Difficult child: how to instill respect for laws and rules

May 08, 2019

«I have got a totally uncontrollable child. It seems he generally isn’t able to follow the rules, obey adults or maintain even the smallest discipline. He doesn’t behave well at school, systematically disrupts lessons and he is rude to the teachers. He constantly fights and provokes other children to fight. If he doesn’t like something, for example, some task or a teacher’s warning, he can just get sassy, slam the door and leave the school. We will then look for him in the whole neighborhood till the evening. It’s worthless mentioning that he doesn’t listen to my husband and me and doesn’t pick up our calls He can break or damage something on purpose. We had the last straw recently when my mother, his grandma, came to visit. She is an old woman and very kind. She tried to talk to him gently and “steer him onto the right path”. Then he got angry, grabbed her glasses and broke them with his feet. He’s just 10 years old, and he’s already so violent! What will happen when he’s a teenager? Warnings, talks and punishments just don’t help. I’m in despair. I don’t know how to handle him and feel powerless».

— Alla mother of 10-years old Kostya

What do you do if your child is “difficult”, uncontrollable and neglectful of laws and rules of social behavior? Indeed, in this case everyone is suffering: parents, other family members, teachers, classmates, and even strangers who happen to meet him by the way. While a child is small, this behavior is shown as disobedience and “harmless” childish mischief. However, the older he/she gets, the more problems appear because of disregard of laws and rules.

At the beginning, it may be a violation of school discipline, sports club’s rules or general misbehaving in a public place. If one does not  work with troublesome behavior, it can grow into legal nihilism. This is not too far from deviant behavior which can lead to alcohol or drug addiction, administrative offences, and even criminal activity.  

If you notice that your child neglects rules of behavior in society or even breaks the law, it’s dangerous to delay addressing the problem. We will show you how to instill respect for laws and rules in your children and what to do if your child systematically violates discipline.


  1. Reasons for bad behavior
  2. How to instill discipline in a child
  3. What should you do, if a child disobeys laws?
    • Have a heart-to-heart talk
    • Set boundaries
    • Seek information
    • Talk to teachers
    • Offer an interesting alternative

How to solve the problem quickly: 7Spsy technique

Reasons for bad behavior

  1. «My son has always been a difficult child, but a year ago, when he turned 14, it got absolutely unbearable. He is a classical troubled teenager. He doesn’t just not listen to me or violate school discipline – that could have been manageable. But now everything has got worse. He took up with the wrong guys and started to drink alcohol and smoke. He always disappears till the late evening. Once, he was caught shoplifting with a friend. They didn’t manage to steal anything, they were caught just before, so there were no serious consequences. Can you imagine my feelings! I can’t stop him from leaving the house – he needs to go to school anyway. But what do I do – I have absolutely no idea».

    — Svetlana, mother of 14-years old “troubled teenager”

    Let’s talk about the guidance of difficult children and teenagers. In order to understand how to work with the problem, we need to know, why it appeared in the first place. Children and teenagers don’t usually start breaking laws out of the blue. This kind of behavior has always got background. In many cases, it is directly connected with parents’ behavior.  

    There can be differing reasons as follows:

    • a low legal culture of children and teenagers, caused by lack of parental guidance;
    • competition for parents’ attention;
    • protest, struggling with parents’ control, desire to assert oneself;
    • desire to “get back” at parents;
    • lack of self-confidence;
    • problems in communication with peers;
    • desire to gain respect among friends or to fit into specific company.

    If bad behavior hasn’t reached the violation of laws, we can start working with the child in ways of building up discipline.

How to instill discipline in a child?

Law abidance starts at home. Respect for social life rules and law and order should be instilled in children from early childhood. Then it will become a natural behavior model, established on the unconscious level.

Family rules

Psychologists recommend that you set a system of family rules and get your child acquainted with them from early years:

  • At first, it can be standard safety rules, for example, a ban on playing with electrical devices.
  • Later you should set a clear daily schedule: members of the family go to bed at certain times, and you must clean your teeth every night and morning. 
  • And, of course, your child should learn social moral standards: respect for adults, help for the vulnerable, a careful attitude to animals, ethics of behavior in public places. Your behavior should be an example to your child.

The peculiarities of mentoring teenagers are more complex. You should negotiate with them and explain each rule – a simple order would only cause rebellion. Make a list of rules with your child, going into details for each of the item. “Don’t stay out late” can be changed for “be at home by 10 p.m.” explaining why you chose this exact time – the law forbids those under-age to stay out after 10 p.m. Talk through the sanctions for disobeying the rules. Of course you need to be ready to follow some rules yourself: for example, don’t come into the teenager’s room without knocking. And, of course, if you break those rules, you should also face sanctions. [1]

As a result, a child will learn important principles, such as ”there are rules in our society, and there are repercussions for breaking them”. This behavior model will automatically be projected to other spheres of life.

