By Margaret Puckette
Hey, it's hard not to lose your cool with a difficult child. And once you do, you probably feel guilty or a failure as a parent. You deserve credit for trying to be better, but the easiest way to improve your parenting is to know what you are doing wrong first. Good parenting means knowing what not to do as a parent.
- Treat your child or teen like another adult who knows how to behave appropriately and has memorized the rules, even the unspoken ones. Answer your child's frustrations (with you) by offering explanations that show how reasonable you are.
- Find fault with your child and let them know about it over and over again. If they do something positive, let them know it's not enough. Let your tone of voice reveal how frustrated, angry, stressed or resigned you feel because of them.
- Pretend your child has no reason for their behavior. Ignore his or her unique mental health needs or the challenges they may face. Are they being picked on at school or by a sibling? Do they fear abandonment? Are they stressed about an upcoming event? Is your home too chaotic?
- Make rules and only enforce them once in a while, or have the consequence come later than the misbehavior ("I'll get to you later." "This is punishment for what you did this morning.").
- Don't treat your child appropriately for his or her age. Make long explanations to a three-year-old about why you've set a certain rule. Assume a teen wants to be just like you.
- Expect your child to logically, rationally accept your reasonable rules. Parents expect common sense from children who are too young to reason (3 or 4), or from teens or young adults (up to the early 20's) who have a long track record of doing things that don't make sense.
- Keep trying the same things that still don't work. Like repeating yourself, talking at them rather than with them, or screaming. (Don't be embarrassed if you've screamed; we've all done this.)
- Jump to conclusions that demonize your child. "You'll do anything to get your way," or "You are so manipulative and deceitful," or "You don't listen to me on purpose," "I'm tired of your selfishness..."
- Make them responsible for your feelings. If you lose your cool because you're stressed, and blow up over something they did, insist they do the apologizing for their bad reaction.
If you see yourself in any one of these, forgive yourself and start over. Apologize when you need to, and thereby become a role model of good behavior for your child
Margaret Puckette is a compassionate and experienced coach for parents of a child, teen, or young adult with a serious behavioral problem or addiction. She draws on years of personal experience as a parent, social worker, and support group leader. Her book and blog of the same title, "Raising Troubled Kids," offer practical and sound information on how to reduce stress at home, help a troubled child, and holistically improve family well-being. http://www.raisingtroubledkids.com/ Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.