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Difficult child: how to instill respect for laws and rules in him

08.05.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

«I have got the uncontrollable child, totally. It seems, he generally isn’t able to follow the rules, obey adults, maintain even the smallest discipline. He doesn’t behave well at school, systematically disrupts lessons, he is being rude to the teachers, 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. And we will look for him in the whole neighborhood till the evening. It’s worthless mentioning, that he doesn’t listen to my husband and me, doesn’t pick up our calls, he can break or damage something on purpose. It has been the last straw recently: my mother, his grandma, came to visit. She is an old woman, very kind, she tried to talk to him gently, “steer him onto the right path”. And 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 don’t help. I’m just in despair, don’t know how to handle him, fell powerless».

— Alla mother of 10-years old Kostya 

What to do, if your child is “difficult”, uncontrollable, neglects 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 on the way. While a child is small, this behavior is shown in disobedience and “harmless” childish mischiefs. However, the elder he gets, the more problems appear because of disregard of laws and rules. 

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

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


  1. Reasons of bad behavior
  2. How to instill discipline in a child
  3. What should you do, if a child neglects laws
  4. How to solve the problem quickly: 7Spsy technique

Reasons of bad behavior

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

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

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

We will help you to form a respectful attitude towards the law and the state

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There can be some reasons as follows:

  • 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 in a company. 

If bad behavior hasn’t followed with laws violation, we can start working with a child in a way of building 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 the early childhood. Then it will become a natural behavior model, establish on the unconscious level. .

Family rules 

Psychologists recommend to set the system of family rules and get your child acquainted with it from his early years: 

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

The peculiarities of fostering teenagers are the following: 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.” explain, why you chose this exact time: the law forbids under-aged to stay out after 10 p.m. Talk through the sanctions for disobeying the rules. And be ready to follow some rules yourself: for example, don’t come into teenager’s room without knocking. And, of course, if you break these rules, you should also face sanctions. [1] 

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

Learning about legal framework 

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

  • Get an insight into the Constitution of your country together, later you can get onto 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 – teenager must know basic laws and measure of punishment for breaking them. 

Ideally, school should be responsible for legal education and awareness of teenagers. This way, at the social science lessons teenagers are taught about main branches of law, codes, different kinds of punishment for offences and crimes. You can ask for information about course program and look through the school book on the subject to understand, how the information is given and how to speak about these matters.

And, of course, foster your children by personal example: follow family rules set before frankly, don’t change them spontaneously, follow social behavior rules and laws. For any child, parents – are the main authority, and children will inherit your role model, for sure.  

What should you do, if a child neglects laws

talking with teenagers

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

Have a heart-to-heart talk

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

Set boundaries

However, you should not let them get away with an offending behavior. Set reasonable boundaries for a child, determine the punishment, but don’t forget to talk to him and explain, that it is all done for his own sake.  

Seek information

It is worth paying attention to the child’s company. If he spends much time at school, where children from dysfunctional families study too, there’s a strong possibility that he can be influenced by them. It is highly important for teenagers to feel that they belong, fit in the company of their peers. There’s no talk about legal liable in such circumstances. 

If your child goes to a good school, check if he has some serious conflicts with classmates. Unfortunately, violence among children, especially teenagers, is not rare. Willing to find shelter from school’s bullying, get recognition anywhere possible, a child can easily get into a wrong company. It may seem to him, that only in that company he is taken for who he is. 

Talk to teachers

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

Offer something interesting instead

Help your child to change for better: encourage him taking up hobbies, enroll him in a sports club or an art school, to switch his attention and bend his energy to better cause. And don’t forget to find time to communicate with your children, not only about school and bad behavior: discuss problems, answer their questions, praise them, offer your help. It is very important for them, at any age.   

How to solve the problem quickly: 7Spsy technique

But what to do, if talking to troubled teenagers and punishments don’t help anymore? It means that neglect of laws has become sustainable behavior model of a child. It is very important to change this model as soon as possible. 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. 

We will help you to form a respectful attitude towards the law and the state

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

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 laws and rules neglect, and to change them on positive ones. Thanks to this, a child takes up healthy behavior model: becomes more obedient, learns 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 an e-mail.  


  1. Tatyana Nikitina, «Kak zastavit podrostka soblyudat vashi pravila» (https://mel.fm/otnosheniya_s_detmi/9802564-rules)
  2. Esli Vash rebenok sovershil protivopravnyj postupok (http://soc-ped-center.rooglub.gov.by/dlya-roditelej-i-detej/76-esli-vash-rebenok-sovershil-protivopravnyj-postupok.html)