Child Discipline

Attitudes: Bad to Good


Oh, the horrors of having a child with a bad attitude — especially during the holidays! On Thanksgiving day, Great Aunt Sadie walks in and your son crosses his arms and pouts when she asks him for a hug. Or your teenage daughter rolls her eyes when you ask her to help clear the table. And even when your kids do act respectful on the outside, you can tell that their attitude is out of whack.

So even during the season of holiday cheer, don’t overlook a bad attitude in your kids. Dig below the surface and consider these thoughts to answer the question, where does a bad attitude come from in kids?

Sometimes children obey, but they do it with a bad attitude. A bad attitude comes from an angry spirit. Imagine an onion with various layers. As you peel off one layer, you see another and another until you get to the center of the onion. Anger is like that. The most obvious signs of anger are acts of physical violence: Hitting, slamming things, kicking, and biting.

As children learn to control their physical reactions, the next layer becomes obvious. It involves hurtful words, such as sarcasm, teasing, and cynical remarks. They are not physical, but they are still deadly responses that parents must address. Layer after layer of angry responses can be removed until you come to a very significant one: The bad attitude. Once you reach the bad attitude layer, you’re dealing with the heart directly. A bad attitude is form of passive resistance and shouldn’t be ignored. Huffing or rolling the eyes after receiving an instruction is a symptom of a deeper problem. When a bad attitude isn’t addressed, anger reveals itself in selfish, disrespectful, and mean behaviors.

Bad attitudes are generally seen in three areas:

  • When the child receives an instruction
  • When the child is corrected
  • When the child is told “no”

Don’t just point out a bad attitude. Give children healthy alternatives. {Tweet This} How should a child respond when given an instruction they’d rather not do? “Okay” is a good place to start. How should a child respond when being corrected? “I’m sorry” or “I was wrong.” How should a child respond when disappointed with a “no” answer? “Okay, maybe next time.” This may sound unrealistic if your children have developed strong patterns of opposition. These suggestions, though, will get children thinking in the right direction.

If you son is angry and having a bad attitude, teach him to take a break and cool off. “Go to your room and settle down until you can talk about your anger without using your body to show it.” When your son returns, talk to him about more constructive responses.

If you discipline your child to change behavior but a bad attitude remains, the discipline is incomplete. A child who adjusts behavior but continues to harbor a poor attitude needs to learn honor. If not addressed, bad attitudes just get worse.

Step back and ask yourself, “Why is this child struggling with a bad attitude?” This will help you focus your discipline. One mom recognized that her five-year-old son needed more sleep. Another mom realized her nine-year-old needed to learn perseverance — the ability to hang in there when things got tough. Don’t ignore a bad attitude; it directly reflects a problem of dishonor in a child’s life.

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In The Comments

How do you handle your children's bad attitudes?

By: Scott Turansky

iMOM Contributor

Dr. Scott Turansky is an author and speaker known for his heartfelt parenting approach. He offers moms practical, real-life advice for many of parenting’s greatest challenges and is the founder of the National Center for Biblical Parenting.

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  • Ali

    Be careful with number 8. Make sure your child does not have a motor deficit first. Sloppy handwriting is often a sign of this.

    • Gazzer

      I have that and when I was younger I had a teacher who was convinced it was because I was lazy.

  • pbaldwin

    Some good ideas, although I wouldn’t do the door one as that sort of thing would just wind up my son as he has Asbergers.

  • MelissaJ

    I like #7 for the dawdlers! I could sit through more of dinner!

  • Marie

    When my daughter was 9, a normal consequence was having to wear a dress or skirt to school. Doesn’t sound like a big deal??? for my jeans and tee shirt and converse girl it was punishment enough to only have to do it once!

  • Gwen

    A lot of these seem harsh. 21 could cause disease and is unusual. A lot of these seem like consequences that will happen if it’s not up to mom standards, not that their being destructive, or misbehaving. Now something like 1 or 14, that feels like a mom and child working towards a goal together without humiliation. To me a lot of these are making a moms life easier, but a child’s life harder. A lot of the consequences don’t seem to fit the actual wrong. I’ve been studying child psychology for a while on my own, but have taken classes within child development and know that a lot of these would be considered highly unacceptable. I can see some being creative, but a lot being cruel and unusual.

    • kelly

      I agree to some extent with what you’re saying, but I think this is a bit of a modifiable template for your child, and needs to suit the age of the child. I disagree with any of the degrading or demeaning chores because the hope is to encourage a child to be happy and resourceful rather than anxious and fearful. I really think that this “concept” could work if only it was more positively structured around benefiting the child rather than the parent.

