parental separation or divorce. This situation produces feelings of insecurity caused by their need for affection and protection from both parents. This sometimes ends up causing inappropriate responses, sometimes even aggressive remarks, from children (remember that it’s their way of defending themselves).
  • A change of home, school, or even city can cause little ones to have changes in their behavior, be more irritable and irascible, and talk back. We often forget that these changes, which we parents believe will be for the better, may be difficult for our children child, as they feel a close connection with the home, school, or city in which they lived.
  • A lack of clear limits, contradictions of parents regarding the education of children, or disavowal between both parents can also end up causing poor responses in children.

What are the typical poor responses in children according to their age?

Depending on the age of the children, their way of responding to certain situations is different and, moreover, they express it differently.

  • Children from 0 to 2 years old. Their aggressiveness is due to the fact that they’re not able to control their impulses and, in the same way, they’re also incapable of directing their anger correctly.
  • From 2 to 3 years. These ages are marked by negativity; children tend to say no to everything that is proposed to them, even if they end up accepting it. It’s at this time that their personality is forming and those poor responses are a sign of it.
  • From 4 to 6 years old, they have already integrated basic habits and rules into their daily life. They like to give orders, express their autonomy, and get angry when they fail.

Some tips for children’s poor responses

Given the poor responses in children, we can follow some of the tips that we’re going to see below:

  1. We’ll explain, in a calm and direct way, that this way of behaving isn’t right. “I love you very much, but that’s no way to answer me.”
  2. We won’t get angry or answer in the same way that our child has.
  3. We’ll reinforce their good manners; When they answer us correctly, we’ll praise that good behavior.
  4. We’ll try to find out what could be the cause of their poor response and we’ll find a solution.
  5. We won’t label our child as “grumpy”, “moody”, “difficult”, etc. First, we must ask ourselves why they answer us the way they do.
  6. We’ll negotiate with them the establishment of clear rules, but without exceeding ourselves.
  7. We will give you time to reflect on why you are saying these things. After a while, we will speak with him again to try to solve the problem. We will let the child himself contribute possible solutions.

What can we do if they are prolonged in time?

The above tips can help us manage children’s poor responses at the time they occur, but if they last over time, these ideas can be helpful:

  • Parents shouldn’t answer back in a poor manner when their child’s behavior is inappropriate, because we mustn’t forget that we’re their example and, in the end, they may end up imitating us. Furthermore, we’d be sending them a contradictory message: “You can’t reply poorly, but we can.”
  • An effective way to put an end to children’s poor responses, especially if they last for a long time, is to praise the opposite behavior, that is, when they behave in a correct and pleasant way, we’ll praise them.
  • Parents are the ones who know our children best and we sure know when our child is going to answer us in an inappropriate way. In that case, it’s best to try to distract them with another activity or game. This way, they’ll forget why they were upset.
A father pointing his finger at his screaming toddler.
  • If our child asks us for something in a bad way, we do not have to fulfill his wish, no matter how much he yells at us, until he says it to us in an appropriate way. On many occasions, children are disoriented and we can teach them the values of respect for others and for other opinions through stories.
  • When the child continues to answer in bad ways and, in addition, it happens in a public place, we’ll wait to talk to them until we get home. This way, we’ll be able to do it more calmly, in private, and establish rules of conduct.

In short, the poor responses of children are something that happens frequently; it’s a way of expressing their rebellion or simply an inability to control their impulses. As we’ve already seen, the reason for these responses also depends on the age of the children. If we take into account the advice that we’ve seen, we’ll be able to handle ourselves better in those situations.

It’s important to be patient, be their example,e and not respond poorly ourselves, because little ones imitate us. If you want to correct those bad answers, these tips can be of great help. What are you waiting for to put them into practice?

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.

  • Hernández, P. L. (2014). Un caso de comportamiento disruptivo infantil: Tratamiento conductual en el ámbito familiar. Revista de Psicología Clínica con niños y adolescentes, 1(2), 117-123.
  • Gómez-López, L. F. (1996). Disciplina y desarrollo del niño.
  • Marina, J. (2011). El niño agresivo. Pediatría Integral, 15(4), 374-378.

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