Stopping Misbehavior Easier Than You Might Think

A mom once asked me for help with a situation involving her two boys, ages 5 and 7. She said they were constantly fighting at the morning breakfast table. She wanted a quick-fix solution to the problem because it was driving her crazy. As in all instances when I am asked about behavior situations, I need more information about what was going on just before and during the problem. This additional information helps me assess what may be causing the problem and come up with possible solutions. I asked mom what she is usually doing at the time of the fighting and she told me that she is scurrying around to get lunches made and the house picked up before they leave for the day. She admitted she is likely to be barking orders and making demands on the boys out of frustration for always running late. We can all relate. My solution for her… sit down with the boys at the table, set a timer for 10 minutes, and for her not to talk, just listen. She thought it was the dumbest idea she had ever heard and told me she expected a more profound solution from me. I was concerned that she wasn’t willing to give this a try and that her situation at home with the boys would get worse. Within two weeks she contacted me to let me know that in fact, it did work! The fighting had changed just to teasing but the atmosphere was more relaxed.

Sometimes our children act out as a way of saying to the parent(s) “I’m feeling disconnected from you mom and/or dad!” We all look for that confirmation occasionally that the ones who love us are still there and connected. Children don’t usually know how to approach the parent and say “Hey, can you slow down a bit and notice me now and then? And can you do it by just listening?” They tell us this by acting out, becoming uncooperative, and misbehaving.

• Once a day, give your young child 10 minutes of your full attention and time. Set a timer if you have to and avoid speaking. Give them the opportunity to show you or tell you about anything they want.
• Take each of your children on a date once a week or twice a month. Take them away from the rest of the family and avoid buying them things.
• Once a month hang out with your teen in their room if they’ll let you. Knock on their door, ask if now is a good time to hang out, and avoid any discouraging or negative talk. Just be with them and let them do most of the talking.

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