Help! My child won’t _____________(fill in the blank).

Do you have a child who is defiant?  Do you feel like you are frequently nagging, or yelling to get your children to follow instructions, do chores or schoolwork, or simply respect you and their siblings?  Is there a lot of contention in your home?

Our instinct is to respond directly to the situation at that moment.  To set a harder consequence, get upset.  I am proposing that the cure for the difficult child,  and much of the frustration in mothering comes is caused by a relationship deficiency between mother and child.  And it is the mother’s responsibility and prerogative to heal it.  To change the relationship we must put great effort in preventatively, although it is never too late to begin.  The beautiful thing is that the effort required is simple and super rewarding in and of itself.  The more obedient child is just a bonus side effect.

Spending quality time with your child, getting to know your child and carefully considering how you can better meet their needs is fundamental to healing a relationship.  It is the responsibility of the mother to nurture.  How are you doing to nurture that difficult child in each of the areas of physical, emotional and spiritual?  The following tool will help you strengthen relationships with your children in powerful way.

Questions to Guide Nurturing

These questions can and should be asked to the child directly.  They can also be pondered as a mother or discussed between parents.  Address these questions both systematically, and situationally.  Set regular relationship building time with each child when you can address these areas– on a walk or hike, snuggled on the couch or while you rub their feet, over a an ice cream, on a date.  In a formal interview you don’t need to ask every question, every time.  Just ask the ones that feel important, or you are unsure of.  Also address them as situations and challenges arise and as you are prompted by the Holy Spirit.   When an area of problem or insufficiency is identified, ask lots of follow on questions and make a plan to address the issue.  Be careful not to offer things you cannot provide. Following up later on things your child tells you he is struggling with will go a long way in building trust.


  1. Do you have a physical need? What do you need?  Are your needs being met?
  2. Teach: Listen to your body to know what you need. Differentiate between wants/ cravings and needs.
  3. What is physically challenging for you?
  4. Do you have any physical weaknesses at this time?
  5. Are you experiencing pain anywhere?
  6. How is your body feeling? Does your stomach hurt ever?  Do you get headaches?  Do your teeth or anywhere in your mouth hurt?  Do you get leg aches?
  7. Are you getting enough healthy food?
  8. Are you getting enough sleep?
  9. Are you getting enough exercise?
  10. Teach: Can you see the correlation between your eating, sleeping, exercise and your enjoyment of learning and playing?  Teach the connection.
  11. Am I touching/hugging you often enough? Would you like me to rub your feet, massage your back?  Do you need to be held?  Do you need a hug?


  1. How are your friendships?
  2. How are your sibling relationships?
  3. How do you feel around groups of people? This ___________ (specific) group of people?
  4. What are your dreams?
  5. What do you see in your future? Six months? One year?  Five years? Ten years?  Twenty years?
  6. Is there anything you are afraid of?
  7. Is there anything you are worried about?
  8. What are you feeling now/lately?
  9. Do you feel joy or happiness about things?
  10. Do you feel shame for anything?
  11. Do you feel sadness for anything?
  12. Teach: you can always talk to me when you are upset or not sure how to feel. Do you feel like I am available?  A good listener?
  13. Teach: How to manage feelings, seek appropriate comfort measures.
  14. Teach: Prepare for new experiences.  Tell a story about children doing that same thing: A. Explain what they did.  Tell what they saw and felt.  C. Tell what their appropriate behavior was.
  15. What would you enjoy doing with me? As a family?
  16. Apologize for anything you have done wrong.
  17. Tell them you are working towards being a kinder, wiser parent. Ask for forgiveness and patience
  18. Be humble enough to allow your child to safely tell you when they feel hurt as a result of your inappropriate behavior. Don’t complain, explain, or blame it away.
  19. Teach: It is critical for children to know that they do not own the responsibility of making sure their parents are happy and well behaved.  It is not the children’s role to prevent bad parenting behavior by being good children.  It is the children’s role to do their best to learn and practice good behavior for its own sake, and for the development of good character – not to avoid punishment and a parent’s wrath.
  20. What have you accomplished? How can we celebrate it as a family?


  1. What are your core values? Teach what a core value is.  They change and adapt as we learn and grow.
  2. Share personal and other stories to increase faith, hope and kindness for others.
  3. What choices are you making? What choices will you be making in the future – near and distant?  Give counsel and direction on those choices.
  4. What are you experiencing as an ______ year old?
  5. What are your particular struggles?
  6. What strengths God has given you to help you with your struggles?
  7. What are you tempted by? Tell them about things you were tempted with at that age.  Teach ways to handle or resist the temptation.
  8. What lies does Satan tell you? What is the truth about those things?
  9. What do you believe about _____________? Share your testimony and listen to theirs.  Tell stories and experiences that help you to gain that belief or knowledge.

Thank you to Diann Jeppson, much of this content was gleaned from her Family Builder Handbook.

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