Face it! Your kids might be your greatest treasure—as they should be—but sometimes the blessing seems to be very heavily disguised indeed! Kids nowadays seem to be more refractory and apt to get out of control than they ever were, and this is a universal observation. While in earlier generations rebellious, misbehaved kids used to be the exception, rather than the rule, it is the opposite now.
And you can’t really blame it all on ‘bad parenting’, as is usually the case. Parents today don’t love their kids any less, and most are putting in their best efforts to bring up their kids to be balanced and worthwhile individuals, but failing spectacularly most of the time. Such being the case, the situation calls for a change in strategy. If what you are doing doesn’t work, you need to see why and change your methods accordingly.
The first step to addressing any issue is to understand it. We need to realize that our children are living in a very different world from when we were growing up. Not only has it changed, but is also changing constantly at breakneck speed. The kids have exposed to a lot more influences –and highly conflicting ones—than we ever were, and their young, developing minds are not equipped to deal with it. No wonder, then, that they are perpetually confused and in conflict mode. Conflict and opposition are their way of asserting control in a world that seems out of control to them.
Logic, nagging, punishment—none of the traditional ways seem to work with these kids. Therapists say what these kids need most is understanding, acceptance and consistency. They also warn that oppositional behavior, if left unresolved, can evolve into conduct disorder, and even more serious behavioral problems marked by physical violence, stealing, running away from home, fire-setting, and other highly destructive and even illegal behaviour.
Here are some tried and tested coping strategies for your contrary kid:
1. Understanding The Emotion Behind Misbehavior
Always remember that most misbehaviour has its roots in strong emotion. It is difficult for most kids to articulate their feelings, much less deal with them. Result: tantrums or defiance. The solution lies in addressing the emotion, and not its manifestation.
The latest brain research tells us that when a kid is in the grip of a strong emotion, her ‘emotional’ right brain takes over. At that time, the left side of the brain, which responds to logic, is not able to work. To get the brain to balance out, you first need to address the child’s emotions and get her to calm down. Only after that can she understand your logic and reason.
2. Reflective Listening
To find out the emotion that is fueling the kid’s behavior, reflective listening is a useful tool. Understand what your child is feeling at the moment, and then reflect back to him in words. This helps the child to articulate his feelings and clears his confusion.
For instance, if your child comes home from school in a snit, you could go upto her and throw out verbal feelers: “Everything is horrible, isn’t it? The whole world is against you. Your school kids are horrid people. The teachers are really bad. The work load is too much. Parents are unfeeling people …” You’ll soon have the child confiding in you what the root of the problem was. Once his mind is calm again, you can pitch in with logic. Reflective listening will help your child feel better and, therefore, feel like behaving better.
3. Putting Your Own Emotions On Hold
The most important, and by no means easy, thing to do is to put your own emotions and wishes aside temporarily. Your child’s misbehavior is actually a plea for help, and getting upset yourself is only going to make bad worse. Your strong feelings could cloud your thinking and make you react impulsively, rather than interacting with the kid in a detatched manner to help her.
4. Being A Safety Valve For Your Kid
Once you have the child calmed down, let him talk, and give him your full attention. You may have a million things to do, but stop what you're doing, look at your child, and listen. Let him vent out everything that’s boiling inside him. This will release the pressure inside his little mind and act as a safety valve. It helps to make listening noises, words, and phrases, such as, "Hmmm," "Oh," "Really," "Goodness." These responses will encourage your child by showing him you are listening and care how he is feeling.
5. Letting Them See You’re On Their Side
Give your angry kid her wishes in fantasy. This will show her that you are on her side and sympathize with her. Recently my niece, who is highly vulnerable to sore throats, was in a temper because she wasn’t allowed ice-cream with the weather getting colder. All attempts to cajole her with alternative treats just made her angrier. I put an arm around her and whispered: “I wish we could turn you into a temporary penguin whenever you wanted to eat ice-cream in winter!” Her bad mood was gone in a second as she burst out laughing, because it told her that the adults who were stopping her from eating ice-cream were actually on her side.
Go on. Try out these strategies and see your kids’ behavior turn around in just a few months!