How to Talk to Your Problem Child

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If your child proves to be particularly challenging, you may find approaching him to discuss the behavior exceedingly difficult. While it is necessary to communicate your displeasure regarding your child’s behavior, communicating this too harshly could result in your child feeling attacked and, as a result, being less willing to take your feedback constructively. Before your difficult child has his next behavior issue, carefully plan your approach to increase your likelihood of communication success.

Step 1

Make eye contact with your child to form a connection and ensure that he is listening to you. If your child suffers from a disorder that makes eye contact difficult for him, such as fetal alcohol syndrome or autism, do not force this contact, because it will likely make your child uncomfortable and may increase his combativeness.

Step 2

Control your tone. If you allow your voice level to rise, your child will likely follow suit and yell right back. Speak in a low, level tone. If you are angry and feel that not yelling will be a challenge, take a few minutes to get your anger under control before talking to your child.

Step 3

Explain the problem in clear term. Don’t assume that your child knows why what he did was wrong. Engaging in a simple explanation makes it easier for your child to see how his actions impact others and helps him realize that your rules aren’t arbitrary.

Step 4

Honor your child’s feelings. If you are dismissive of your child’s feelings, she will likely bottle them up, leading to more anger. If your child tells you she is angry, sad or frustrated, tell her that you are sorry she feels that way, and discuss ways she can better deal with the emotions instead of acting out, such as coming to find you to talk about the problem.

Step 5

Attack the problem, not the child. Never say things like “Sarah, you are bad!” Saying things like this can make your child feel unimportant or lacking in some way. Instead, explain to your child how the behavior was bad.

Step 6

Conclude the conversation with love. Always try to end the talk by telling your child that you love him. Giving your child a hug is often a loving way to bring the potentially combative conversation to a productive and loving close.

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