When children push back, they may not be trying to make their parents lives miserable, but it does get them some immediate attention, even if it is the wrong kind. If your child is acting out, there is probably a reason behind it, whether its attention seeking, boundary testing, academic or social frustrations. More often than not, if we take the time to really dig into the reason behind the behavior, we can find a cause and much needed healthy solution.
If you are struggling as a parent, here are some techniques that may be helpful to try:
Having family meetings to discuss family rules is key, this gives children a chance to hear what behaviors are allowed and what are not, as well as what consequences may be given. In this setting the child hears about it before it happens, so there is time to ask questions and provide clarity with everyone being on the same page.
Is what just happened truly worth your time and energy or is it something minor that doesn’t break the rules? If so, let it go. Knit picking over every little thing wrong will not only exhaust you, but it isn’t fair to anyone that is human. Let your child be a child.
When your child is defiant, don’t yell and freak out, stay calm and tell your child that you don’t tolerate that behavior and will handle it at a later time while removing them from the situation. This will get your child thinking about what they did and what consequence may happen later. It will also provoke a sense of fear over the consequence, which is okay because it teaches your child that when they make a bad choice, a consequence will follow and is enforced by someone of authority. This method will not only help you to keep your cool and think things through, but it will also calm down your child.
When it’s time for your child to explain their side of the story, let them speak and just listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t get into an argument. Listen to what they say. Take a moment when they finish, thank them for their side and let them know that you listened, will think about what they have said and that you will respond to them later. Teach your child to do the same, when you listen to learn, you will really hear what your child is saying. If you listen and instantly react, your emotions may be getting the best of you, which can escalate the situation quickly.
Make sure that whatever you choose, it is appropriate for that child’s level of understanding. Generally, there are two types of consequences, removing something or what some parents like to call community service. Examples of removals are taking toys away, limiting electronic time, cancelling an activity or using a time out. Examples of community service are putting their own money in a “fine” jar, doing extra chores, having to run errands, etc. Make sure you always follow through! A rule and consequence chart is a great idea to keep everyone on track.
Engaging in arguments or power struggles with your child gives them more power than you in the overall situation, which just enforces their perception that is it okay to challenge an adult. Learn where to stop an argument before it happens by exposing it, ending it, and walking away. When you leave, you take all the power with you vs when you engage and give your control away.
Consistency is key!!! No repeat chances, bad behaviors have consequences, period. This teaches your child that you are serious, they won’t get away with it. There is no bargaining, no continuing to play, no treats and no bribing for better behavior. This means you many need to leave in the middle of something that was planned. Do not enable poor behavior by doing these things that give your child total control.
Notice the good things and compliment often. Praise good behaviors, reward cooperative attitudes, give positive enforcement. This should be done 90% of the time while stating negative is done only 10%.
Take quiet moments, car rides, dinner time, before bedtime, etc to talk with your children about each of your roles. Let them know that you are their parent who loves them and is in charge of their safety and well-being. It is your job to help them grow into responsible adults who are productive and self-reliant. You want them to be happy and that rules and values are an important part of every person and relationship.
Sometimes this behavior can be more serious than normal, this is when an emotional issue may come into play and a second opinion is necessary. Seek out your family physician, counselor or mental health worker to aid in figuring out what may be going on.