Some moms and dads are lucky and have a youngster that is easy to discipline or that simply wants to please his parents. Then, there are moms and dads who have a youngster that never listens, does not like to please anyone except himself, and simply is out-of-control. These kids repeatedly test their parents and make the entire family crazy at times. But here's the good news: with a few simple techniques, parents can get even the most uncooperative child to "walk the line."
It’s hard to understand why your youngster refuses to listen to you. Also, it is difficult not to take it personally when she repeatedly does the things you ask her not to do. However, it is important to realize your youngster is not intentionally trying to make you feel like a bad parent. Instead, she is trying to find out what works for her. If she does not do what you ask her to do and you let her get away with it, then it is worth her disobeying to get what she wants. In fact, if you let her get away with it even half of the time - or just sometimes - this is enough for your youngster to challenge your authority and disobey you.
15 tips for parents on how to turn parent-child conflict into a win-win situation:
1. At the end of the day, remind your youngster that he is special and loved. Help him look for something good about the day that is finished and the day that lies ahead.
2. Brag about your child to others when your child is within earshot. For example, tell your wife, ‘”You should have seen Jeremy at the barbershop. He sat up so tall and answered all the barber’s questions.”
3. Give your youngster something to do that he can’t do while misbehaving. For example, “Help me pick out six apples” instead of running around the grocery store. It is a good idea to offer two positive alternatives that are incompatible with the inappropriate behavior: “Would you like to choose the oranges or select the cereal?”
4. Give your youngster two choices, both of which are positive and acceptable to you. When a youngster does something you don’t want him to do or doesn’t want to do what you have requested, give him a choice. For example, if your youngster balks about getting out of bed and ready for school, you say, “You may either get up or you go to bed an hour early tonight.” Then, “You choose, or I’ll choose” is the next choice if he is still reluctant. Usually, he’ll choose, but if not, follow through with the consequence that evening.
5. Instead of yelling, screaming or talking in a loud voice, surprise your youngster by lowering your voice to a whisper. This often evokes immediate attention and helps you stay in control and think more clearly. It’s our reactions to kid’s actions that teach them whether or not to repeat them. They’ll get your attention whichever way they can get it. Kids repeat the behavior that works.
6. Keep it simple. A parent should check frequently to make sure that the child is not overloaded with directions, expectations, and picky regulations. Not only does it make any child non-compliant, but also when surrounded by so many directions, a child will often forget what is expected.
7. Keep your eyes and mind on what is happening. Don’t wait until your youngster is out-of-control to step in. Remove him from the situation if necessary. Stay calm and emotionally detached. Let him know what his options are. Be firm but not mean.
8. Make a big deal over responsible, considerate, appropriate behavior with attention, thanks, praise, thumbs-up, recognition, hugs and special privileges. Kids want your eyeballs more than anything else, so you have to train yourself to look for the good behavior and look away when it is inappropriate (as long as it is not dangerous or destructive). If it is dangerous or destructive, you have to stop it in the least reinforcing way possible – quickly before it escalates.
9. Never embarrass your youngster in front of others. Always move to a private place to talk when there is a problem.
10. Set the rules together. This does not signify that a parent needs to comply with the wishes and demands of their children. Kids need an opportunity to tell their parents what they think and feel about the rules and regulations they are inclined to set. When this happens, kids are more likely to comply with the rules. When a child is asked what she feels about the rules or limits, the child usually feels that she has some sense of control of what is going on. When the child feels that she has some sense of control in a situation, the child is more willing to cooperate and comply. A good time to bring up the discussion of setting the home rules and setting the consequences would be during a family meeting where every member of the family is present.
11. Sometimes, simply use actions instead of words. Don’t say anything. When your youngster continues to get out of bed and comes to the living room, take him back to bed – as many times as it takes. Don’t get upset, talk, scold, threaten or give reasons. Stay calm. Your youngster will learn that nighttime is for sleeping and that you are serious about enforcing bedtime.
12. Tell your youngster to “take a break” and think about what he could do differently that would work better or be more constructive. Tell him that he can come back as soon as he is ready to try again. Put the ball in his court – and make him responsible for changing his behavior.
13. Children have learned that they don't have to cooperate right away. Most parents start off asking their children to do something nicely, and if they don't listen, parents ask a second time using a louder and firmer tone of voice, and then they escalate to threats, "If you don't start doing your homework right now, then you’re grounded tomorrow!" When begging, pleading and bribery fails, parents do what anyone in a state of desperation would do—they explode. They yell, rant and rave and dole-out consequences that are impossible to impose (e.g., "You’re grounded until you bring all your grades up to ‘C’ or above”). Children like to feel powerful, and seeing mom or dad pitch a fit is worth the consequences. Think in terms of teaching your children to listen instead of disciplining them for ignoring you. Teach children to listen using the A, B, C and D's:
A. Ask in a serious tone of voice
B. Be clear and specific
C. Communicate your request in 10 words or less
D. Don't make “not listening” an option
For example, if you ask your child to get ready for bed and he tunes you out, say, "Bedtime. Please, turn the television off." Don't walk away and hope he will do as he is told. Stay with him until it's done. Turn off the television yourself if needed, and just thank him for listening (reverse psychology here). Don't yell or threaten the child. Be creative. Getting ready for bed can be turned into a game, or you can give your child motivation to cooperate by saying, "Go get ready for bed and choose the book you want me to read." Be realistic. It will take time for your son or daughter to become better listeners, and it may very well take you time to learn to stay calm. In the meantime, be on the lookout for small improvements and make sure you praise your youngster for listening-up.
14. The best way to get our children to behave accordingly is to demonstrate the desired behavior ourselves. The three areas where role modeling is particularly helpful are as follows:
- BEING ACCOUNTABLE— How a child deals with accountability has a lot to do with how the parent deals with his own mistakes. The permissive parent will tend to hold themselves responsible and accountable for the mistakes of others. Autocratic parents will tend to point the finger, blame, and accuse others for their own mistakes. The democratic parent will tend to acknowledge that he or she made a mistake and finds a way to fix the error.
- BEING SOCIAL— As a parent, do we treat our children with courteous, dignity and respect, or do we treat them as if they were commodities? The way we talk and treat kids will determine the way they will respond and treat us. Do we dictate and command or request and ask that our children do what needs to be done? When a parent respects the rights, needs and wants for the child, the child will respect the rights, needs and wants of the parent. That is the way it works.
- BEING TIDY— We all want our children to be tidy and do their chores. Before we are able to demand tidiness from our kids, let us examine our own room. Do we demand that our children do their chores while there is laundry that requires to be done, dishes piled up in the sink, and clothes scattered everywhere in our own bedrooms?
15. Get the child's attention. Parents can reduce confusion and non-compliance by making sure that children are paying attention before giving instructions. To endure a child's attention, follow these steps:
- Precede every request by speaking the child's name.
- Get down to the child's level. The child will not feel inferior, but rather will feel as an equal because you have physically placed yourself at his or her physical level.
- Look into the child's eyes and speak directly to the child. The child will find it difficult to look elsewhere when someone has established eye contact.
- In some cases, it may be necessary to check the child's understanding by getting verification. A parent can ask, "Can you repeat to me what you need to do?"
My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents