Tool Kit 1: Managing Difficult Behaviour

Being Disrespectful

One of the greatest difficulties with managing difficult behaviour is every child is different. And sometimes parents don't know what to say, or do, to resolve a situation.

I've put together a simple scenario and phraseology to help to encourage respect within your home. I've started with respect because it's fundamental for quality relationships and good behaviour.

The key to changing child behaviour for the better is:

  • Both parents need to present a united front to explain new expectations of behaviour. And preferably not immediately after an issue has occurred when emotions are high

  • Both parents remain calm, reinforcing new expectations consistently, by using praise and natural consequences

  • Both parents spend positive time with the child building the relationship

  • Both parents model respect within the home

  • Both parents notice children doing the right thing


Being Disrespectful:

If your child is responsive and respectfully takes on board what's said. Say something like: 'We knew we could count on you to get on board with this.' Continue discussion at Point 3.


Point 2: If they adjust their tone and become more cooperative, initiate a discussion around why respect is important. This could be something like: It's our job as parents to help give you the skills in life you'll need you to succeed. Most people don't like to be disrespected. It makes others feel badly towards those that disrespect them. We know there have been issues with respect in the past in our home. But you're old enough now to learn how people need to be treated...


Being Disrespectful: Course of action

Point 1: Explain you feel there needs to be higher levels of respect shown to one another within your home. Ask your child how they feel when they're not respected. Listen to what they have to say.

If your child is disrespectful nip it in the bud by just stopping and waiting for them to adjust their tone. And wait. Usually they'll get sick of waiting .


But if that's too subtle, say something calm like: 'Please adjust your tone. We asked you to be respectful.'

If they're still disrespectful parents need to begin to draw the line in the sand but still be willing to give them an out if they come on board. You could say something like: 'It appears you don't seem to understand exactly what respect and disrespect looks like.' Go to Point 3

Point 3: Discuss what respect looks and sounds like: For example:

  • Stopping and looking at someone when they speak to you. And listen to what they're saying

  • Letting someone finish a complete thought without interruption

  • The tone of voice needs to be calm

  • Sneering, eye rolling, turning away, covering ears & raising voices in anger are all signs of disrespect. This behaviour will no longer be tolerated by anyone

But if they're still disrespectful parents need to invoke natural consequences. Lower your voice. Say calmly: You're showing you don't want to be cooperative (for older children substitute mature.) That's your choice. But if you're choosing to act like a four year old, four year olds don't for example have their own phones. (Remove a different age related privilege if they're not old enough for a phone.) We'd like you to have a good life so you need to be aware...' Go to Point 3 then straight onto Point 4.

If they still continue to be disrespectful remove a particular privilege for two days. (Make sure it's something they're really going to miss.) Revisit points 3 and 4. If that still doesn't work, their loss of privileges may need to be extended or their loss of privileges increased. e.g. No T.V.


There's no need to be hostile about it. If you're hostile it gives them power. Be friendly and loving. But with regards to the issue of their lack of respect be consistent and clinical. Don't get baited into an argument. Walk away. Maintain  their loss of privileges. But praise they're remembering how we treat one another every time they speak to you respectfully.

Could your love bank account (credit points) with your child be too low? It's really easy for this to happen if you're busy.


If you don't spend time with them doing positive things they can  feel unimportant and rejected. Go to Why Spend Positive Time Together for more information:

Intermittent reinforcement is one of the best ways of ensuring a negative behaviour will continue... Because sometimes they'll get away with it, so it's worth persisting. To overcome difficult behaviour you need to be consistent, every single time. All it takes is getting away with it once and the precedent is set.

Point 4: Explain: 'It's important in life for people to learn to treat each other well. People who treat others with disrespect are often, in turn, treated with disrespect. In life, we usually feel like treating people the same way they treat us. We're not being good parents if we let you think it's okay to behave like that. As you grow up we want you to be surrounded by people who love you, are kind to you and respect you.'

Children don't usually behave disrespectfully, unless they've learnt it works for them. Try to work out what their motivation is, or what's their pay off.

Is it possible at sometime, they've learnt:

  • They get more attention for being difficult than being good. (e.g. This child may have a 'good' sibling, so it's hard to compete at being the best good kid so they get your attention by being difficult)

  • If they're rude you'll back off, or give in to what they want

  • They can have greater power within the household if they're rude. This can result in  them escalating their behaviour until you give in. Especially if they've learnt you will eventually

  • There are no consequences for being rude, so basically they do it, because they can

  • You're inconsistent and will not follow up. So they play the gap, thinking they'll get away with it enough times to make it worth their while

Being Irritable:

If they seem generally cross or out of sorts you could ask: 'Have I done something to upset you,' or 'Is there something wrong?' Often this is an opportunity to learn something that's bothering them.

One of the main things that can contribute to being irritable is poor quality sleep. Are they getting enough sleep? Could they have worms affecting the quality of their sleep? Do they snore? Are they playing lots of video games and becoming too hyped up to want to sleep?

For specific information on improving behaviour go to the following links:

Sleep Routines
How to Get your child to sleep.
4 Ways to Develop Cooperative Kids
4 ways to develop cooperative kids. Child helping her mother do the shopping.
Boundaries Help Raise Good Kids
Setting Boundaries
Why Be Consistent?
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
Choosing Gratitude Not Entitlement
A girl kissing her father
Why Natural Consequences?
The Value of Natural Consequences
Show More

Best Parenting is a high quality parenting website designed with child and family success in mind. It highlights what successful parents do differently to those who struggle. Best Parenting provides free online resources for busy parents who want the best practical advice on: how to give kids a best start in life, better tips for parenting toddlers, effective child rearing strategies, behaviour management tips, successful goal setting and organizational strategies for successful families, easy family dinner recipes, self-care tips for time-poor parents and free kids learning games. The aim of Best Parenting is to provide quality practical parenting tips and advice to best help children and families succeed using the convenience of a website.

This website provides examples of what worked for me over decades and you are welcome to use these ideas as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. Best Parenting does not provide any guarantee that this information will work in every circumstance with every family or with every child. It is your responsibility as a user of this website to ensure that you adhere to any recommended safety suggestions either implicit or explicit on this site and supervise your children while playing any games suggested. Similarly users of this website are advised to follow any recommendations for seeking professional advice as all information on this site is generic. Best Parenting is an independent website and is not affiliated with any other groups, clubs, religious organizations or educational systems.


Best parenting takes time. The best parenting advice ever is simple: Do your best, don't give up and love your children, no matter what.

Multi-Award Winning Educator. Early Learning Expert. Author. Illustrator.

©2019   ​Australia