Our daughter thinks she has an equal say in any of our decisions. She only does the things we tell her to do if she thinks they make sense, otherwise we have to threaten her, which makes her threaten us right back.

Most of the time this isn't a problem -- she takes arguments about going to bed, brushing her teeth, eating vegetables, doing homework, practicing the guitar the way we want her to, but the other day she was going to take a bucket of water and clean some shelves downstairs and I told her NO and she said Why not and I said I didn't want her to. She picked up the bucket and said that isn't a reason and started to walk out of the bathroom. I told her I would punish her if she continued and she said SHE would punish ME if I did. She means it, too.

As you probably guessed, yelling doesn't work, she yells right back, and we don't believe in smacking kids. She finally stopped when I promised her I would let her clean those shelves with me over the weekend, but how to I get her to do what I want her to do because I said so? Her dad isn't home much but she's not much better with him, except if he yells really loud, which isn't dignified, and that doesn't always work either.

When I say threaten her, I mean I say "If you take that bucket out of the bathroom I will take away your DS", and she says "If you do that I'll hide your credit card". Anything we think we have a right to do to her she thinks she has a right to do to us.

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    Is it that she always does what you say if you give her a reason? Can you come up with quick standard reasons to give her ("It's not safe." "It's healthy for you." "It's too much work for me.") that will work when you want to say, "Because I said so?" Jan 2, 2014 at 13:26
  • Good idea, except she has to believe the reason. I like "Its too much work for me", since how can she argue with that, except she will still probably say that I don't have to do the work, she will do it, like cleaning the shelves, and if I say she will make a mess, she will say NO she won't, but I know she will anyway.
    – user6365
    Jan 2, 2014 at 16:58
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    I think offering to do it with her on the weekend is a perfect response - she has to learn to clean sometime. I understand you want her to accept your "no" but this age group is highly obsessed with fairness and justice and it sounds like your kid fits the standard in that regard. I have to say that if I offered to wash something and got a "no" and "because I said so" rather than a "No thanks, it is a nice offer though" or a "How about later - I'll need to show you how to do it correctly." I might not feel like ever offering help again. What a nice gesture from an eight-year-old. Jan 3, 2014 at 0:17
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    @balanced mama she is very nice, she is very very nice, she can be so sweet but she is so STUBBORN too. I feel I have to start out strong and not gentle, just to keep ahead of her.
    – user6365
    Jan 17, 2014 at 3:00
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    @AndrewMattson What I would do if my son threatened me to hide the credit card is to actually give it to him, asking him to hide it anywhere he likes (without giving the code, of course). Then, when it's dinner time, I'd say something along the lines of "Couldn't buy anything to eat, I don't have my credit card. Take that old piece of bread. Also, chances are I won't be able to give you many presents on your birthday." The credit card will be given back quickly, I think. And a lesson will be learnt regarding the difference between an adult and a child.
    – dim
    Sep 19, 2016 at 14:42

7 Answers 7


It's a good idea to give her as much choice as feasible, but it sounds like you're already doing that, perhaps too much, and it seems you're mostly concerned with the exception cases where it's not okay to give her the decision.

It's a good idea to make your reasons as specific as possible. If you know she will make a mess beyond her capacity to clean on her own, then you have precedent for that knowledge. Don't just say, "because you'll make a mess I have to clean." Say, "Remember when you tried to bathe the cat in the aquarium? Carrying a bucket downstairs could make the same kind of mess."

If you don't know for sure, you can give her a chance to prove it with a smaller scale test. For example, successfully mopping the patio might be a good test to prove she's able to mop up a spill inside. And she should be cleaning her own messes if she is physically capable of doing so.

Another approach is to find a way to modify the conditions to make it okay to say yes. "Cleaning the shelves using a bucket has too much risk of spilling, but you can clean them with a damp rag. I'll show you how to rinse it and squeeze it out in the sink so you don't make a mess."

