Parenting is difficult under any circumstances, but when your child has behavioral problems, you might dread each each day and doubt your abilities as a parent. The good news is that most child behavioral problems can be dealt with and improved at home once you know what you’re dealing with and how to respond appropriately. Time, patience and a commitment to changing your own behaviors as well can improve your home situation and your child’s school performance and social interactions.
Have your child evaluated for conditions like attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, developmental delays and even food allergies. If your child suffers from a condition that makes it difficult for him to learn, concentrate, sit still or feel well, he’s likely to respond by acting out.
Get you and your child on a set schedule and follow it each day. A schedule will provide structure a child can come to rely on. It also helps her feel more in control and secure. Have regular meal times, homework time, bath time, bed time and wake-up time to start. Develop morning and evening routines.
Reward good behavior more often than you discipline negative behaviors. When your child follows the schedule or displays good behavior, lavish him with praise. Praise doesn’t have to include rewards. Kind words, hugs and encouragement help your child feel good about himself and make him more likely to repeat the good behavior. Use stickers, reward charts, outings and other rewards as incentives for your child to tackle tasks he usually has difficulty completing.
Discipline your child appropriately. Explain to your child why his behavior isn’t appropriate and explain what will happen if he continues it. If the child doesn’t listen to your warning, follow through with an age-appropriate punishment, like one minute in time-out per year of age or a loss of special privileges. Don’t show anger or frustration when you discipline. Remain calm and in control. After the punishment, talk to your child about why she was disciplined.
Distract your child or redirect her attention elsewhere if you see the potential for a problem behavior. You won’t always be able to intervene before a problem arises, but this technique also helps keep a small problem from escalating into a crisis.
Take time for yourself. When you’re well-rested and refreshed, you have more patience and energy to devote to your child. Find a caregiver you trust and enjoy a little kid-free, adult time each week. Use this time to have fun and peruse your interests, not to grocery shop or run errands.