One of the not so nice parts of being a parent is dealing with difficult behaviour. No parent can really avoid this- as all children no matter their age become irritable, annoyed and frustrated either at brothers and sisters, other children or mum and dad. It’s a given, having the right tools or the skills to decide how to handle such moments certainly eases the drama, tantrums and tears and puts it into perspective for both adults and children involved.
Let’s just put it into perspective for a moment: there is tantrums and tears and then there is tiredness, hunger, sickness and then plain defiance! So firstly do a quick mental check when dealing with difficult behaviour. Is your child worn out, tired and hungry? So is it 5pm on Friday afternoon in a grocery shop – well you probably shouldn’t have gone shopping no matter how much you thought you needed those groceries! So exit and just go home. When your child is tired no matter how much you think you need those groceries or how much you paid for the swimming lesson or nice you thought a visit to the park might be – once children of all ages are tired then there is no reasoning with them. Go home and put them to bed, ASAP. Same if they are sick.
Now for general tears, tantrums and difficult behaviour – here’s a few points you really must consider. Do you really need to make them do it? Really? Does their hair need to be brushed before kindy? What’s the worse that could happen? My best advice is let most of difficult behaviour just ‘go’. Don’t choose the battle. You are the adult and by walking away and choosing not to argue or force the issue certainly doesn’t mean that you are giving in. Lots of adults have trouble with that point, especially Dad’s. There is a better way to get them to do what you want. Simply withdraw and take yourself ‘the audience’ away, go elsewhere. Losing you and your attention in most cases will stop the difficult behaviour in its tracks. The audience has gone, so battling it out to put the pair of shorts on becomes void and as you leave say something to the effect ‘when you are ready to put your shorts on let me know’ . Before you get down the hallway you will hear a ‘ready!’ Go back and try again. Give your time and attention for co-operation instead!
When you are having difficulty with a particular area be sure to look for the exact opposite and notice, praise, talk, touch, make eye contact when they are doing it. E.g. Not buckling up, when co-operating take notice, eating or trying foods – take notice and stop taking notice and talking about them not eating or encouraging them to eat when not eating, getting ready quickly – notice this instead of hassling them to hurry up, brushed hair – take notice.
Lastly for direct defiance - so what about when you ask them to do something that is important, that you simply can’t walk away from? Like it’s dinner time and you ask them to get out of the pool. Well once you have asked once and only once then remove your shoes and watch and simply get in and get them out – ACTION. Actions will speak volumes and are unforgettable. Mum on the side of the pool saying again and again, time to get out, time to get out etc is easy to ignore.
Consequences – before the next swim tell them when you ask, you need them to get out straight away. If they don’t, next time they need to sit on the side of the pool and wait a minute or two before they can get in. We use far too many words for children of all ages when they are not behaving as we would like to see and very few actions. Get out of the chair and sort out the squabble over the board game, do not yell instructions. Get off the phone and take a child by the hand and lead them to where you have asked them to go. After the first ‘you need to finish up on the computer’ go over and silently save and turn off the computer. These actions will be remembered. Talk later, when all the emotions are gone from the situation about what happened very factually and how you would like them to behave next time in the same situation. They are not in trouble at this point or made to feel guilty. This is the teaching and learning part. For older children a counting strategy also works well for ‘must stop’ behaviours occasionally.
These are just a few of the essential tools that all parents need in their toolkit to deal with difficult behaviour.