How To Understand Your Struggling Child — Without Labeling Them

How To Understand Your Struggling Child — Without Labeling Them

It's normal for parents to worry about kids with behavioral problems.

But why are we, as a society, so ready to label a child with a disorder because they fail to respond to our requests like little robots?

Why are we, as parents, so quick to look for something wrong with our child, instead of taking responsibility for what’s going on around our child that may have led to what we perceive as inappropriate behavior?

Are "disobedient" behaviors really all they seem to be? Or are kids' behavior linked to something else?

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When you were a child, did you always do everything you were told to do right when you were told to do it?

Let’s be honest now. No child does.

Were you labeled with a disorder or were you disciplined by your parents when you disobeyed?

Being from an older generation, I can tell you that I was disciplined with either spanking on my hind end or, in really severe cases, being told to go outside and cut a switch from our weeping willow tree.

Now mind you, that may sound like child abuse to some of you but, I can assure you, the act of cutting the switch was really the best form of discipline.

My parents never abused me nor did they ever leave any marks on me. I did know, however, that when I got a whipping on my hind end — usually two or three swats — I knew what I had done wrong.

I knew that if I chose to repeat the behavior, a worse punishment was in store.

Like most adults my age, we grew up to be parents who used these same types of disciplinary measures on our own children. After all, the church had taught our parents — and by those means — taught us that if we "spared the rod," we would "spoil the child."

So when did that change? What is wrong with spoiling a child?

I can tell you, with my own children, when they were probably eight or nine years old, I "woke up" and realized that the disciplinary measures I was using had no effect on the behavior I was attempting to change.

But what was I to do? I had never been taught any other way to discipline. I had heard of time out. It was supposed to give the child an opportunity to think about what they had done.

Let’s examine that for a moment.

How is a child supposed to determine what they've done "wrong" if no one takes the time to talk to them and explain the why behind the request?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word "disobedient" as, "not doing what someone or something with authority tells you to do; refusing or failing to obey rules, laws, etc."

The Mayo Clinic defines Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) as "disobedient behavior to authority figures. The cause is unknown but likely involves a combination of genetic and environmental factors."

As many of the behavioral disorders, there are no medical tests available to diagnose ODD.

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Ask yourself: Is it fair to label a child with this disorder or even as disobedient before you find out why they failed to follow your request?

Was it a request, or did you demand that they do something? Are you repeating a behavior your parents expressed toward you when you were a child?

Have you ever heard yourself say, "Because I’m the mom/dad, that’s why!"?

Is that really an explanation?

What if their disobedience is their way of demonstrating a small amount of control in their lives?

Were they involved in the making of the rule they failed to obey? Children are much more likely to follow the rules if they were involved in creating them.

Do they understand the reasons behind the request or the rule? Do you really expect blind obedience?

Do you show them, by your actions, what it means to follow every rule or do they see you breaking the rules yourself?

Did you forget that your child is an authentic spiritual being with a plan for their life?

Today’s authentic children are more than just a new generation — they come here with a completely new mindset. They have no intention of following the old ways.

They are here to show us that those old systems need to change — if we let them.

These children understand so much more than they are given credit for because we so often fail to listen.

Instead of looking for a label that will explain your child’s actions, get to know them on a deeper level. Talk to them instead of barking orders. Explain the purpose behind your request, instead of just expecting blind obedience.

Ask them to explain their actions, give them time to form the words, and then listen to their explanation completely through.

Once you've heard them through, if you disagree with their logic, explain to them the "why" behind your request.

Show them the respect you want them to show you in return. You will be amazed at the difference it makes in your household environment.

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Mary M. Ernsberger is a non-fiction author, writer, speaker, and Complementary Alternative Medicine practitioner. Check out her website or send her an e-mail for more information.

This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.