Behavioral Management Strategies for Empowered Children

How often do you feel you are being punished more than your child when it comes to giving consequences? Often, rude and disruptive behavior escalates after consequences are given, and you might ask yourself if it was worth it? The Total Transformation Program” founded by James and Janet Lehman, which can be purchased online, is especially helpful for parents struggling with their child’s difficult and sometimes aberrant behavior.   These experts in the field of child development and psychology, underscore the importance of all children needing to learn to be accountable for their actions, no matter what age. They state that it is up to you (the parents) to create a climate of accountability in the home and in the community. Unfortunately, it is my experience that some parents try to justify inappropriate behavior, and tend to blame it on the child’s friends or teachers as being the bad influence.

Based on working with scores of parents through my years as a high school teacher, I am of the opinion that some parents use ineffective strategies to help their child. I sometimes hear about or see parents “looking the other way” when their child is behaving disgracefully, or is abusive and disrespectful to them or others. There are times when parents may underreact to a child’s weaknesses by refusing to recognize them. Thankfully, this type of parent is in the minority.

I’ve worked with many parents who think inappropriate behavior is just a passing phase related to age, and the child will eventually settle down.   Some parents are in denial of the behavior because it is a frightening situation to realize your child just can’t cope. Sometimes parents are even afraid of their own children. You might be afraid of his failures and think, what if I don’t know how to help him? Or, you may even be thinking, what if I pass my failures on to him? Often, the parent will become the enabler when they take total responsibility for solving the child’s problems.   If you recognize yourself in any of these statements, please know that, first and foremost, you should never allow abusive or disrespectful behavior and never make excuses for it.   If you are subjected to abusive behavior on a regular basis, you may have become so accustomed to it, you “let it ride”. That is not a way to help your child. If your child is failing in an area, there are steps you can take to help him. A couple of steps may include:

1- Accurately define the failure and explain to him/her exactly what it is. Perhaps it is his impulsive behavior like not thinking before acting, or maybe it’s laziness, ungratefulness, or emotional immaturity.

2-  Accept your child fully, and don’t withhold affection because of inappropriateness and belligerent behavior. Withholding affection won’t help, but at the same time boundaries and consequences need to be established for intolerable behavior, including abuse and disrespect. You can state something like this: “You may not abuse your sister or call me names. You may not abuse anyone verbally or physically.” Then, you need to defuse the situation by taking the power out of the abusive behavior so it becomes an ineffective tool for the child. Give the child the ground rules, and tell him the consequences for breaking the rules. Yes, he may balk at first, and get angry. Always use an unemotional tone. You can listen compassionately and continue to invest in your child no matter what. Your child needs to feel/know he is accepted even though he hasn’t met your expectations. You also need to give your child the tools to help himself so he doesn’t explode. This can be as simple as suggesting he count to 10 in his head (model this) before he says anything. Or, when he feels like he’s about to explode, have him give you a signal that he needs to go into his room for 10 minutes to cool off and maybe listen to music before resuming the conversation.

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