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7 Tips to Help With Difficult Behavior

Child without difficult behavior

No parent dreams of having a child with difficult behavior. But sometimes that is what seems to happen. Here are 7 tips that parents can use to get through the challenging times. And help their kids get back on track.

1) Set Clear Expectations

Sometimes children misbehave because they weren’t sure what they were supposed to do. Other times they know exactly what to do – even if you didn’t tell them. And say “they didn’t know” as an excuse. Either way, setting clear expectations lets your child know exactly what you want them to do. Expectations should be:

  • Clear
  • Direct
  • Specific
  • With a Time Limit

An example would be “Joe, you need to clean all of the toys off the floor in the living room. You have 15 minutes to finish cleaning.”

2) Maintain Boundaries Around Difficult Behavior

Trying to manage difficult behavior can sometimes feel like tug-of-war. Maintaining set boundaries around the behavior will help eliminate the back and forth. To set boundaries:

  • Remember No means No
  • And Yes means Yes
  • Stay focused on why the boundary is in place
  • Don’t get distracted by technicalities
  • Immediately follow through when the boundary is violated

For instance, if Joe didn’t clean the living room in 15 minutes, he might get time out. That should happen right away. This helps connect the consequence to his decision or lack of follow through.

3) Follow Through for Easy or Difficult Behavior

When you say ABC will happen, make sure it does. This can be for a consequence (see above) or for a reward. This tells the child that you are serious when you ask them to do something. Some things to remember:

  • Don’t threaten to punish
  • Explain consequences of choices
  • Follow through immediately
  • Especially when child acts out

If Joe does clean the toys, there may be a reward (a good consequence). He should get that right away (even if it is “Good job!”). If he doesn’t he should get that consequence right away, too! This helps connect outcomes to decisions. Over time, Joe will be better able to control his behavior and he knows his choices can impact the outcome.

4) Reward Good Choices

We all like it when a boss at work tells us we did a good job. So do our kids. Try to catch your child doing something right. Let them know! When your child is rewarded for going good they know what you want to see. They are more likely to keep doing good if they see the benefit. Remember:

  • Intentionally look for what your child does well
  • Catch your child doing good
  • Let then know
  • Reward their good behavior (even a simple “Good Job!”)

5) Talk to Your Child

Sometimes your child will have a good reason for what they are doing. If possible, talk with your child. Try to understand where they are coming from. You can’t always do what they want, but you can try to explain to them why not. To make the conversation easier:

  • Try to understand their perspective
  • Listen to their concerns
  • Give them choices
  • Stay focused on the goal

This gives your child a sense of control. It also helps them feel like they have a voice. When you talk through something with your child you get to know them better. You can start to better address their concerns and hesitations.

6) Stay Calm When Managing Difficult Behavior

Have you ever watch the discovery channel or youtube and seen a heard start to stampede? One animal starts to take off and they all follow. Most of them probably don’t even know what they are running from. But they run. Our emotions can be similar. It is easy to get frustrated or angry when someone else is, too. It is also easier to calm down when someone else is also calm. Here are some tips to help you stay calm when managing difficult behavior:

  • Take breaks throughout the day
  • Give your child time for breaks
  • Don’t take it personal
  • Do something enjoyable for you
  • Have a plan for how you can release frustration when you start to get overwhelmed

This can help you and your child stay calm. And prevent a bad moment from being a bad day. Or week. Or month.

7) Take One Moment At A Time

It can be easy to view an entire day as difficult. Or a kids behavior as always difficult. Try to view each instance on its own. Some tips that can help:

  • Focus on what is in front of you
  • Take time to de-stress after a rough moment
  • Remember the big picture
  • Look for small improvements
  • Give yourself something to look forward to

Mt. Everest is climbed one step at a time. Sometimes one very small step at a time. Difficult behavior is also changed one small step at a time. Keep moving towards your goals and eventually you will get there.

Sometimes, though, roadblocks show up. Talking to family and friends can help provide support to keep you going. So talk to them! Sometimes, that isn’t enough. Individual counseling and family counseling can help remove roadblocks to success and help keep your family on track.

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