My wife unfortunately has 0 patience, and a short-fuse.

At first pass, she will rationally and politely ask our son to do something, and then follow up with an explanation. But he's at a rebellious phase and 9/10 times will say NO. After-which she either tries again to explain, or just goes right for the threat of :

  • no (x) activity ( if one exists on the short-term agenda )
  • or her getting Angry.

The latter is usually the default.

Sadly these threats eventually work ( although they still come with temper tantrums ).. but i've counted them and they avg around 10/day ( which is way too much )

how can i explain to her why this is a bad ( long-term )strategy, and what can she substitute it for?


  • 2
    Why is it a bad strategy? The getting angry part is definitely not ideal, but losing the privilege of a fun activity as a consequence for not doing what he's told is very effective discipline. It's not a threat unless she doesn't follow through. Is she not following through and canceling the activity when he's non-compliant?
    – Jax
    Commented Jul 31, 2016 at 23:55
  • sadly she doesnt follow through most of the time because he wears her down.
    – Arturino
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 0:18
  • Thank you for clarifying-it'll help get you more constructive answers.
    – Jax
    Commented Aug 1, 2016 at 2:53
  • Maybe you should help your wife because she sounds so stressed out.
    – user24024
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 14:52

3 Answers 3


Your wife gets angry because of the overwhelming state of uncertainty and doubt. Parenting is a tough job sometimes because, unless we learn to parent effectively, we usually parent the way we were parented. Imagine that your child isn't going through a rebellious phase, but actually, communicating. Imagine your child is using his behavior to communicate something his words are not.

Perhaps imagine that your child is actually saying "you can't make me!!". What your child is telling your wife is "give me choices, involve me usefully". Misbehavior is communication. Your child is seeking significance and belonging which are his emotional needs. His "no" is not something to be broken, rather to be appreciated as a message. Ask him what he wants by giving him choices from two things. For example, instead of PUT YOUR SHOES ON. "what do we put on our feet before going outside?" or "what do you want to wear the sandals or sneakers" (can you see that wearing the shoes is a message within the choice?)

Stop all threats, time out, and punitive consequences (punishment). Things will continue to worsen by using those. Spend more one to one time with this child. That means that you spend at least 10 minutes twice per day of totally present, uninterrupted, focused, involved, time, doing what he wants to be doing, (playing, reading, building, walking, etc.) that doesn't involve any phones ,tv, or electronic devices. Establish that ritual.

When your child gets to that rebellious point, he is rebelling against something or someone, right? Ok, so if you want to take away something, take away the reason for rebellion. How? When you see him starting to get "there"...In a very calm voice... Tell him that you need a hug. Wait without saying another word. A few moments later, tell him again. If he still didn't want to, tell him a third time. If again he refuses, tell him that you need a hug, so when he feels like giving one, to come find you, and that YOU will be going to YOUR quiet space. DISCONNECT quickly, while you still have your wits about you, and don't become reactive, because then boom!

Next, get a life outside parenting. Exercise, hobbies, volunteer, connect with you. Think, what do you want? What do you have? What do you need? How many ways can you get it? What are you doing? Answer those questions to help you determine something outside of motherhood. It will help you become more leveled.

The idea is to become your child's Leader, not Overseer or Commander. Obviously, you can tell already that overpowering isn't effective. Think on this. His rebellion is a result of him feeling discouraged. He is feeling insignificant because he is not permitted to discover his innate desire for autonomy. He is feeling discouraged because he has no positive connection, just correction, and threats, so his attention is negative.

By changing the dynamic with one to one time, disconnecting, hugs, choices, and connection, as well as, getting in touch with yourself... You will get very different behavior. Training is another thing to do, but I would establish the encouraging and loving relationship again first. Best to you and your family.

  • 4
    Blown away by your thoughtful and well articulated solution. THIS def is the jedi way. ( bowing in gratitude )
    – Arturino
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 17:42
  • With pleasure, anytime
    – user23895
    Commented Aug 9, 2016 at 18:18
  • A pity I can't upvote a thousand times. Commented Nov 25, 2016 at 7:51
  • This is the holy grail of parenting. Awesome answer. Being the Leader for your kids definitely works wonders.
    – T. Sar
    Commented Jan 27, 2017 at 17:22

Since your wife likely isn't happy with the situation either (getting angry 10 times a day is no kind of fun) you might start with "You don't seem happy, I'd like to help you." and listen. Then depending on what she says, you could offer to do the legwork and find a parenting strategy that seems to work for other people, or you could offer to arrange for her to have some time to herself for self care, or you could take on the most frustrating tasks yourself (bedtime? bathrime? laundry?), or whatever seems helpful to her.


You can always substitute the threat of losing something (e.g. tv time) with a "privilege" that has to be "earnt".

In that manner you can always be positive, and teach the child that good behaviour is rewarded.

For example we had a lot of trouble with my young child eating their dinner (also 4 years old).

Nothing worked... until I put it in these simple terms: watching his favourite kids channel on youtube was a "privilege" that could only be earnt by A) eating his dinner and B) being good all day.

Combine with positive reinforcement and talk about the privilege often. For example, "Hey buddy, You've been really good so far today!! Are you looking forward to watching youtube tonight, after you eat all your dinner? Which youtube are you going to watch?" etc etc.

It happens that he doesn't eat his dinner and therefore doesn't get to watch youtube after dinner. But we haven't threatened anything - it's up to him to "earn it" if he wants (and he does, 95% of the time).

Don't worry, all parents get stressed from time to time, but if it happens too often the parents should definitely find ways to be more patient - de-stress a little, get a babysitter and take a date night, resolve other problems, work a little less, take up a hobby - whatever works for you - but definitely try to work on it.

  • 2
    I would be careful with this route because this establishes an extrinsic motivation. Extrinsic motivators are only useful short term. When a child satiates the reward he'll go looking for another one. This establishes the belief that
    – user23895
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 13:01
  • 1
    Establishes the "carrot and the stick" system. Eventually the carrot isn't big enough, convenient enough, worth enough, so it loses the value. Another message here is "good boy, bad boy" I have yet to meet a bad kid in twenty years of working with families. The message can be very discouraging which in the long run will cause resentment because you're holding something over him. Ultimately, the child stops trying because it's easy enough to sneak off and get it on his own, even negatively. If it's more consistent, more easily acquired, and faster to get it his way, he'll jus
    – user23895
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 13:06
  • Appreciate your comment, but we didn't find that at all. In the absense of intrinsic motivation, and let's remember this is a 4 year old we're dealing with here, we found an extrinsic motivation (that was reasonable and fair) worked just fine. If you have a better suggesiton, why don't you add it as an answer? Remember the OP wanted a reasonable alternative to applying punishment. Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 13:07
  • He'll just so trying to please. Building capabilities by problem solving, brainstorming, and having choices, empowers the child from the inside out. I dont doubt that vikingsteves strategy worked. The Cha
    – user23895
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 13:08
  • The point I'm making is whether you want to build better relationships long term, or keep patching short term. Rewards and punishment work sorry term. Encouragement and capabilities work long term. Your choice. Best to you
    – user23895
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 13:10

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