Difficult child behavior comprises a quiet epidemic – the kind that brings so many to their knees.
So many kind and thoughtful parents are trying so hard to simply have a lovingly positive impact on their child, only to see the child slip further and further into the realm of being “challenging.” This is so prevalent, even among the best and brightest parents. Difficult child behavior comprises a quiet epidemic – the kind that brings so many to their knees.
Yes, there are kids with symptoms that are of great concern, symptoms that drive parents and teachers crazy, but I have found that the very same “intensity” that has gone awry can be the very fuel for a child who comes to use that “life force” in successful ways.
In order to create the essential shift from “challenging” to “successfully channeled life force,” I will cut to the core of a method called the Nurtured Heart Approach, and hone in on a few key stands that will change everything in a hurry. Let this article bring you hope and be the medicine that cures your family.
Four Initial Ways to Transform from Difficult to Dynamic
1. Fire the old broadband provider. First and foremost, bring your responses to negativity to a screeching halt. Kids can easily form the impression that they receive “better broadband” connection with the adults in their lives through negativity. Our responses to the positive pale in comparison to our energies of involvement when things go wrong. We lean into negativity with so much more passion in our voices and so many more words. I will give you a way of holding your child accountable for broken rules that allows you to stay “unplugged.” It is essential that your child now comes to see that he or she will no longer get the reward of “you” for poor choices – only a perfect, clear consequence when a rule is broken.
2. Give 21st century broadband. Now it’s time to give high-speed connection when things are going well. Your attempts to see and express appreciation and recognition can have the impact you’ve always wanted. Statements like “good job” and “thank you” are well-intended but inherently vague and under-energized. It is time to make our words of recognition and appreciation hit home and be truly inspiring. Tell the truth of the moment to your child whenever problems are not happening. Be willing to see even small instances of good judgment being used, rules being followed, and good choices being made. Be willing to voice your acknowledgment strongly: “Jason, I appreciate that you were thoughtful to your brother by walking away when he annoyed you. You could have called him a name but you made a great choice to stay calm and kind. That shows me your self-control and maturity.” Statements like these make a real difference in leading a child to a new impression that he can have your energized relationship for the positives.
3. Have clear rules and the simplest of consequences. The world thinks that children awaken to following the rules by way of ever-escalating consequences, but kids actually awaken to successful behavior when they awaken to their inherent greatness. Challenging children often thrive in sports and video games because these environments vividly confront the child with his or her successes (bells and whistles, score, score, score). At the same time, these games give consequences that are really just momentary pauses, quick “resets” leading to the moments of success that follow.
In the Nurtured Heart Approach, we simply call it a “reset.” If the game-in is strong and exciting, then the child will be ever-more determined not to break rules, to stay in the game, and to explore further realms of success. Be willing, like in sports and video-game environments, to create exciting time-in; find the truth of all the successful next moments, after the consequence, and applaud, applaud, applaud the good choices. “Billy, I see you’re still mad about not getting the answer you wanted, but now you’re not arguing or fussing, and I so appreciate you finding your center and wisdom in handling your frustration well.”
4. Be willing to put the icing on the cake. Provide recognition of the greatness you see in your child, even in the ordinary moments. You probably know how not great it is to have a child talk back, name-call, or treat others with aggression, so let that be a barometer of how truly great it is when those problems aren’t happening. Be willing to see the greatness when other good choices are made and when rules aren’t being broken. Give expression to the appreciation that is in your heart when things are going well. “Sarah, I really appreciate how cooperative you are being in getting ready for school ahead of time today. You made it so easy for me to remain calm about getting to my meeting and that shows me you have the greatness of being thoughtful and the greatness of respecting my commitments. Thank you so much.”
You are the provider of better broadband. This will quickly lead to better choices and less challenging behavior in your children. The greater the range and frequency of your recognition, the greater the range of successes you will see in your kids. I promise.