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Advice for Parents of Disruptive Kids

By: Carrie E. Powell, PhD

Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.


Parenting – the age-old task of raising a defenseless, innocent child into a successful, independent member of society. It is a daunting task to many new parents, and it rarely gets easier as time goes on. Many parents continue their parenting throughout life, continuously guiding their children as best they can.

Receiving Parenting Advice

Have you ever had someone give you suggestions on how to parent your child, even when you did not want their advice? Maybe they provided insight about how they should be fed, what sports they should play or how you should discipline them if they are acting inappropriately. The folks passing out advice may complain about “parents these days,” and tell you to spank more or take away privileges. But what if you have tried those methods? What if your child fails to follow directions, even when clear consequences are in place?

Think for a moment about the behavior of adults. Many seemingly rule-governed people actually break rules quite often, while others do not. For example, some adults follow the speed limit laws because they are cautious, compliant drivers that follow rules when possible; and some drivers speed and break laws every time they get on the road. Do people drive recklessly simply because they do not know the law or maybe because they have never experienced a speeding ticket? More than likely, they are hoping not to get caught, fail to consider safety or feel compelled to get somewhere no matter how fast they must go. In a similar sense, some children with behavior problems do things that get them into trouble, even when they know they will suffer a consequence.

The reality is that some children have more difficulty learning to follow rules than others. They are more strong-willed or stubborn. They are more willing to try things that may pose danger or get them into trouble. They like the attention they receive for being silly or loud. They do not think before they act, they are in constant motion or they feel compelled to do something so intensely that waiting is not an option. Some children push boundaries beyond what is accepted and are probably corrected for their behavior during most of their waking hours. Unfortunately, they sometimes fail to show their true ability to learn, because the adults in their environment are so focused on their behavior. Instead, their parents are given advice from others on how to train their children better. The problem is, no single discipline strategy works for all children, because not all children respond to discipline strategies in the same way. Just like adults, the problem may not be a lack of learning or knowledge about what consequences are sure to come from engaging in some inappropriate behavior.

ADHD and Behavior

Certain behavioral disorders, like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), increase the likelihood that discipline strategies will seem ineffective. Specifically, children who display significant symptoms of hyperactivity and impulsivity are at greater risk for engaging in reoccurring disruptive behavior. For these children, even consistent use of consequences can seem ineffective at times.

If you are the parent of a strong-willed child who seems to act out, even though they clearly understand what behaviors are expected of them and considered appropriate, having them evaluated for ADHD, anxiety, learning problems or another childhood disorder is an option. A professional can help you develop new parenting skills while improving upon the skills you already have. In the meantime, hold your head high as your child throws a tantrum at the grocery store – you are the proud parent of a strong-willed child!


Information on this page should be utilized as a guide, not medical advice. If you feel you need to speak with someone regarding behavioral therapy or counseling, please contact Connections to make an appointment.