Some children are easygoing and compliant. Others give us an opportunity to develop our patience.
Getting a handle on those challenging behaviors can lead parents to desperate measures to find some relief. A late-night radio commercial that never fails to draw a chuckle out of me is the one that promises to fix your kid "in ten minutes or less." Save your money, because it can't be done.
You would do much better to invest in a copy of How to Handle a Hard-to-Handle Kid: A Parents' Guide to Understanding and Changing Problem Behaviors by C. Drew Edwards. It takes a realistic approach that emphasizes the parent role in managing problem behaviors.
Some parents come down really hard on their kids in hopes of instilling discipline. They usually find themselves locked in a power struggle with their child. Other parents provide a lot of emotional support, but aren't so adept at managing their kids. The author recommends an authoritative style of parenting that blends emotional support with structure. Loving and accepting kids will help them make positive changes. Edwards explains, "Hard-to-handle children often receive many more directive messages than nurturing ones—and sometimes more negative responses than positive. The more negative responses they receive, the worse they feel about themselves [and] act up even more." A listening ear, a loving demeanor, and one-on-one time are all great ways of demonstrating support.
All kids need parents to provide meaningful boundaries, too, whether they realize it or not. Edwards writes, "They need to learn limits and standards in order to feel safe and secure and to make their way responsibly in the world…Direction and structure help children deal with the demands life places on them."
How to Handle a Hard-to-Handle Kid has sections dealing with specific hard-to-handle situations, sibling and peer relationships, and school success. I won't make the claim that it will solve all of your problems in ten minutes, but it is full of balanced and realistic advice for parents of children aged 3 – 12.
I.F. Eastman coordinates Healthy Communities-Healthy Youth of Warren County on behalf of Family Services. Portions of this article were adapted from Get the Word Out: Communication Tools and Ideas for Asset Builders Everywhere with permission from the publisher.