Remember that it takes two people to argue. Being a parent doesn't automatically make kids do what you say. People who are truly in charge act like it. It's easier said than done, but if it's your decision you don't argue it back and forth like you require your daughter's consensus. You listen to valid counterarguments, then state your decision and your reasons, and leave it at that. If there's a history of wearing you down, or at least stretching a decision out, your child will expect that possibility all the time. After listening reasonably, make your decision final and ignore any further argument. If she still presses the point, send her to another room or leave yourself so argument is impossible.

That might sound a little harsh, but if you give your daughter plenty of opportunities to decide other matters for herself, it's actually less cruel to make it clear up front when something is open for negotiation and when it isn't. The longer it takes to assert a final decision, the more emotional investment you create in the outcome. If she knows you won't back down, eventually she will stop putting energy into getting you to back down. If she's less stubborn for her father, her teacher, or other adults, that's why. She knows when it's a waste of effort.

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    +++++ for "Remember that it takes two people to argue. Being a parent doesn't automatically make kids do what you say." AND +1 for a generally great answer if I could. Jan 2, 2014 at 21:21
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    Your answer ignores the consequences for the parents. What about the possibility of a hidden credit card? Apparently, the parents use threats and orders with the child. The kid sounds smart though, and needs reasons. I see her point.
    – daraos
    Sep 15, 2016 at 21:12

It seems your daughter has developed a strong will. And while I understand that not listening to the parents is be a problem, the situation you are describing does not seem to be very worrying. Perhaps an example of her behavior where she puts herself in danger or which can have bad side effects would help understand your problem better.

Having a strong-minded child may have its advantages in the future. I daresay it is a good thing.

But to the point: I say, give her more freedom. If she wants to do something which doesn't collide severely with your plans (play games when you were supposed to go on a trip, etc), let her do it. Clean the shelves instead of bathing? Well ok, but you have to bath after that. Draw some boundaries: which tasks she has to do, which she can do whenever she wishes (but not later than ...) and which are optional. Make sure you praise her for doing the optional and quickly doing the non-urgent. Also make sure you use different tone when making a request and making a command.

The best thing would be to trick your daughter into doing the things you want her to do. A simple way would be to ask her to do it with as little reward as possible, like "mom would be very happy if you ...". Yes, mom's happiness is the reward. Some free time, permission to stay late one day, perhaps small material presents (sweets?). The important thing is to make the reward small. And try the mom's happines once in a while anyway. If she does what you ask her to with only that, you're good.

I think you should let her make some decisions. With luck, that amount of freedom will make her obey your other, more important commands. Try to talk with her and make a deal, possibly write it on a sheet of paper and hang it in her room, where you state what she has to do and what "freedoms" she has. Make sure you are comfortable respecting that deal, because she may and will try to go to the limit. If you want, post the deal made in another question - some experienced parents here may find gaps you didn't even imagine;)

What is more important are the consequences of her actions - let her suffer them. And make them stronger and more inconveniant if possible. Not doing her homework? She'll get bad grades AND will have her favourite toy/laptop taken away for a day. No guitar practice? Tell the teacher and see how she handles his reprimand. Spilt the water from the bucket all over the stairs? Make her clean it thoroughly.

I am more worried about the threatening part. If she threatens you with something really bad/evil/dangerous, you should take that seriously. Talk to her about it. If necessary, seek professional help.

