You as a parent are probably trying every method that you know, and are giving your best in the process of raising your children. Still, they keep surprising you with some actions that you consider unacceptable.
For example, they kick another child, use mean words to adults, or keep screaming at the store because you didn’t buy the cookie they want. Although your children know that this behavior is not tolerated, they keep repeating it, and now you wonder where you went wrong.
It is good for you to know that you are not alone. So many parents deal with the same kind of issues. The founder of Positive-Parents.org, Rebecca Eanes, made a study with over nine thousand parents who described different intolerable behaviors their children manifested.
Connecting the results from her study together with other experts’ advice, here are some solutions to three common problems that parents face: aggression, tantrums, and backtalk.
How to deal with your child’s aggression
You probably feel so bad when you see your child hurting someone else. Pretty often, the first reaction is to deal with this problem using verbal or non-verbal violence. According to traditional discipline, children who hit others should be hit themselves. However, this is not the best solution, because this way the child will learn that hitting out of anger is normal.
This will reinforce the fight-or-flight state, in which the child cannot properly examine his/her behavior and its consequences, therefore cannot learn and improve next time.
So what you should do instead of punishing your child?
Listen carefully with empathy. Ask your child why he/she kicked the other child and let him/her answer you. Explain that you understand the reason why he/she felt hurt, angry, or disappointed, but also emphasize that kicking is impermissible behavior. Then, discuss some non-violent ways that these feelings can be expressed and handled.
Set firm limits. Tell your child which consequences he/she must suffer if the aggressive behavior repeats. Be clear, specific, and follow through constantly. Your actions must prove your words. Don’t say that you will punish your child, and then do nothing, or simply ignore the problem.
This will teach your child that he/she should not be afraid of your rules because they are just empty threats. Your inconsistency will encourage your child to manipulate you easily.
How to manage tantrums effectively
Tantrums are not a way to manipulate others. Children usually deal with emotions that are so overwhelming for them that they cannot understand or express. A temper tantrum is a way how they deal with difficult emotions. But, children will soon learn to use this behavior to control you as a parent, if you react every time he/she throws a tantrum.
Don’t allow this to happen. First, you should understand that tantrums are involuntary, therefore they are inevitable. Children’s prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for regulating emotions and social behavior, is not fully developed. This means that you cannot prevent tantrums, but you need to learn and apply effective management techniques that vary from child to child.
The best technique for managing tantrums is to ignore them or to actively empathize with your child, try to calm him/her down, and work through his/her feelings. Which one works better with your child, you should find out by yourself. Different children exhibit different tantrums, so you can approach each one appropriately.
What can you do when your child shows problematic backtalk?
First, you should try to make a difference between problematic backtalk and a reasonable complaint. Teach your child to speak about his/her conflicts openly with respect, and not behind the back. This way he/she will learn that talking back with disrespect is not the only option to be heard. So, when your child has a problem with you, listen respectfully. Do not shut him/her down to avoid conflict or prove your authority.
Set clear boundaries
Show your child how to use a calm tone and respectful language when he/she wants to speak about something unfair. Explain to him/her that although you listen carefully, he/she may still not get his/her way. When these rules are broken, end the conversation by stating that you are not open to talking about these issues because he/she uses inconsiderate language.
Every child is different, so don’t beat yourself up when you do something wrong. Perfect parents don’t exist, so just make sure you give your best.