How To Parent: What To When Kids Refuse To Behave

Does Your Child Say This? “You can’t make me!”


Does Your Child Say This? You cant make me!At times, children will verbally draw a line in the sand, stare you in the eye and say “You can’t make me.” When they say this, what they’re looking for is a fight, and it’s important not to give them one. By responding with “Oh yes I can,” there’s a threat implied, and it’s only going to further escalate the situation. You’re giving the child control by joining into the fight that you’ve been invited to. It’s important to remember not to engage the child on her level. Instead, respond to your child by taking your emotions out of the equation and focusing back on the matter at hand.

“You can’t make me!”

Translation: “I don’t want to do what you’re asking, and I’m looking to start a fight with you.”

Ineffective parenting response: “I can and I will if you don’t do it right now.”

Effective parenting response: “I’m not here to make you. But there will be consequences if you break the rules.”


Does Your Child Say This? “You can’t make me!” reprinted with permission from Empowering Parents. For more information, visit www.empoweringparents.com

James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James’ foremost goal was to help kids and to “empower parents.”

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