      • zeke199

        You & Gwen might have missed the point – The key is to develop, instill, and increase ownership in a child, yes in a loving way. None of these items are humiliating but rather teaching children to do things to appropriate completion & be considerate of others. #21 is a great idea to ensure a child learns increased observation & task completion skills. What’s the worst that could happen – he/she missed some poop & must wash their feet??? Bet that won’t happen again!

        By the way, most child psych books & classes are designed to create tyranical, narcissistic kids who grow up to be the next batch of self-absorbed, self-pious adults. Follow God’s design instead & you’ll see how appropriate discipline is one of the kindest means of love parents can give to their children.

    • happymaman

      First, a good washing of the feet after will avoid disease. We are way too germaphobic as a society. A few germs are good for you. Second, most of these will require the parent to stay on top of it and enforce the consequence. It will take effort (as good parenting does). Not every consequence will work for every child and every parent should be aware or their child’s special needs if that applies. I would think these would be done after establishing that there are no mental or physical disabilities first. We took our teen daughter’s door off after she repetedly slammed it and it worked wonders. Set a clear, known consequence and stick with it. That will help children become respectful, respectable contributing members of society.

    • annoyed with stupid people

      I think you are stupid and have no idea how to raise children. If you had any sense you would realize that you are not raising children but young adults and that what you train your two year old to be will be what they are at forty so if you are stupid enough to think that you should not train your child to be an adult you will be making your child become very insecure in life. When you call training cruel and unusual you are saying that your child is less intelligent than a dog. It seems strange that people will train their dogs and let their children run around like savages. Get a life and please don’t ever have any children no one would be able to stand them.

    • Sarah


    • kris

      people who think like you are what’s wrong with society.

  • Puma

    I think all of these ideas are brilliant. Thank you for sharing this list with a mother of a 17 year-old, 15 year-old and nine year-old girls. I don’t believe that any of these chores make life easy on the mother. On the contrary, all of these suggestions make life easier on the family unit. I was 12 years a slave, or rather 12 years a stay-at-home mom. What I learned most once I began working full-time is this, I literally raised my children to be dependent on someone else for clean laundry, a clean home, groceries; rides to school, practices, games, recitals, doctor’s appointments and best friend’s homes. Not to mention keeping a calendar of events for each family member. While young children are not expected to drive themselves to school or other commitments, I found that my teens were not interested in learning to drive or took initiative to keep tidy rooms or inquired as to how to cook etc… My point is this, do not raise your child to be inept. Always encourage, foster and lead your child by example and with love. When this fails, use the “21 Creative Consequences for Kids” list without hesitation and quilt-free. May the force be with you new parents.

  • aUSMCmom

    Some of the comments are exactly why we have such an issue with children and teen behavior in our society which then turns into juvenile detention being full, and jails as well as lazy people that have no work ethic. Gees what a nightmare.

    • aharris10877


  • Stacy

    I don’t agree with the previous comment about the chores being degrading for the kids to do…. Chores are responsibilities that everyone shoud learn to do, cleaning toilets is work for anybody and I certainly don’t have a problem with my children cleaning a toilet every now and then. Learning to do meaningful work can help erase this epidemic of entitlement that is running rampant with our children in this country. We coddle our kids way too much here.

  • Rachel

    I have started using the tongue idea on my very rowdy son who often makes what I have now termed “nuisance noises” usually during times of extreme inappropriateness and hyperactivity. It has worked wonders.He maybe has done it 3 times today compared to fifty, this has helped Mom cool off with her grouchy-ness because my child is not driving me insane making annoying noises spratically through out the day.As a mother of three it can get loud in my home. I can also use that moment of silence to explain and further remind him we only use our tongue for REAL communication. DEF. looking into buying her book. As for people saying these IDEAS are too HARSH, or CRUEL. It is a parents duty to LOVINGLY DISCIPLE your children and to teach them responsibility. I don’t enjoy cleaning up after everyone NOR is it just one persons responsibility. I also don’t enjoy not having control of my children and getting embarrassed in public. I really don’t feel these suggestions are things that are going to be LONG term either, as I can already see in my child after having to hold his tongue for two minutes after he makes “nuisance noises”, hes become a little more conscious to his decisions.

    • Mike Kelley


  • BoyMom07

    Very creative. None involve hitting or yelling on the part of the parent. I love number 3. All need to experience some mercy from time to time.

