Does your child have a habit or attitude that totally drives you crazy? Maybe it’s the way he whines when he doesn’t get his way, or how she always has to be the center of attention, especially when she’s at Grandma’s!
Bad habits and attitudes can be changed, and with a little persistence (and the tips in these articles) you can see positive changes in your child’s behavior by the end of the month.
Tackle one problem at a time
You can probably mouth off a whole list of annoying behaviors right now, but it’s best to focus on one at a time. Try to be specific. Instead of, ‘She’s always in a bad mood’ try to zero in on a concrete behavior like ‘She complains about the smallest things’ or ‘He sulks whenever I tell him what to do.’
Imagine the outcome
Now that you know the problem, identify the desired behavior and phrase it in positive terms. For example, you want your complainer to ‘Look for solutions when she encounters an obstacle.’ This will also help you see if your goals are realistic. You can’t succeed if your goal for your grumpy teen is ‘be in a good mood all the time.’ His moods are not in your control. However, you can expect him to be less abrasive. So your goal is to ‘Express himself in a polite way.’
Identify an action plan
You have your goal, now what methods will reinforce good behavior and discourage unwanted behavior? Let’s say you want your child to stop whining. One of your actions would be, ‘Don’t respond if she uses her whiny voice.’ And, instead of rushing in with a solution whenever she has a problem—’Mom, it’s too hot to play outside! I’m bored!’—try brainstorming with her, and teaching her to think of options for herself. For your sullen teen, you can remind him about manners (‘I don’t like the way you said that, could you say it again in a polite voice?’) and look for ways to communicate with him, honestly and productively.
Get the family involved
You can only change a habit if your plan and your rules are consistently applied. Tell your partner, grandparents, teacher, coach, babysitter, etc. about what you want to achieve and the steps you have undertaken.
Celebrate small victories
Praise positive changes and note, too, the things that don’t seem to be working. Does your child respond better to time-outs or removal of privileges? Is he the type who needs constant reminders, or does your ‘nagging’ just make him rebel? Eventually, though observation and persistence, you’ll see what kind of strategies work best—which will help you in future discipline efforts, too.
But whatever you do, stick to your plan for at least 21 days. That’s the minimum time for any habit to take root, so don’t give up or lose sight of your goal. You, and your child, can do it!
Photo from guardian.co.uk