Responding to Rudeness, Stubbornness and Defiance

Responding to Rudeness, Stubbornness and Defiance

Language of Listening® Coach, Camilla Miller of Keeping Your Cool Parenting shares what every parent needs to know when their child is acting out. Reprinted from her blog with permission.


The Most Powerful Way to Handle a Rude, Aggressive or Defiant Child.

Her cheeks red, kicking out at anyone who dared come close. “You can’t make me!” she howled. And she was right!

This was my life, and my daughter’s defiance, rudeness and disrespect were pushing my buttons. No. End.

All these thoughts would rush through my mind:

“If she speaks to me like that now, she’ll have no friends.”

“If she’s like this NOW, then what’s she going to be like as a teenager?”

“After ALL I do for her, how dare she treat ME like that.”

It was this thinking that kept me stuck.

Let me explain why… Because this changes everything.

Our thoughts about a situation are just thatthoughts.

In other words, they are our judgments about what is going on.

We can’t really SEE disrespect or stubbornness or rudeness, even though we are sure we can. What we can SEE is red cheeks, kicking and howling.

Disrespect, stubbornness or rudeness are our judgments (thoughts) about what those actions mean seen through a particular lens—the lens of good and bad. That lens was given to us by our parents, which is why we so often react like they did even when we don’t want to.

The way we as parents react to our child’s behaviour through OUR lens of good or bad becomes how our children SEE the world.

And we teach children this by the age of 7:  “good behaviour = good person” and “bad behaviour = bad person.”

I used to think my daughter was rude, defiant and stubborn.

Can you see how these judgments become your child’s character traits?

And what options do you have when you believe these judgments?

You think you have a child who IS those things. And you focus your attention on changing these traits…

The problem is these character traits aren’t really there… only in our heads.

So, why is this so important to know when we are dealing with our child’s unwanted behaviour?

When a child hears, “You’re so rude and stubborn. You only think of yourself. No wonder no one wants to be with you,” and when you link these words to your child’s behaviour, it sets the child’s core belief that BEING rude and stubborn is WHO they are.

It becomes their inner voice and drives their future behaviour for the rest of their lives.

Our words matter.

On the other hand: Acknowledgment and validation confirm WHO your child is.

When you use the first step in Language of Listening®, the simple 3-part coaching model I teach, you always start with SAY WHAT YOU SEE®:

  • “You got SO frustrated AND you calmed yourself. That shows you have self-control.”
  • “You really wanted that last biscuit and you shared it with your brother. That shows how thoughtful you are.”

By giving them proof (describing what they did) you secure the STRENGTH within your child and it becomes WHO they are, and their future actions are based out of it. They are a child who knows how to calm down. Who IS thoughtful…

It becomes their inner voice and drives their future behaviour for the rest of their lives.

And not to mention, you’re likely to see MORE of the behaviour you WANT because your child SEES themselves as capable.

The first step to change. I switched from my judgments to neutral observations:

  • My child’s defiance to my child is kicking and defending her space—she must be feeling powerless and dysregulated
  • My child’s rudeness to my child is howling—she’s struggling to communicate
  • My child’s stubbornness to my child has red cheeks and is not budging—she must feel stuck

Changing how you SEE your child gives you more choices in how you react. It opens up possibilities you never thought of before.

Language of Listening teaches you a simple 3-part framework, so you can turn a once difficult situation into a positive one AND you can even go a step further and bring out your child’s STRENGTHs so YOU and your child can both feel good.

Bringing out their STRENGTHs.

Walking into the kitchen and seeing my daughter, tears running down her face, I looked at her, and all my anger evaporated.

It took time to change my daughter’s inner voice and for her to begin to see herself as capable. Now that voice has become hers, and she runs to me excited to tell me:

“Look, mummy! I calmed myself down!”

Every time I swapped my judgment for observation, I was able to see her STRENGTHs and bring out her best.

Camilla Miller is our first authorized Language of Listening® parent coach in the UK and the author of Keeping Your Cool Parenting blog where she supports parents in transforming family life with the magic of Language of Listening®. You can also connect with her on Facebook.

Get Camilla’s FREE eCourse now: How to Swap the Chaos for Willing Cooperation—just three simple steps to radically change the way you parent.

Starting Monday, July 6, 2020, Camilla is featured in the FREE online series: The Power of Purposeful Parenting. SIGN UP NOW! 


