How to Handle a Defiant Child during Online Learning

    Posted by Math Genie Staff on January 21, 2020

    Dealing with a defiant child can be nerve-racking, especially in an emergency. It's possible that your child isn't loving online learning, and their defiance may be negatively affecting their education and schooling.

    Outright refusing to listen to you can put your children’s lives in danger. Though, yelling and screaming in public certainly won’t make you look like parent of the year. Furthermore, attention to bad behavior creates bad behavior while attention to good behavior creates good behavior.

    Take a deep breath and follow these five steps to get both you and your defiant children back on the right track. We hope that these tips will help make learning fun again.


    1. Be Strict on Rules & Accountabilityangry-boy-indoor_BtZIuaBo

    House rules are important to live by. When your children leave the house, they’ll be living with other people who won’t coddle them the way you might.

    An example of this is if you are sitting through your child's online class with them. While your intention is of course to help them, when you do this, you are not preparing them to live as a successful adult. If you help your child with their online tests and assignments, you are teaching them that you will be there with them each and every step of the way. Of course, you know this isn't true, but they don't.

    Following the rules teaches kids the self-discipline to make healthy choices through every stage of their lives. Holding them accountable to this structure is good parenting and creates a daily compliance reminder.


    2. Understand the Situation

    The World Health Organization recommends assessing a situation before acting. This ensures you’re taking the right steps toward a full resolution, instead of pouring gasoline on a fire. Be sure you know the reason your children are defiant before immediately jumping to punishment.  Have empathy. Perhaps you’re in the wrong, and simply disregarding your child’s opinion teaches bad lessons down the road.


    3. Provide Choices Whenever Possible

    According to the American Psychological Association, choice is a central part to a free and healthy life. Providing your children with choices gives them a sense of personal responsibility and freedom, rather than being led through life on a leash. They need shoes on to go outside, but give them a choice of shoes to wear. Let them make their own decisions (and mistakes) sometimes to curb defiance.  

    Instead of saying "stop” or “don’t,” find the positive opposite. Language matters. You can try saying, "please put your socks in the hamper." If they comply you can praise them with "wow you did what I asked.”  Saying stop and don’t once in a while but will not have to say it as often.


    4. Don’t Just Punish – Praise the Positive!

    If you only enforce consequences, you’re breeding defiance. Positive reinforcement is a much easier way and should be incorporated into every child’s upbringing. Positive attention to good behavior can be a smile, touch, praise, etc. And it's important to remember that enthusiasm counts. No matter the age of your child, let them know that you are thrilled with their good behavior. You ground them or give them chores for failing a class, so give them a treat for passing. An allowance is a great way to start, so long as you make your children work for it. When they get defiant, withhold allowance to hit them in their wallet, where it really hurts.

    You can develop a reward system with your child that will teach them that their positive behaviors will never go unnoticed. This could be in the form of an extra story at bedtime, extra time in the bath, or being allowed to have their favorite dessert on a school night. Experiment with your child to see what works.


    5. Maintain a Strong Dialogue 

    While your kids may be legally bound to you until they’re 18, they’re free to think whatever you want. You can’t control what they think, and if you’re not maintaining a healthy dialogue with them, you’ll never learn new developments in their lives. Conversation builds trust in a family relationship. If you want your defiant child to start listening to you, then you need to both talk and listen.

    Defiant children may just be expressing themselves in the only way they know how. As the parent, you’re the experienced voice of reason. It’s up to you to think the situation through and work with each defiant child on a solution together.


    6. Walk Away

    If your child is kicking and screaming, there may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Sometimes it's acceptable to walk away from your child and permit the natural consequences of their actions to take effect. They don't want to study? They make think twice next time if they should fail their test. 

    Allowing your child to make mistakes and figure out life for themselves is often not an easy thing to do. Walking away from a defiant child may help teach them independence. You can even say, "I'm walking away now because crying is not going to help you get out of the situation." This is not intended to diminish your child's feelings. A phrase similar to this one should be used at the parents discretion and modified based on age. The entire point is to inform your child that you are walking away so they no longer have anyone to be defiant towards.

    If your child proceeds to tantrum when you walk away, remain calm and your child will calm down more quickly. Read all about how to navigate homework tantrums here.



    Cherry, K. (2019). Positive Reinforcement and Operant Conditioning. [Web]. Retrieved from
    Dingfelder, S. (2010). How important is choice? [Web]. Retrieved from
    Hartstein, J. (2017). The Importance of Setting Limits for Your Child. [Web]. Retrieved from
    HealthyFamilies BC. (2014). Why Talking is Important. [Web]. Retrieved from

    Topics: Child Success, Successful Kids, Child Imperfections, Challenging Children, Child Procrastination, Crying Children, Online Reading, Confident Kids, Energetic Kids, Student Achievement, Parent-Child Relationships, online classes, online math

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