Your child is acting out, and you’re feeling at your wit’s end. You feel overwhelmed and frustrated, and don’t know what else to do.
If you’re a mom or a dad, you likely have –at one time or another – felt this way while parenting your child. While every situation is different, when a pattern of bad behavior emerges, there are a few elements that research has found to be consistent in fostering better behavior among children.
The six steps to help foster better child behavior include:
Above and beyond anything, is bonding with your child. If your child is well-bonded, she feels secure and, therefore, may do better in all things. The secure child will be able to problem-solve better, stick to a task longer, and has better cognitive and social development. It is important while bonding with your child, not to burden her with your problems. This can create anxiety, and take her childhood away.
Active listening is the key to good communication between you and your child. In fact, active listening is the essential ingredient to family communication. It involves a safe environment in which confidences are kept. Trust based on experience is developed, eye contact is held, and full attention is given. Furthermore, it is important not to defend positions, and to maintain empathy for all family members, including parents.
A safe space should be created in which you and your child sit together while communicating. This environment should not be anyone’s power place such as an office, study, or bedroom, but rather a mutual place, such as the kitchen table, the heart of the house where alchemy happens. The empathic process should occur at least once a week at a set time – consistently.
My Empathic Process teaches empathy and mutuality by investing your child in family problem solving, such as conflict resolution. Such participation in family business empowers your child to feel that she has respect and responsibility, and therefore, a choice in what happens to her, which establishes a win-win outcome for all. When your child is invested in the process of creating the rewards and consequences for her behavior, she is more likely to behave. The empathic process has rules of engagement, which are flexible in relation to your particular family style. But in general, your child speaks for a prescribed amount of time, while you listen intently, making eye contact. Then you, the parent, speak, giving your opinion without defending your position for the same allotted time. Then the entire family participates in the brainstorming period, which allows your child to be invested in the options for conflict resolution. This is a successful problem solving strategy, with positive regard for all. This approach works well for the assignment of chores, as well as their rotation and allows us to keep connection with our children, checking in on how they are doing in their social, emotional, and academic lives.
Following through in all things is imperative. If your are reliable and your child discovers that she can count on you to advocate her – right or wrong – then she will value and trust herself. If your child values and trust herself, she will transfer that trust to the world at large. This is how we make self-actualized children who are secure and proactive rather than reactive.
Your child takes her cue from your. You are your child’s first teacher; and as your child grows, she will look at you with a more critical eye. The best inoculation against behavioral problems with your child is to be a positive role model by having good nurturing skills, meeting her needs in a responsible way, and by being reliable. Then your child will behave appropriately and choose to be responsible, have empathy and reliability.