JCAC's Blog, Serving the Community


Defiance... or Is This Your Child's Way of Asking For Help?

By Erica Gregory, LMFT

Defiance? Or Is My Child Struggling?

Our world is in crisis. You can feel it, and so can your child. Remind yourself of that when your child is acting out more than usual, acts cranky, or talking back. It is hard to balance flexibility with emotion and maintaining healthy structure and boundaries.

The goal parenting is to raise children to be responsible adults

and in times like these it increases in difficulty. When your child acts poorly, it is important to know if they are struggling with emotion or if they are acting out to get away with something. Knowing which it is and learning how to read your child will give you confidence that your redirection will help them rather than break them down.

How to react to…

Struggling with Emotion: slow everything down, help them feel, help them calm, discuss the problem behavior after emotion was nurtured

Acting out: Clear firm boundary, “you choose” language, consequence that naturally relates to the transgression

Don't Worry.... I give examples of each below!

How You Can Tell the Difference

Acting out:

Whiny voice that is clearly different than when they are sad/hurt/angry, it is something you know they want to get, or get out of doing. When they have a deviant look on their face. You can feel that the emotion is not overwhelming for them. When it is emotional, you feel it too.


They are tired, hungry, or experiencing a change in schedule. They react by going into the fetal position, they cry and cannot stop, they have explosive anger and cannot stop, when they act younger than their age. After experiencing the emotion, they are worn out. They typically feel guilty, but may not tell you that. They may be quiet for a long time because they do not know how to talk about their feelings.

Ask Yourself....

1) Try to think of an example of your child trying to manipulate out of a situation (eating their veggies for example)

2) Now think about an example in which your child reacted emotionally and seemed exhausted later

3) Each child is unique in how they express their emotion.

Learning your child’s cues is key!

Here are Some Examples...

Clear firm boundary with you choose language:

“If you choose to not eat your veggies, then you choose to lose ice cream.”

Slowing things down:

“I see how upset you are, lets sit down together”… Hugging them, sitting with them until they are calm…. “I am here…” “I know this is hard…”

Discussing the behavior after a calm down:

Avoid asking “did you ____” when you know for a fact they did. Do not set them up to lie. Also, do not ask to talk about it “Can we talk now.”

Rather: “Remember when you _____, let’s take a minute to talk about it. I know that was hard when _____. I saw how upset you were, and I saw you react by ______. I understand you were upset, but that behavior is not okay. When you are upset, it is okay to…. (Hit your pillow, stomp your feet, go into another room, etc.)

If you need more help reading your child or you worry that your child is constantly reacting to emotion, we are here to help! We can assess your child using play therapy, we offer parenting support, and we can bring it together with family therapy.

Click here to schedule a time to talk with a counselor!

Click Here to learn how Play Therapy can help children

Click Here to learn more about Erica


Johns Creek and Alpharetta Counseling (#JCAC) is a warm and family orientated counseling practice in Alpharetta, Ga. We offer online counseling services in the states of Georgia and Florida. We offer in-office counseling service at our Alpharetta office which is conveniently located to serve Johns Creek, Milton, Roswell, and Cumming, Ga.

The JCAC Counselors specialize in counseling services throughout the lifespan! We offer play therapy, counseling for children, parental support, adolescent counseling, mental health services, couples counseling, premarital therapy, and individual counseling for adults.

To learn more about our practice, click here!

#JCAC #Anxiety #Depression #Couples #Adolescents #PlayTherapy #Premarital #MentalHealth #Counseling #OnlineCounseling #Alpharetta #JohnsCreek