Dealing with Challenging Children
Strong willed, active children can become "problem children" when their parents run out of the energy and patience needed to deal with their behaviors. All children can be difficult at times, but some are more challenging than others.
Unfortunately, there isn't any "magic method" of discipline that can guarantee well behaved, responsible children. Neither is there any way to avoid the stress and frustration that can occur when parents and children have conflicting ideas about rules and expectations. However, there are some things parents can do to encourage responsible behavior and to reduce stress for everyone. Following are some Do's and Don'ts for parenting challenging children.
- Do use good basic parenting skills
- Set reasonable rules and consequences,
- Make sure children understand the rules and what is expected, and
- Follow through consistently with consequences.
- Do involve children in establishing rules and consequences, when possible. Ask them to help solve problems together. Children are more likely to follow rules and cooperate with decisions they helped make.
- Do write down the rules and consequences. A written list of rules and consequences helps eliminate arguments. Be specific - for example, "Be home by 8:00", not "Be home before dark."
- Do explain the reasons for rules. Even though children may not agree with you, it's important for them to know why you feel the rules are important.
- Do let children know that their feelings and opinions are valued. Children need to feel important and accepted.
- Don't get into power struggles. Don't ask children "yes" or "no" questions. Give them choices. For example, "Do you want to do the dishes or take out the trash?"
- Look for and notice "good" behavior. Let children know when they are doing well. Give them compliments and praise. It will increase the chance of them repeating "good" behaviors.
- Do be aware of, and in control of your own feelings. You can't teach a child self-control or discipline if you are not in control yourself. Don't discipline when you are angry. Take a "time-out" to cool down before dealing with problems.
- Don't take your child's misbehavior personally. Remember, children behave or misbehave in order to meet their own needs for attention, acceptance, control, etc. Help them find more acceptable ways of meeting their needs. Talking parenting problems over with friends, other parents, teachers, counselors, etc. can be a good way to relieve stress and get helpful suggestions for specific problems. It's also important for parents to take a break and relax occasionally. It's much easier to find positives in life when you're not stressed out.
For more information on dealing with challenging children, or for other information or comments, call the Trinity Adolescent Program at (515) 574-6596.
This article was written by Pam Lehman, a counselor with the Trinity Recovery Center at Trinity Regional Hospital. Pam has a Master of Science degree in counseling.
Reprinted with the permission of the Community Action Network. © Community Action Network, All Rights Reserved.
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