Ask Tim: Defiant Children


Tim Kimmel offers a few suggestions for parenting children who challenge rules and boundaries.

Q: I have a three year old who has recently begun challenging everything my husband and I ask of him. We were recently trained in a “spare the rod” parenting course, but have since felt led away from this as we could sense that the obey or else mentality was teaching him to obey out of fear, not love. This was ok while he remained generally compliant, but how do we handle the defiance of a three yr old with God’s grace?

A: Congrats. You have a normal 3 year old and it sounds like you have the awesome privilege of raising a leader. The terrible twos and threes are probably misnomers because up until that point, although your child may have seemed compliant, they were just less able to show their independence and verbalize it.

Here are a few suggestions as you take on raising a child who has decided to see just how serious you are about the rules and boundaries.

  1. Realize that one of your jobs as a parent is to prepare your child to be a responsible, independent adult. That job has started!

  2. Don’t let what others think, dictate how you deal with your own child. If you do, you will be into behavioral modification and not real growth and heart change.

  3. Remember that the biggest problem with strong-willed children is weak-willed parents. Establish reasonable rules and boundaries and then both be committed to enforcing them. The fewer the rules, the better.

  4. Praise and prayer are your best allies when establishing who is in charge. Your child is going to test your patience and endurance every chance they get, so make sure your heart is right with God and you can tap into His limitless love and patience.

  5. Establish an atmosphere of grace in your home by treating your child the way God treats you. And when he pushes your buttons, don’t take what he does personally. Just mete out the consequences and wipe the slate clean.

  6. Family Matters has spent the last 30 years helping parents raise children in the power of God’s grace. We suggest you check out one of our many books, studies and web tools for more help on raising a child to love God and love others.

God knew that you were the perfect parents for this child. Have fun raising a leader!


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