  • This is not too helpful because she wants to be able to make any decision she wants. She already makes most decisions about her stuff. She is smart and understands about guitar practice and coats and accepts a good argument, but I don't always have a good argument. I sometimes just want her to do something, or not to do something, more likely. Also, I can't take away her stuff to punish her because she will take away mine. She does not see that we as parents are supposed to be the boss!
    – user6365
    Jan 2, 2014 at 17:22
  • @user6365 please consider the list idea. Talk to your daughter. You will both have to reach common ground because both your lives will become unbearable. Being 8 years old she may be able to understand the terms.
    – Dariusz
    Jan 2, 2014 at 17:28
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    Why do you so strongly want to be the boss? I'm not quite understanding that part. In your comment here you say that sometimes you just want her to do or not do something. If you cannot give a clear reason to yourself other than "just because" I can see why she doesn't understand. @user6365
    – DanBeale
    Jan 15, 2014 at 15:10
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    She is very smart but she has a seven year old's judgement. She wants to go up on the roof and clean the gutters and we have a two story house. I say it is too dangerous, she says she will be careful. I want to be able to say no without worrying she'll just do it when my back is turned.
    – user6365
    Jan 16, 2014 at 5:01
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    @user6365 Exactly that! I worry that if I yell "stop!" because I saw a car they didn't see, they'll stop — in the middle of the road to argue about it.
    – SQB
    Jan 24, 2014 at 11:45

There are some things a child MUST do - wear seatbelts in a car, for example. There are other things a child SHOULD do, but which they can chose. Wearing a coat in cold weather, for example.

Sometimes a parent will see the cold weather, and know that their child must be kept warm, and then say "This means that a coat must be worn, and that means the coat must be put on before we leave the house". This pushes a lot of pressure onto a situation where the child can refuse. And the child's refusal is reasonable - "I am warm enough now, why do I need to put my coat on now?"

One approach would be to spend time pushing the child to wearing the coat before leaving the house.

The easier approach would be to let the child know that it's cold outside, and ask if they want a coat. When the child says "No!" don't force it, just take the coat with you, and keep asking. Then, when the child says that they're cold and would like a coat just hand it over.

Giving a child small amounts of freedom over these small things should help.

Then for the less reasonable things you just explain that this thing must happen for anything else to happen. "We're in the car. What do we all need to do first?" Then quietly explain that wearing a seat belt is the law, and that there's not a choice here, and that it has to happen before the car moves. Offering choice about other things - "What drink would you like in the car?" might help. But keep coming back to the fact that for seat belts there's no options. Everyone must do it, including the child.

Sometimes allowing a child to learn by experience is fine.


Have you read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk? It is full of useful hints. Basically, it boils down to treating your daughter with respect, giving them the feeling that they have control over the situation, building their confidence, and a number of other essentials.

  • I -1'd. You provided a link and a meaningless our of context sentence which gives no real and applicable information or suggestions. This answer would've been a great comment.
    – Dariusz
    Jan 2, 2014 at 7:31
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    I've got that book too, and it really is full of useful hints. Dave, could you pick out one or two relevant ones and quote them here? That would turn your post into a valuable answer. Jan 2, 2014 at 9:18
  • @TorbenGundtofte-Bruun: Unfortunately, I do not have the book at hand. Jan 2, 2014 at 22:25

Shouting at kids -does- work, as long as the tactic is not over used. Likewise a slap on the bottom can be an effective short sharp shock, if it's an incredibly rare occurrence.

The simplest tactic is to emphasise the fact that you genuinely -are- in charge by limiting your child's access to the things they enjoy.

If they like watching TV, you curtail their TV time. If there are toys they regularly play with, they go on a shelf. That sort of thing.

If you can do this calmly and rationally, without losing your temper, children understand that it's a simply a consequence, rather than a punishment. "If I'm good, I get to watch TV. If I'm bad, I don't".


When I was a lad, my dear old mum would discipline me with a clip round the ear. (Describing it as a slap on the head makes it sound worse than it was). It didn't take long for me to realise that it didn't really hurt and wasn't that big a deal.

Even to a young 'un, it was obvious that the balance of power shifted dramatically at that point.