  • Rebecca Michelle Weir-Tucker

    I can’t even begin to tell ALL OF YOU
    Be very cautious with these “consequences”…..consequences they are not. Punishments they VERY MUCH ARE…..I have NO PROBLEM with my girls being themselves…..if they are lacking respect for anyone, we MUST un cover the heart of the matter…our job isn’t to “rid our kids of *bad attitudes, or *improper diligence”….our job is to REACH THEIR HEARTS……Make the last one to the table “serve” everyone?…..serving should NEVER be a PUNISHMENT! SERVING IS OUR GOAL! Why are these things only targeted at the kid you see as having a harder time? That’s probably the kid who needs you to forget your petty list of arbitrary rules and EMBRACE THEM! Forget the “schedule” and outward issues and CONNECT! NEVER EVER EVER SHAME THEM!
    “This is most ‘effective in public…..if they’re annoying you” YOU MATTER, SHAME THEM. LET THEM KNOW THEY’LL REGRET THAT HUMMING {O.M.G. AN OBNOXIOUS NOISE? } you better nip that in the bud!!!……don’t factor in to whether it matters to GOD….IF IT BOTHERS you….YOU ARE ABOVE ONLY AND NOT UNDERNEATH…EMBARASS HIM! YEAH HE’LL stop! YOU’RE ANNOYING HIM!…
    The tone of this entire piece was {US VS. THEM} That’s the opposite way to grow a relationship with the priceless individuals you love….love,joy, peace patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness , gentleness & SELF CONTROL( THAT MEANS YOU!….BE WHO YOU DESIRE them to be…..let go of your perfection and let them be kids. They help with all common area chores…..but NOT MOTIVATED LIKE THIS! USE THE GOLDEN RULE!

    • tots

      Good point Rebecca. We need to honour serving rather than subject it as a punishment…I totally believe in the philosophy of letting them be who they are…accept them embrace them. Teach them rather than punish them. And most of all if it’s a job well done as a parent you never will have behavioural issues with your children …
      Every Child is different and punishments wi
      H some dont work…It can be disrespectful and hurtful I feel. My three year old for example doesn’t need punishments but explaining…and it’s the only thing that works!

  • instant daddy

    I have four children. I’m neutral I my opinion on how parents discipline or correct their children’s behavior. People are different, kids are different. There might be some kids that are similar, but we all have our own brains, likes, and dislikes. not every kid will learn the same way or take a situation the same as other kids will. They all have their own perception of things. As parents we can help shape their opinion. I use different methods on all of my kids, because they are different. Whatever the correction that I give them may be always comes along with more than an earful. I explain to them what they did wrong and how to correct it and why they have to correct it. Over and over again. Every time they make a mistake. One main problem with my children is they “forget” alot of things that us parents say. So it’s up to me to make an eternal imprint on their brain by repetition. There is no punishment in this house by “labor”. Call it what you may, but the way you project these lessons will determine how your child perceives life. I teach them that these “chores” aren’t chores if this the way you want to live life. A job doesn’t seem like a job when you love it. A chore isn’t a core when you learn how to do it efficiently and it becomes second nature. I teach my kids cause and effect. Action and reaction. When I was a child I was punished too much with no explanation. This is the motive behind my “jabber jaws”.

  • happymaman

    Most of these are reasonable, related consequences. I prefer a clam down space/time rather than telling them to keep crying or make them stomp though. Mostly, they encourage a respect for shared space, allow children to be themselves in a safe appropriate manner while being cognisent of other’s rights and needs. A noisey child isn’t told to be quiet, but to be noisey outside. That may be modified here as it gets too cold for outdoor play at times (-30 and colder). I believe that if you let the child know of the consequences and the reason behind it (and you know there are no other factors such as special needs or extreme stress), they will follow through as long as you do!

  • YourMom

    Or you forgot the one where you beat the hell out of them so they actually learn a listen.

  • KAtherine

    so this is the site MY mom goes on…………… no wonder………… u guys r sooooo mean i wuz holding MY toung 4 40 minutes…… just 4 saying shoot

  • Vin

    For number 3. You can even add a rewards jar or can. At the end of the day, if a child hasn’t acted out or done something that needs some recognition, have them draw something from the jar. It can include having a treat like ice cream? A trip to the movies, or staying up extra late.

  • Holiday

    This is all wrong. To take such joy from controlling, punishing and humiliating your chidren is really horrible. The aggression under it is so thinly veiled. Why don’t you talk to them, and listen? My children are lovely and we don’t do any of this. It’s just not necessary. I want them to grow up to do the right thing because they make good decisions, not because the have a fear of arbitrary punishments. The problem with all these rigid rules/consequence regimes is they allow you to stop thinking, stop listening, and stop considering how your child is and why they are behaving a certain way. Trust yourself to engage with your kids and drop all this. You’ll all be happier.

  • Candy

    Good advice and excellent article. If I may add. We have taken to giving our kids wall squats. 30 Seconds to a minute. Its when you sit in a sitting position against a wall (without chair or sitting aid) with arms up in front of your body. This also improves muscle tone and builds up core muscles. Two birds, one stone.

  • Tanya Marker

    19 is a bit sexist. She’ll, her how about they will sweep the floor. I’m a mom and I don’t have boy or girl chores I just have chores.

  • mel

    great ideas!!! I can’t wait to start