  1. Kate |

    Please sign me up for the mini course

  2. Kate,

    So glad you’re interested in Camilla’s Mini-course!

    The link to her sign up form is right above these comments (just below her bio photo). Just click on the orange text that reads “How to Swap the Chaos for Willing Cooperation” It will take you to the sign-up form on her website where you can subscribe.


  3. Vanda |

    I love this way of thinking. But it’s hard when my daughter says things which are designed to be upsetting (she’s started saying she doesn’t want to live with me any more, and when I tell her that’s unkind and hurts my feelings she shouts ‘good’ at me). I can see she’s lashing out because she’s angry but I can’t work out how to help her stop.

  4. Vanda,

    For sure your daughter knows what will upset you, and that makes it hard for you not to get upset even though you can see that she is lashing out in anger. In keeping with Camilla’s post, it sounds like you THINK she wants to hurt your feelings (and she even says so), which to you MEANS that she is unkind or maybe even mean.

    NONE of those thoughts or judgments are true, but you are reacting to them as though they were true, just as any parent would – by feeling upset. They seem true and “bad” because that’s what you were taught when you were a child.

    Here’s the place to start changing your thinking:

    You are right that your daughter says those things on purpose when she is angry, you can SEE that, but her purpose is NOT what you think. As long as you think she is saying them to be mean or unkind to you, you will have no choice but to continue to react, and she will have no choice but to keep saying them.

    The truth gives you both a choice, and the truth is that what your daughter says to you when she is angry has nothing to do with you or who she really is. Instead, it has everything to do with your daughter trying to meet her own need for power. Feeling powerful is a real and healthy need. It’s one of the Three Basic Needs for Growth that I explain in this blog post about facilitating tantrums:

    Feeling powerless automatically kicks people (kids and us) into action to meet that need any way they can. It’s a completely subconscious drive. The things people do to meet the need for power include yelling, hitting, controlling others, hurting others, etc. – all things that no one really likes or wants to do, but will do automatically in the heat of the moment to regain their sense of power – until they understand that what they are really trying to do is meet their need for power, at which point they can choose other ways to meet that need that they actually like!

    Another one of our coaches, Lauren Tamm, offers some suggestions for parents to meet their need for power here:

    Understanding the true purpose of your daughter’s actions is the change in thinking that will help you stop reacting. Your daughter is meeting her need for power any way she can. While she is angry it may look to her (and to you) like she wants to hurt you, but what she really wants is to feel like she has some power in something. Often the power kids want is to be able to get what they want, or if they can’t get it right now, at least know that what they want matters to you.

    That’s what my 3-part coaching model helps you do: lets your child know that what she wants matters, helps her find a way to get what she wants (or meet the need behind that “want”) inside your boundary, and helps her discover her strengths.

    Camilla describes this in greater detail in her Free Mini-course – How to Swap the Chaos for Willing Cooperation. I hope you will give it a listen:

    I explain it in my SAY WHAT YOU SEE® handbook:

    You can read my handbook free by following the link, but I recommend that you buy your own copy to get the extra section at the back on the Three Basic Needs.

    Understanding the Three Basic Needs gives you deep insight into how kids work. It’s the change in thinking that changes the way you see and react to your daughter, so you can help her change how she reacts when she is angry.

    Warmly – Sandy

  5. Vanda Wilcox |

    Thank you Sandy, this is very helpful and gives me a lot to reflect on and work through. I feel like I’m beginning to understand but it’s easier to figure it out in theory than to actually act on it in the moment!

  6. Vanda,

    I’m glad you found all that helpful.

    Practice and do-overs in the easy moments provide the proof and success you need to make it easier to act on in the challenging moments. When you experience how quickly changing how you see your daughter changes your reactions and her reactions to you, you will see what I mean.

    Plus the more you SAY WHAT YOU SEE® and point out STRENGTHs in the easy moments, the fewer challenging moments you will have because you will have been helping your daughter meet her need for connection and power in advance, especially if you provide a lot of validation of what she wants. Whether she can have or do that thing or not, you can be on her side and help her find CAN DOs that honor the importance of what she wants.

    Surrounding yourself with this kind of “different” thinking about how kids work is the best way to learn, which is why our coaches and I offer so many free resources, paid training courses, and private coaching.

    Sounds like our coaching approach feels right to you. I hope you will take advantage of all we offer to help the “what to do” part become natural for you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *