Parenting is a highly demanding and challenging job, which may at times leave parents feeling inadequate and frustrated when things don’t go as planned, and children may become angry, rebellious and fail to follow rules. Here are some guidelines for parents to follow:
- ABC of behavior: Any behavior [B] is maintained by its antecedents [A] and consequences [C] By changing A and C, we can surely impact B.
- Rank the annoying behaviors. Some irritating behaviors are les irksome than others. Decide which behaviors are worth making an attempt to change. Can you look the other way and let some of the less serious issues go?
- Consider whether the behavior is building “bad character” or is it inconsequential and silly [the childhood things that a child will normally outgrow.] If your six-year-old won’t stop being cruel to others and to animals, it is much more alarming than if she won’t stop making silly noises at dinner. Sort it out and agree to go after only the serious problems in a serious way. Perhaps you can give lesser problems less rigorous attention for now.
- Can you agree to disagree but to support each other’s top priorities? Dad cannot stand back talk but does not much mind dawdling. Mom cannot stand dawdling but talking back does not much bother her. For the sake of effective discipline (and a happy marriage), can you back each other up?
- Show consistency. You and your spouse may not agree on which behaviors need to be changed. Now is the time to discuss, disagree, compromise and decide on your campaign so you will usually come across to the kids as consistent and united.
- Brainstorm. List all the instances you can, of situations that support inappropriate behaviors in the environment that should be changed.
- Learn to take charge. When you know you are in charge, your child will know it, too.
- Reward the right stuff. Throughout the day, when your child is doing fine (i.e. doing nothing wrong), blow him a kiss, smile, and wave, toss him a compliment about how well he is playing or how great he is behaving.
- Learn to relax and laugh. Many inappropriate things that children do can be viewed as funny, if they are not harmful to himself and others. Laughing it off (another way of turning the other cheek) is sometimes more suitable than agonizing over where these behaviors will lead him. Worry less and enjoy more. Delight in the innocence, the hugs, the kisses, the good stuff all kids do.
- Don’t be a perfectionist: you’ll never be a perfect parent. Not today, not tomorrow, not ever. Moreover, your child will never be a perfect child. So give your child and yourself permission to learn from mistakes and occasionally fail.
DR. SULATA SHENOY, Director, Turning Point Centre for Psychological Assessments, Therapies and Counseling, Bangalore