Ten-year-old Jonny is having an out-of-body-experience melt down, and you are his #1 target, absorbing the full impact of all his emotion. Sometimes, being a parent stinks (and not just when you change diapers). How do you deal with the negative behavior positively without being sucked into having your own tantrum or lashing out at your child? Here are 5 ways to engage more positively.
1. Trigger Awareness –There are certain triggers that may set off a child like hunger, a lack of sleep, overstimulation (think video-game gorging), feeling lonely or frustrated. Now, add a parent’s trigger– let’s say whining–to the interpersonal-communication mix, and the exchange could be quite negative. Knowledge of both self and child equips us with the ability to think through negative behavior and potential resolutions. A basic understanding of triggers allows a logical connection to the cause of a negative behavior.
2. Prevention – Now that there is an understanding of the cause for negative behavior, like a lack of sleep–which is the case for two children and one parent in my house–we need to adopt practices that will either evade triggers or build critical thinking skills to work through triggers that are unavoidable. This may mean adjusting bedtime hours. An earlier bedtime for the child (or parent) may be the difference between a pleasant day or one filled with outbursts, defiance, and the inability to focus. If there is complete knowledge of a trigger, yet, as parents, we do not take preventive measures, then we should brace ourselves with empathy for what will come. If we continue to ignore preventive measures then we have set up the child for negative behavior.
3. Discipline – This, of course, is always a prickly subject, but let us define discipline as loving correction, in that children need to be directed and corrected in order to be equipped for their adult lives. I’m not advocating control or micromanagement, or worse, nagging. When we, as parents, take time to let Jonny know the way to behave appropriately or to take care of himself, then we have shown an interest in our child. A child lacking parental discipline will present with issues of self-control and personal discipline, in both childhood and adulthood.
4. Reinforcements –– Know when you may need some help understanding and dealing with your child’s behavior. Relatives, good friends, teachers, or, if needed, professional counselors, can be worth their weight in gold if they help make your job as a parent easier. I remember taking a parenting workshop with a friend entitled, “How to make your child mind, without losing yours.” The information and practical tips I picked up then, I still use today. I would have otherwise been unaware of these techniques, had I not attended that workshop. There is no shame in seeking guidance. None of us have all of the answers, but as a collective group of parents and professionals, solid advice and counseling can allow us to parent in a more positive and joyful way.
5. Consistency –– In order for #1 through #4 to work, we need to adhere to the same course of action. Regularly evaluating what may elicit certain behaviors. The triggers of today will not necessarily be the ones of tomorrow, and the moment we bend or break the rules of discipline, is the moment we will have to start from scratch.
Give some thought to at least one strategy that you can reap the benefits from. Remember, we all stumble as parents but we need to encourage ourselves and each other often. We will never regret the effort nor time we dedicate to our children.
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