Learning about legal framework

The older your child gets, the more he/she should be acquainted with the legal framework of the country, including the concepts of legitimacy and discipline, rights and responsibilities.  

  • Get an insight into the Constitution of our country together, later you can study basic articles of administrative and criminal codes.
  • Draw attention to the idea, that a child, as well as any other person, has rights by birth, but so do other people, and violation of these rights is punishable by law.
  • It is important to emphasize, that misbehavior is followed by punishment. This is how the idea of responsibility for breaking the law is set in children’s minds. Before turning 14 – the age of discretion – a teenager must know basic laws and possible consequences for breaking them.

Ideally, school should be responsible for legal education and awareness for teenagers. Often during Social Science lessons teenagers are taught about the main branches of law, codes and different kinds of punishment for offences and crimes. You can ask for information about the school curriculum and look through the school syllabus  to understand, how the information is given and how you can address these matters.

Of course, you should encourage your children by personal example. You should follow previously set family rules diligently and don’t change them spontaneously and always follow social behavior rules and laws. For any child, their parents are the main authority, and children will certainly inherit your role model

We will teach a respectful attitude towards law and state

What should you do, if a child disobeys laws?

First of all, you should reconsider your relationships with the child, no matter what age he/she is. It is wrongly assumed, that teenagers don’t need so much attention and love from their parents. If adults neglect communicating with a grown-up child, he/she can desperately try to attract their attention, even with disputable methods. The same applies to the desire to get revenge towards parents for supposedly bigger love for a younger child or spending too much time at work.

Have a heart-to-heart talk

Whenever it is difficult to cope with your problematic child’s actions, remember, that all problems of troubled teenagers and teen’s violence start at home. This means that they should also be solved at home. And the first thing to get across to a child or a teenager is that he/she is intensely loved by the family, no matter what the behavior is.  

Set boundaries

However, you should not let a child get away with offending behavior. Set reasonable boundaries, determine the repercussions, but don’t forget to talk  and explain, that it is all done for the child’s benefit.  

Seek information

It is worth paying attention to the company your child keeps. If too much time is spent with children from dysfunctional families, there’s a strong possibility that /she can be influenced by them. It is highly important for teenagers to feel that they belong and that they fit in the company of their peers. There’s no talk about legal liability in such circumstances.

If your child goes to a good school, check if there are any serious conflicts with classmates. Unfortunately, violence among children, especially teenagers, is not rare. Your teenager may wish to find shelter from bullying, and will seek recognition anywhere possible. A child can easily get into the wrong company. It may seem to the teenager, that only in that company is he/she is taken seriously.

Talk to teachers

To learn all the details about your child’s life, you definitely need to keep in touch with the teachers, especially the supervising teacher. At the same time, you can find out about levers of influence at the school and if any measures against teenagers’ violence are taken. Also you can find out if there are any measures to prevent children from drinking alcohol, committing offences and crimes. Ideally the school’s guidance counselor will work individually with every troubled teenager. It is desirable to transfer a child to a school, in which children’s behavior is managed successfully, and in a way that is mainly, trouble-free.

Offer something interesting instead

Help your child to change for the better. Encourage your child to take up hobbies, sports or  arts. In this way you can switch attention and bend their energy to better causes. And don’t forget to find time to communicate with your child, not only about school and behavior issues but also find the time to discuss problems, answer their questions, praise them and offer your help. This is vitally important at any age.

How to solve the problem quickly: 7Spsy technique

But what do you do if talking to troubled teenagers and punishments don’t help anymore? This could mean that neglect of laws has become a sustainable behavior model for the child. It is very important to change this model as soon as possible. The 7Spsy behavior modification technique is aimed exactly at this. It is the patented method of behavior psychology, based on the theories of famous psychologists I.P.Pavlov, B.F.Skinner, A.A.Ukhtomsky.

Sessions on 7Spsy behavior modification technique are done remotely with children above 7 years old. The child works individually and self-inclusively. The course takes from 2 to 6 weeks and starts with the diagnostics of a problem. The work according to this method helps to identify mind sets that have led to the neglect of laws and rules and to change behavior to be  positive. Thanks to this, a child will take up a healthy behavior lifestyle and  become more obedient. Your child will learn how to follow the rules of social conduct and to respect the law.

During the whole course a professional psychologist will support you and your child, answering your questions via on-line chat, cell phone or  e-mail.  

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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