  • This is a horrible answer. Physical violence and shouting at children are examples of parenting failures. Recommending these as tactics to use is awful.
    – DanBeale
    Jan 15, 2014 at 15:07
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    A worthy opinion but I disagree. I see no problem in raising my voice to my children when necessary. Whilst it's never pleasant, it's overly simplistic to say that it's a failure. As such, I judge my success or failure by the character of the children I've raised. My children are polite, well behaved, honest and .. well, really nice to just about everyone. I couldn't be prouder of them. Therefore, I consider myself a successful parent. However, we all have our own methods and I wish you all the best with yours.
    – Dave M
    Jan 15, 2014 at 15:29
  • @DanBeale If a spank or a shout now and then raises a well-rounded, well-behaved and respectful child, how is that a parenting failure? In the OP's case, this might actually be helpful in teaching the child respect and obedience. You can choose not to parent that way, but that doesn't mean it is not effective.
    – Bobo
    Sep 29, 2014 at 18:16
  • @Bobo - physical punishment does not raise respectful or well-behaved children and even if it did it is immoral to use violence to acheive that aim. Luckily people who believe that it is acceptable to use violence against children are a declining minority and civilised nations have introduced laws to protect the rights of children against those aggressors.
    – DanBeale
    Oct 3, 2014 at 13:11

I have an 8 year old I hope you find this helpful.

He doe not like brushing his teeth. But, he knows he has 2 bad examples. His cousins (also 8, separate families) lost most of their teeth for not brushing. So, I tell him, "It is not a punishment, just look at your cousins, it is embarrassing not having teeth". It is not easy but, seems like I always have to be there to supervise him brushing his teeth. I have been there since day one. 3 times per day.

It is pretty much like this in all areas. Yes he is very proud (like stubborn, but nicer word). But I notice that he is driven by love and society. I think that is why he does not just wants to do something that I say. If it's not for something bigger or for a better cause he wont do it. Like thinking he can easy defy me or defeat me. To me it does not matter, as long as he does what he needs to do in school and learns to be a good man. After all we raise kids to better society not us.

About the boss, My wife is older than me and she is the boss (to say the least). So I spend a lot of time with the kids. If I do anything wrong, the kids complain to her and I deal with her. To me is fine because the kids learn to complain. Which is something we can't teach. Like love. So dont hinder the love that your girl has for you.

This is the account of My Son and I

  • he loves to talk back
  • Seems like he only does what he likes or wants
  • he asks a lot of questions to get out of trouble
  • rules and consequences does not seem to work he cries if he does not like the consequences
  • he gets scare very easily, specially watching movies
  • he is doing bad in reading and writing, but good in math
  • if i tell him an answer, he will take it if he likes it. So homework takes a long time
  • he does not like to brush his teeth

But what I found is that

  • he loves me very much
  • he is very talkative
  • he loves candy
  • he loves a schedule, and check things off to know when he will have time to play
  • he loves to think and reason
  • he is very real, he has never believed in santa claus
  • he likes the company of others
  • he loves to work for the better of society, volunteering, etc
  • he loves to save money
  • even tho we have been thru a lot, after the ordeal we play like if nothing happened
  • he has a sweet heart, he prays every night that doesn't want anybody to die, and that all go to heaven
  • he loves piano, creating stuff with hands, drawing
  • very shy but likes drama class, love to play with others

He is very proud so I have to work around that to get him to do what he needs to do.


"As you probably guessed, yelling doesn't work, she yells right back, and we don't beleive in smacking kids. "

I believe this is your problem. You've ruled out a disciplining tactic that has worked for thousands of years, and I'm not sure why. You have to be the parent in this situation and be the one in charge. You're not her friend, you're not her therapist, you're not her cheerleader... you're her parent. By the way, if she wants to clean shelves (she WANTS to do chores?) why on Earth would you stop her?

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    Just because corporal punishment was used for "thousands of years" (source?) doesn't mean it was actually effective in doing what was intended. There's considerable research that says otherwise, actually. Please provide some references when making claims like that.
    – user420
    Jan 6, 2014 at 22:48
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    In addition to the points Beofett makes, it is illegal to use physical punishment in certain locations. Jan 7, 2014 at 1:25

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