How Can I Get My Child To Behave?

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.

How can I get my child to behave?The 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 grow up, you move from living in the realm of fantasy to one based in reality. Yet I have to say that as adults, many parents believe in 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 magical thinking out there. What is it?  It’s the idea that whatever behaviour problem you run into 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.

How can I get my child to behave? 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, “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.

When your family isn’t working, nothing else is—not your job, not your relationship, not your children—nothing. It’s all just chaos that you try to muddle through for as long as you can stand it. You read books to help. You turn to TV shows and parenting 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 away with a few tips and time. Instead, it should tell them that it’s the same as your child standing outside in the pouring rain, shivering and cold, ringing the doorbell while you keep the door firmly shut 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, you shouldn’t apply parenting 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.

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 5 feet, 8 inches or 6 feet, 2 inches, 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 you can afford to waste your time and theirs with tips. You know what I’d say.

What’s your parenting style?  Check out this article where Annie the Nanny talks about the consequences of various parenting styles.

Do you ever wonder about the power of the words you choose to use as a parent?  Here Annie the Nanny talks about parenting sentences to avoid.

Did you know Annie the Nanny has been on Calgary Morning CTV shows for a long time.  Here’s one clip where she talks about the power of choice.

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