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6 Steps to Improving your Child's Behaviour

07/11/2012 09:01

A client of mine, Liz came to see me about ways of dealing with her 12 year old son and 15 year old daughter whose behaviour had got so out of her control, the family home had become a virtual warzone with constant petty arguments. She felt like the mediator of the family, trying to keep a lid on it all, though at the same time, would lose her temper when she became overwhelmed by the situation. 

Like Liz, many parents find keeping a balance of creating enough discipline whilst keeping a happy, relaxed atmosphere at home a challenge, especially when their children reach adolescence and this balance can be tipped.  With Liz, learning the strategies and parenting skills to improve communication between family members and enabled her to achieve more cooperation rather than conflict and also regain a sense of enjoyment in family life again.

Here’s 6 steps to creating that change:

1.    Challenge your Reaction to your Child. Children usually react because they are unhappy, angry or scared though instead of verbalising it, they act it out. Before you react to them, question why they might be behaving that way- is it because they’re bored, hungry, tired? Then ask how am I feeling? Sometimes a child is reacting to our moods or we are perceiving their behaviour differently because we’ve had a bad day. Realise that there may be another way to deal with it.

2.    Be prepared to Listen and listen again. Active listening involves having eye contact and giving your child your full attention and letting them know you understand their point of view by repeating back what they’ve said and nodding. Sometimes this is enough for a child to feel like their voice is being heard.

3.    Give enough Praise.  The classic praising good behaviour and not acknowledging the bad is often used by parents though inconsistently.  The more you communicate positives to them and thank them for good behaviour, the more you are giving them evidence that this works. For younger children, the use of a behaviour chart with rewards can help begin this process.

4.    Curb Arguments.  Going into an oppositional position with your child and trying to gain authority often ends in more arguments and anger. Using a technique whereby you make a request that if you want them to do something, you give them a touch on the arm and say : ‘I’d like you to get ready for dinner in 15 minutes, please finish your homework and wash your hands.’ Get them to repeat it back to you and check they understand. Remain calm in your tone and get them to repeat back the request after 5 minutes. Remember, children reflect your state so keep your cool.

5.     Address Your own Needs.  If you’re feeling drained by all the arguments and feel your cup is empty, you need to redress the balance. It isn’t selfish looking after your own needs and ensures you stay healthy on all levels. Start by doing something nice for yourself each day- reading a book, doing a yoga class or going out for a meal with your partner are all things that help put energy back in that cup and are necessary for your own wellbeing.  If stress is something you struggle with on a daily basis, you might also consider seeing a coach or Therapist to look at the deeper issues that are keeping you stuck

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