I hear many parents say: “we have tried everything and nothing works or gets through to our kid”. Children may be acting out and it feels like you have lost control. The truth is, most of the time there is nothing wrong with you or your kids; There are just a couple things that you can do to change the patterns in your home for the better.
Kids need to feel safe and loved. To get to that goal, kids need to know you are in control and that you are communicating with them. The key to these attributes is 1) staying calm 2) having healthy and consistent boundaries and consequences 3) while verbally affirming them.
The importance of Tone. If your child crosses a boundary, it is important to not get angry and be reactive. Maintaining a calm tone while enforcing consequences lets kids know that you love them, and that you are enforcing a consequence for their benefit. An example of a healthy reaction to a crossed boundary might be “I love you and am not angry with you. You crossed a boundary that is set to help you have a great life. We have to have a consequence to help you, but once it is done it’s done. You can have a great rest of the day and I am going to be proud of you for how you react.”
Healthy and Consistent Boundaries and Consequences. It is important to verbalize with your kids what boundaries you have for them; whether it be talking back, hitting, saying mean things, yelling, or being disrespectful. Do not give kids second chances on a regular basis, but enforce consequences as regularly as possible. Give younger children consequences for the day and only take away one thing at a time, leaving room for growth and encouragement. An example might be: “Buddy, you called you hit your brother so you need to go to your room to calm down for a couple minutes. I will come talk to you once you are calm and we will talk about video games being taken away for the rest of the day. I know you can calm down and I am going to be really proud of you if you can come out and apologize to your brother. We can even talk about you picking out something for dessert tonight if you do as well as I know you can.” Let the punishment match the crime: talking back might mean time out, while hitting or saying something disrespectful could get a favorite activity taken away.
Verbally Affirm. There are certain times of the day that are pressure points for kids: during meals, in the car, and at bedtime. Use these times to let your kids know you love them and that you are proud of them, especially for the ways they are working to grow. If your kids get verbal affirmation during these times, they will not see themselves or your relationship with them in a negative light when consequences are enforced.
Trying these three principles should be a good practice towards creating a nurturing environment for you and your children. If you have more specific questions or need further help, consider beginning therapy with your child to gain support and a plan more tailored to your family needs. You are not alone and the answers you are looking for may be closer than you think.