Instilling discipline is no easy feat for any parent. All children can be a handful even in the best of times, but what do you do when children have consistent behavior difficulties? How do you respond when your child is acting out? How can you be a better parent? What types of consequences are most appropriate when a child exhibits unacceptable behavior? These are all questions that many parents ask themselves, and oftentimes the answers don’t come easily. However, with the right tools and knowledge, parents can learn how to cope more easily with a difficult child.
Understand the root cause of the behavior
The first step to addressing challenging behavior from your child is to understand the root of the behavior. Oftentimes, parents may not realize that their child’s needs aren’t being met at home. Lack of sleep or food can lead to a child’s frustration and anger, which will cause them to lash out against adults, especially if the child views these adults as the cause. Be sure to assess the household situation carefully before punishing bad behavior too harshly.
Pick your battles
The key to handling difficult behavior from your child is deciding which battles are worth fighting. Try not to make every single thing your child does into an issue. Decide which behaviors matter most, especially those that can create negative repercussions when it comes to your child’s health and safety, as well as that of others. For example, if your child has a habit of hitting a sibling during a disagreement, this behavior is a no-no and therefore needs to be addressed immediately. If any of your child’s actions causes direct harm to himself, herself, or others, then you need to put a stop to that behavior.
Decide what types of consequences are warranted for each behavior
Another important strategy when it comes to handling difficult children is deciding when there should be consequences for certain behaviors. For example, if your child lies or steals from others, there needs to be a consequence that addresses those specific actions. Consider alternative consequences, such as writing sentences rather than timeouts, so your child can explore his or her feelings while completing an assigned task.
Listen before reacting
The way in which you respond to your child can depend on the behavior and circumstances. If your kid is throwing a temper tantrum or has picked a fight with you, it’s important to step away from whatever you’re doing in order to listen to your child calmly and without interruption. Try not to be too quick to judge. Keep your ears and heart open to what your child has to say. Ask what happened and pay close attention. Maintain eye contact and give your undivided attention.
Your child may have done something wrong, but it’s important to understand where he or she is coming from. Empathize. Make sure your child feels heard. This will give him or her the chance to vent and release anger without being judged or threatened with punishment. You can use a firm voice in order to make yourself clear if necessary, but don’t yell.
Another tip for handling difficult behavior is to offer your child options instead of imposing your own on him or her. The last thing you want is to make your child feel that you are trying to be controlling. Instead, you want to make him or her feel empowered. Otherwise, your little one may feel the need to become rebellious.
For example, you may ask your child to choose whether he or she would like to get dressed before or after eating breakfast. Or you may give the option to organize his or her books or toys first.
Rewards can be a great way to reinforce good behavior. Think of a way to reward your child’s good behavior with something he or she would like. If your child is behaving well during dinner and not throwing food, maybe you can allow him or her to have an extra treat or dessert later in the evening.
Parents need an arsenal of strategies at their disposal when dealing with difficult behavior from children so that each task doesn’t drain your energy every day. Employing these techniques will help ease frustration between parents and children, while also instilling discipline and better habits in kids.
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