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Parenting: When Nothing Works

As parents, we want what is best for our children. We work diligently to ensure their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. We strive to teach them right from wrong and we protect them as best we can from harm. However, sometimes our children seem determined to challenge every attempt we make towards helping them grow into responsible adults. They try to defy authority, speak inappropriately, refuse to cooperate in school, and just seem to be determined to make everyone around them miserable. When a child becomes this rebellious what is a parent to do? Below are several suggestions that may work when nothing else seems to.

  • Define what you are trying to accomplish: Discipline is about teaching, not punishment. Remind yourself frequently that a parent’s job is to teach children HOW to behave. They already know how to misbehave and constant punishment will soon lose its desired affect.
  • Write down your expectations: Make yourself a list of behaviors you want your child to learn that are appropriate for his age and stage of development. Look at the ’big picture’ and not at every infraction. Think in terms of respect, self-control, responsibility, and kindness.
  • Talk regularly with your child about your expectations: Tell your child clearly and firmly in appropriate tones what behaviors you want to see and praise them when they appear. Oftentimes we become accustomed to expecting the negative in our children that we miss the good when it happens. Even the smallest movement in the right direction should be noticed and voiced.
  • Being Vague: Sometimes it helps to avoid setting down firm consequences for a rule infraction. For example, “If you do not come home on time you will not go out tomorrow night.” Your child may weigh the consequences and decide the punishment is worth it. If you notice this, be vague in your stated consequence. When asked “what happens if I don’t…” state, “I will do whatever is necessary to demonstrate to you how serious I am about this ”
  • Refuse to argue: It is very difficult when a child is yelling and screaming not to get angry and scream back. It is essential, however, that you practice extreme self-control and state calmly but firmly that you will not discuss anything until things have calmed down. Walk away from your child. If they follow, close yourself off behind a locked door for a moment until you regain your cool. Remember! Always be sure your child will be safe when not in sight.
  • Get Support: Team up with neighbors, teachers, extended family members, and friends to give kids consistent messages about boundaries and in reinforcing those boundaries. You will have a much easier time convincing your child to act in a certain way if most people are backing you up and giving the same message.
  • Seek out a mentor: Find other caring, trusted, responsible adults for your child to connect with and spend time. A mentor can provide guidance, motivation, emotional support, and role modeling.
  • Professional Help: If your child’s behaviors include self-harm, harm against others, drug or alcohol abuse, or criminal acts, seek out professional help immediately. Call the guidance counselor at your child’s school, your pediatrician for a referral to a child psychologist or contact your local mental health center for help. These serious behaviors require serious attention. As you need to talk or find assistance with referral information, contact PAL at 1-866-962-3030
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