How to work with children with behaviour issues
Monday, 20 April 2015
The call it the "terrible twos." That period when parents first see a child's attempt at autonomy. While a child may show signs of temperament earlier, it is not until they are between 20 and 24 months that their acts are deliberate. A battle of wills can begin as the child attempts to exert their authority. This can last well into their teens.
The level of resistant behavior will vary, but children will be rebellious, headstrong, frustrating, negative, argumentative, stubborn and more. Parents have to find ways to cleverly and creatively respond to such behaviors.
Stop openly reacting to the child's behavior in negative manners. Try looking at it as a healthy sign of development. Starting at two and at different intervals over the years, the child will aim to individuate from family and surroundings. They will test their power, make decisions for themselves and enforce their wishes on persons and situations.
Avoid overpowering the child with authority. They will only react by flight or fight. This will lead to either constant challenge of authority or a tendency to give control to others. Find ways to reduce the struggle, creating cooperative relationships so that the child values authority without feeling powerless.
Making Choices, Not Giving Orders
Power struggles can often be side-stepped by giving the child the opportunity to make decisions with your cooperation. Make sure when doing this, the choices are reasonable. Do not give a child the choice of sitting quietly or leaving the movie if you do not intend to follow through. Avoid autocratic options. Do not include a punishment: "Be still or take a time out." It won't be easy to balance this technique. Speaking with a professional with a master’s degree applied behavior analysis could be helpful.
At some point, every parent has to let a child make a decision. Try to see a child's refusal to do something as a disagreement instead of a disrespectful act that could lead to argument. Remember, you are going to want your child to respectfully and appropriately disagree throughout their lives. Parents need to carefully build their sense of empowerment. It will be invaluable as the child faces challenges like peer pressure.
Certain behaviors in children - like bullying and substance abuse - often stem from a feeling of powerlessness. In other cases, a sense of too much power can result in reckless and hurtful behavior toward others. We as parents have to find ways to balance a child's thinking to minimize both scenarios.