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Misbehaving Kids may Respond to Opposite Approach

When a child is misbehaving, many parents think about getting tougher, harsher and more punitive.
    Yet, that may not at all be the best way to go. In fact, it may make the problem worse. Instead of getting tougher and increasing the punishment, consider going in the opposite direction.
    But that doesn't make intuitive sense you might argue: "You can't go easier on kids when they misbehave, because if they think they can get away with misbehavior it will just continue - and probably get worse."
    I don't always believe this.
    Why? Based on my experience with children and teens, sometimes understanding, support, and a gentler approach can help them through a difficult period of time.
    "A difficult period of time?" you say. "What do you think I'm going through with their behavior? They just need to change their behavior."
    True, but sometimes kids ac5t up not because they are defiant or willful or are deliberately trying to drive you crazy. Sometimes they are going through a new stage, an adjustment period, or life isn't going the way they would like. Often children feel bad about misbehaving - even if they can't express this and even if they can't exactly let you know this.
    So what are some gentler ways to deal with misbehavior?
    Try being supportive..."I know things have been tough for you lately. But I know you're trying and I appreciate it." You're not ignoring the undesired behavior and you're not saying it's OK. By offering support, you acknowledge that there's a better side to them and you know that side will show itself in the future.
Try talking about it... "You usually don't act like this," you might say, "and I thought if we could talk about what's going on it might help. What's been on your mind lately?" Again, you're not saying it's okay to act the way she's been acting, however, you give her a chance to talk about underlying problems which may be causing the misbehavior.
Try problem-solving... View his misbehavior as a mutual problem that needs a solution. Approach it like this: "You've been very angry and disrespecful lately. That bothers me and I thought we ought to put our heads together and figure out how we can solve this problem. Any ideas?" This provides and opening for discussion and for your child bringing up problems that might be difficult to talk about. The focus, though, is on problem-solving. What can the two of you figure out that will make things better?
Try using an example from your own life. You probably had such times in your life when you acted out of sorts and no one could figure out why. So, why not use one example to tell a story about yourself while at the same time promoting a way of handling it that would help your child. Maybe you handled it by talking to someone who would listen or you apologized to someone you offended, or you admitted a dark secret. Telling your child how you handled a similar problem can be a supportive way of helping your child solve a behavior problem withou using "discipline."


Copyright © 1999 James Windell. All Rights Reserved