There probably have been complaints about children and teen’s behavior as far back in time as one can imagine! In light of behavior that is less than desirable and is repeating, I think there are three main steps to take as a parent in dealing with this behavior head-on:
- Ask yourself if this is normal behavior for this age? Many parents have expectations that are far beyond their child’s age and need to be reassured this is part of childhood maturation. We are losing perspective on this in American society rapidly.
- If it is normal behavior for the age, but it is still making the family full of tension, ask yourself how you will guide it with boundaries so your family can live in harmony?
a. For a young children under the age of 7, guide with the principles of rhythm carrying things (lack of sleep, hunger, thirst, etc doesn’t help any behavioral situation!), songs and pictorial speech to move things along, and the child making reasonable restitution for what isn’t going well. If you determine things aren’t going well due to a lot of stress and hurriedness in the family, try to decrease the amount of stress. Look carefully and listen to what the child in front of you is telling you, but do balance that with the needs of the family.
b. For the child ages 9-13, guide with the ideas of rhythm and restitution in mind, and rules of your family and of life in general – how do we treat each other in kindness; how do we treat ourselves and others. Listen carefully to what your child is saying, but also state the expectations and boundaries firmly and kindly. Go in with the idea that these things will need to be worked on 500 times or more to stick. If things in the family are super stressful for varying reasons, consider simplifying and also adding in techniques for dealing with stress for the whole family.
c. If the child is 14-18, guide with the ideas of family rules in mind, and consequences and restitution. A teen can vacillate widely from seeming very mature to seeming very young and immature, and it is important to remember that the teenaged brain is not yet fully developed. You must still be there to guide, and you are not at the “friend” stage of parenting. Teenagers still want boundaries, limits, and a guide.
3. If the behavior is not normal for the age...
a. Is it quirky behavior and being exacerbated by stress and hurriedness? Simplify things and see if things improve.
b. Is it truly not appropriate behavior and not responding to anything you do? Then you may need professional help through family therapy or other behavioral intervention.
c. If you are a homeschooling family, do not assume that going to school will make things better. I think kids who are having problems at home often will have problems at school unless the family is so chaotic they will function better in a more structured environment. But if the child themselves is really having problems stemming from themselves, they will have problems across environments.
Just a few thoughts,