How Can I Get My Child To Behave?

Posted by on Aug 2, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments
Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

Get your parenting advice questions answered at Annie´s Advice Column
Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

Behaviour Strategies That WorkThe Key To Making a Real Parenting Plan – Understanding Reality

If you’re dealing with multiple temper tantrums and challenging behaviour and you’re asking, how can I get my child to behave, then I have a question for you.  Firstly, do you believe in magic?  Do you think gnomes live under trees in your yard?  Do you think the tooth fairy cavorts at your window in a pretty pink dress?  Probably not, right?  You’re an adult and if you believed in those things you’d look a bit silly because society expects that as you grew up you moved from living in the realm of fantasy to one based in reality.  Yet I have to say that as adults, many parents believe in the magical thinking just as much now as they ever did when they hid their tooth under their pillow.

What I’m talking about is the unquestioning way many parents accept the largest piece of parental magical thinking out there.  What is it?  It’s the idea that whatever behaviour problem you run in to as a parent can be cured by the application of a few well placed ‘parenting tips.’   Now first understand that I’m not talking about the odd problem, such as your two year old turning up her nose over a grilled cheese sandwich or having a periodic meltdown in the store, where a tip can help.  I’m talking about the kind of consistent issues with your children that make you want to get in your car and keep driving.  

Just a Few Tips and All Will Be Perfect! – Or Will It?

It’s behaviour problems that feature that kind of exhaustion and feeling of hopelessness that happen to far more people than you would think, yet sadly many take far too long to recognize it because our culture has conditioned them to think that these behaviours are normal or a ‘stage’ and will pass with time.  They encourage parents to think that by applying a few tips here and there, their problems will magically disappear.  I know this because it’s something I see play out in practice all the time.  

If you’re a parent struggling with your child’s behaviour problems and you’ve asked that question, of how do I help my child to behave better, I know it’s hard to admit things aren’t working and ask for help and I quite understand why a parent would feel sensitive.  Our culture is very unforgiving and even though we espouse support for our fellow human beings, reality often doesn’t match our expectations.

The trouble is when your family isn’t working, then nothing is working, not your job, not your relationship, not your kids, nothing.  It’s all just chaos that you try and muddle through with as long as you can stand it.  You read books to help.  You turn to TV shows and gurus and you long for the parenting tip that can make it all go away.

But you see tips don’t make anything go away and it makes me sad to work in a culture that encourages parents to see chronic bad behaviour as a stage that will go with a few tips and time.  Instead, it should be telling them that it’s the equivalent of your child, standing out in the pouring rain, shivering and cold, ringing the door bell, whilst you keep the door firmly closed in front of them.

True Relief Is Possible…

That’s because when your children behave badly in a consistent way they are sending you a message.  It’s a call to action.  But just as you wouldn’t apply a bandaid to a gushing artery burst, so you shouldn’t apply tips to your parenting problem because they simply won’t give you the answers or the relief you’re looking for.

You need to see the bigger picture. Why are they doing what they’re doing?  What is wrong?  Don’t stop with the question, how can I get my child to behave?  See that as the message they are trying to send.  If you can’t see that by yourself, then you need to find someone who can help you.

Then once you have a parenting plan in hand, act.  The younger a child is, the easier it is to create positive lasting change.  The earlier you start, the more likely it is that your kids will begin a new way of doing things and forget you ever had an issue.  If you don’t know where to look, here’s one option  for behaviour intervention that works.  If, and only if you act, one day they’ll look down at you at 5ft, 8 or 6ft, 2 and you’ll see you created, a solid, emotionally balanced person ready to face life on their own terms and you’ll be proud.

It’s hard to truly realize because time almost seems to stand still when your kids are little, but everyone grows up.  Eventually they’ll reach adulthood with or without the right intervention and guidance.  If you feel like burying your head in a pillow after a day with your kids, stop searching for answers.  Ask the question.  Ask yourself whether can you afford to waste your time and theirs with tips? You know what I’d say.

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