It’s all too easy to get caught up in comparisons. But the truth is, every child has their own unique temperament. Even relatively well-behaved children in the most loving homes go through difficult stages! If you’re having trouble parenting a difficult child, know that you’re not alone. You may want to try out some of these techniques when you’re facing parenting challenges.
Seek Out the Root Cause
First, if your child’s behavior is frustrating you, it’s important to seek out the root cause. Your child might be dealing with an undiagnosed mental health condition, such as anxiety or ADHD, that is causing them to act out. They may be having trouble at school that they haven’t opened up to you about. If your family has gone through any major lifestyle changes recently, your child might be figuring out how to adjust to your new circumstances.
Think about what could be influencing your child’s behavior, and see if you can take steps to address this issue. If you’re coming up short on ideas, it might be just a phase. But in the meantime, you may benefit from getting in touch with a therapist who works with children.
Listen and Validate Emotions
When your child acts out, they’re experiencing big emotions that they don’t know how to handle in a healthy way. At times like this, they’re looking to you to listen to them and validate those emotions. Even if your child isn’t young enough to fully express themselves, it’s important to listen. Sometimes, you might feel like your patience is running out – but even if you have to step away for a few minutes to cool off, take some time to talk to your child once you’ve both calmed down.
Validating your child’s emotions does not endorse all of their behavior. You can still take the time to explain why certain behaviors are hurtful or inappropriate while letting your child know that you understand why they feel the way they do. You can discuss how, although we don’t control our emotions, we can learn to control how we handle them.
Set and Maintain Boundaries
Yes, it’s important to listen and support your child when they’re upset. But this does not mean that you have to eschew disciplinary measures when your child is acting out. Setting clear boundaries can help your child understand how their actions affect other people.
Think about your child’s typical behavioral patterns and determine appropriate disciplinary responses. Explain to your child clearly why crossing certain boundaries isn’t okay, and try to keep these explanations age-appropriate.
Reward Good Behavior
Even if your child has been difficult lately, they probably have good days and bad days. On good days, make sure to clearly reward their positive behavior. When they start to notice certain patterns, and how your positive or negative responses follow their behaviors, they may start to connect actions and consequences.
Right now, you might be focused on trying to punish negative behavior in order to discourage your child from engaging in it, but rewarding positive behavior is more important. Your child needs to learn what good behavior looks like in action – not just what you don’t want them to do.
Are you struggling to parent your difficult child? Working with a therapist can help. Reach out to us today to discuss your options for scheduling your first session.