Parenting is probably one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding, jobs we will ever have. Here our expert behavioral health professionals will provide tips on a variety of parenting topics. If you are experiencing difficulty with your child or teen we can help get you back on the right track. Give us a call today at 1-800-379-0553.
Dealing with a Difficult Child – Susan Okroglic, LCSW Clinical/Operations Director
Have you ever wished that your child came with an “instruction manual?” Along with the joys of parenting, also comes a fair share of frustration and difficulty. Here are a few tips to consider to help you and your child navigate the sometimes choppy waters of childhood and adolescence.
1. Set firm, clear boundaries. This may seem opposite to what you might think, but children really do crave structure. They need to know what the rules are, as well as the consequences for breaking them. It makes it difficult for a child to understand the expectations if the rules are inconsistent or always changing, or if the consequences aren’t enforced.
2. Set age-appropriate, logical consequences. A consequence that would be appropriate for a 6-year-old is not likely to be appropriate for a 16-year-old. Take “swats,” for example. It’s unlikely that this would be effective for a teenager as a type of discipline. Another point to consider is that consequences need to be logically connected to the child or teen’s misbehavior. A consequence for making a mess might be to add additional chores; however, it would make sense for this to be a consequence for a poor grade, or not completing homework.
3. Give choices. Consider how you’d feel if your boss constantly told you what to do, how to do it, and then got angry at you when you exercised any creativity at work. It’s likely that a child or teen may feel the same way when they are treated the same way. Yes, teens and children do need to learn how to work within rules, boundaries, and expectations, but sometimes letting a young child choose between the “red shirt” or the “blue shirt,” helps foster independence and decision making skills. Asking a teen for input regarding which chore they would like to help you with also gives them an opportunity to actively participate in decision making, and models respectful communication skills and teamwork.
4. Pick your battles. It’s often difficult to know when to hold your ground or when to let things slide. If something is dangerous, or might be damaging to your child’s character, then of course one should act. However, sometimes letting minor stuff go can help decrease your stress level. This is worth noting as children often respond to the emotional states of their parents.
5. Never stop telling them you love them! Younger children depend on the bond with their parents to learn how to relate to others. Children reap the benefits of a positive, healthy attachment to you over the course of a lifetime. Of course, your teen may roll his or her eyes, but deep down, teens still need to know you love and care for them also. When your teen feels secure that you care about them and love them for who they are (in spite of their flaws and all of those “teenage behaviors!”), this can foster self-confidence and self-worth.