Help! My Child Does Not See Me As An Authority

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Reader Question:

I was privileged to listen to your webinar on How to Teach a Difficult Child. And though it was inspiring and filled me with hope, it also left a large question. My child does not see me as authority…. always her answer is either ‘no’ or ‘ in a minute.’ And to answer the question… I do not respond to her requests with ‘in a minute’.

My daughter gives me choices…. I will do this if you do this…. I put her in time outs…. take aways the toys that keep her from coming when called… spanked. She will not do what I ask her to do. even simple things like pick up your toys, come to dinner… etc. I don’t expect immediate response, but I do want her to obey me… without long delays… excuses…. tantrums… you get the idea. She is 5 and we have struggles with this all her life. She was 2 when I read “how to train up a child”. So we are at Grandma’s, there is an old, valuable vase that my daughter keeps touching. I tell her I will spank her if she touches it. She continues to touch and I continue to spank for 15 times. finally we just leave. She is so strong, and I am not.

Please, what can I do. She won’t take medicine when she is sick. clamps her teeth tight shut. ….

She can be a loving child. Very imaginative, and smart. And I do love her dearly. We waited so long for her. And because I love her, I want her to have a teachable spirit. If she won’t listen to me now, what about her future.

I pray over her… we have devotions… so I am willing to go any direction that will help our situation.

Thank you for your time.

It sounds like she needs to go back to the very basics on coming when she is called.  You need to set up a training session with her on it.  Sit her down and tell her:  When I call you, you say YES MA’AM and come right away.  Today, we are going to practice this.  Then, immediately start practicing it.  She may hesitate.  Keep reminding her and stick to it.  Practice it 10 or 15 times.  Make it a funny game.  Then, once she has had a few successes, give her a tiny reward.  I assume that every time she does it right you are giving her verbal and physical praise.  On about the 4th time, pull out a small piece of candy and say:

“What a treat to have you obey Mommy so well, here is a surprise for you!”

At that point, end the practice session.  Then, a few hours later, tell her it is practice time again.  Go through the same motions, always giving lots of praise and verbal affirmations for success, and quickly giving a verbal correction when she does not obey you at all. Actually go to her and physically take her by the hand and move her where you were originally standing when you called and say:  “When I call your name you say Yes Ma’am and come to Mom.”  Again, this should be kind of funny and silly doing it over and over.  After 5 or 6 successes, give her a little treat.  Repeat this several times over the course of a week.

Once she is actually coming to you about 90% of the time, you will know you have properly trained her to come when called.

Some children thrive and do very well on positive reinforcements and this is one way to really give her a chance to do well.  I am not opposed to spanking, but if you are getting the same results, it is not working well in this situation with your daughter.

Next, you will work with her on verbal freedoms.  When she argues, tells you to wait or gives you choices, your only response to her AT ALL should be:  “You must say Yes Ma’am and obey mommy right away.” Then, physically move her in the direction she needs to go.  Remember to give lots of praise when she does it right the first time.

You said you do not expect an immediate response, or perhaps I misunderstood you.  But I DO always expect an immediate response from my children, just as you would immediately respond if your husband or anyone else called your name.  Not responding is a very passive agressive form of behavior that basically states in no words that she does not care about your authority.  Always require an immediate response. Make it a point to test her on this and be willing to get up and go to her every single time she does not respond.  You can give her a swat (if that is your normal punishment) or at that time, use isolation or just physically move her along to what you needed done.

Pretty soon, she will be out of the spanking stage.  You will want to make sure she is accustomed to isolation wherein she is told:  You did not obey Mommy.  Go sit (wherever- the bottom step, in a chair, on her bed) until you are ready to obey mommy.  For this time she cannot play or talk.  Once she is ready- which she will tell you, “I am ready to obey you” then give her the command again and have her follow through.

When you give the vase scenario, I think she is using that as a manipulation technique.  When she touches the vase, immediately put her in isolation away from the rest of the family.  You may bring along a small rug or something that will be her “portable” isolation spot.  Let her know she is to stay there until she is ready to obey you.  The vase is NOT the problem. The problem is she needs to obey you the first time, at least 90% of the time.

Do not fool yourself into believing your child is stronger than you.  Just give yourself time to work on these very basic training matters and you will see improvement.

If she won’t take medicine, isolation will work. I would simply say:  “Sit on the bottom step until you are ready to obey mommy.”  If she refuses, you can physically restrain her.

She will be a much happier and sweeter child once she learns to submit to your authority.

I hope these suggestions help and you are able to make some real progress with her.

Happy Homemaking!


Here are some resources that may help:

Teaching the Difficult Child

Loving And Teaching The Difficult Child

Beyond Obedience: Raising Children Who Love God and Others

Biblical Insights Into Child Training


  1. Laura

    Oh Malia,
    I read this post and was grateful but also more confused. I have an 8 year old who doesn’t want to obey. Any ideas I can try?

  2. Brandi Collette

    I wanted to add a tip to the lady with the difficult child question. My littlest is strong willed herself & has had to take quite a few medicines at a time due to allergies & asthma. She, too, would clamp her mouth shut & refuse to take them (they were pretty nasty stuff so I kind of understood, but the fact was she needed to take them). I would lay her down on the floor with a medicine syringe, put her head in my lap, clamp my legs over her body so she couldn’t escape & shoot the medicine down the side of her mouth towards her throat. She still managed to raspberry some of it out (be ready with a towel) but most of it stayed down. Eventually she figured out that she had no choice but to take the medicine & it is not so difficult anymore.
    Thank you for your advice on dealing with the strong willed. My friends and I have shared it together & it has been a tremendous help!

  3. Donna Kemper

    My girls are nearly grown now, but I had similar issues. We saw a video called 1-2-3 Magic that revolutionized our parenting. Basically the video identifies ways that children try to manipulate their parents. Each time your child does not obey, you count “that’s one;” if they continue to disobey (or cry, whine, beg, kick, scream etc) you count “that’s two.” If they continue, you say “that’s three” and put the children in time out (in their room if possible) for three minutes on the timer. After three minutes, give the child another chance. If the behaviors continue, start counting again. The key is to remain calm and matter of fact. It was hard work at first, but after a while (maybe weeks or months) I would just put up one finger to signal the child that their behavior was unacceptable, and they would stop. Consistency is key. We even used the same technique during the turbulent teenage years. It was most effective when my husband and I worked together. I might say “that’s one” to the child and if they persisted or turned to my husband to try to get what they wanted he would say “that’s two’ etc. Look for the video or the book. An oldie but a goodie.
    Don’t give up. Disciplining children is hard work, but the rewards are enormous. I have two wonderful daughters that I can be proud of.

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