Children’s behaviour can be challenging
Do your children drive you mad? Do they squabble, throw tantrums, too much screen time and generally make your life difficult? These are normal family challenges but to deal with them effectively requires a new approach. There are two main reasons for problem behaviour; a feeling of not being loved enough and low self esteem.
The cause of children’s challenging behaviours is usually found in relationships; and the cure is relationships. Your child may need to feel loved, valued and accepted.
See the behaviour as an unconscious cry out from the child for you to see their turmoil and respond. Try to see the purpose of the behaviour. Therefore, rather than punish, when we look behind the behaviour we are more likely to get resolution. Punishment may just close off the only way your child has of communicating their difficulty to us.
Your child is not trying to make life difficult for you; rather they are showing you how difficult life is for them.
We create the home environment in which our child will feel safe to express what is going on for him/her. Do you physically punish the child? If you do, the child will not feel safe to open up.
Your child is 100% dependent on your love and approval and the withdrawal of love is their greatest threat. All human problems come from a lack of love; therefore it is essential to separate your child from their behaviour.
Finally, believing in your child’s vast potential and intelligence ensures they feel capable and competent.
Responding effectively: Separate the child from the behaviour: “I love you, but will not accept that behaviour”. Use ‘I’ messages: ‘I feel upset when….’ not ‘you bold boy!’ Stay calm, keep eye contact and do not get into conflict.
Seek first to understand; then to be understood. Talk ‘with’ not ‘at’ your child. Leave the room, if you are going to ‘lose it’. Do not break relationship with your child.
If all behaviour makes sense, what’s happening for my child? What is my child trying to draw my attention to? Why is this behaviour happening? What is going on for my child? Who is it happening with? When is it happening? Where is it happening? What is taking place?
Look at yourself: Ask yourself: How do I interact with him generally? What interaction did I have today:’ Time to get up! Pick up your stuff…Look at this mess.’etc. Did I have any positive interaction with my child? Did I treat him with respect? Did I affirm him not for what he does, but who he is?
The major cause of children’s problems is how their parents relate to them. When parents are dominating, controlling, hypercritical or neglectful, children become tremendously insecure and will manifest their feeling of rejection through their behaviour. A persons behaviour is a mirror of their story.
Look at how you respond to your child’s challenging behaviour – it may even be more challenging than the child’s behaviour! Remember you are a role model for your child, be a positive one!
Do not jeopardise your relationship with your child in responding to the child’s difficult behaviour. Children are not their challenging behaviours.
- Unconditionally love your child, just for himself, not for what he does.
- A problem behaviour that is ignored will decrease over time.
- A behaviour that is noticed will increase: ‘I notice you are….’
- Catch the child being good, not bad!
- Request respectfully, don’t order, and command (‘Bed, Now’!)
- Parent using love, not laws and be flexible.
- Settle for less than perfection, they are children after all!
When your child deserves your love the least, they need your love the most. Love heals.
Sheila O’Malley trained with Dr Tony Humphreys as a Parent mentor and wrote this article. She established Practical Parenting, in response to parents need for training and support, web: www.practicalparenting.ie
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