Parents often feel frustrated with some of the inappropriate behaviors of their children. There are some strategies that you can use to help your child behave more appropriately. Think about your child's behaviors, and separate these into three categories: 1)things they do that you want them to do; 2) things they don't do that you want them to do; and 3) direct disobedience and aggressive behaviors. There are different strategies for dealing with each category of behaviors.
When your children do something that you want them to do, be sure to thank them! Be specific, and praise them for the specific act, not for their intrinsic worthiness. You will love them, no matter what they do. However, you are thankful for the times they behave the way you feel is appropriate. "Thank you for putting your dishes in the sink, that is a big help to me." But not: "You make me happy when you put your dishes in the sink." Never: "I love you when you put your dishes in the sink."
It may also be a good idea to provide something for your child when you are pleased with their behaviors. You could offer to take your child for a walk together, or go to the playground together, or have time together on the computer. You could make a "Good Choices" menu and put it on the refrigerator. It's best not to give extra snack food as a positive consequence, although maybe you could make your child's favorite healthy dinner.
Often, children do not do what we want them to do. They dawdle, or they ignore us. One strategy is to offer your child two choices (and no more than two). "Do you want to put on the red shirt or the blue shirt?" "Do you want to have your bath before dinner or after dinner?" You, the parent, are the one who sets up the choices, so that either way you are satisfied with the outcome. Do not say, "What do you want to do?" or your child might choose to stay up all night, never take a bath, and only eat desserts. A second strategy for noncompliance, is to offer incentives. "If you finish your bath and get your pajamas on in half an hour, we'll be able to read a book together." "If you pick up your toys within ten minutes, we can color together." (Notice that there's a time limit.)
The third category of behaviors include direct disobedience and aggressive behaviors. You might hear, "No, you can't make me!" Direct disobedience is when you say, "In our family we do not kick our brother," and they look right at you and kick their brother again. You have given a specific direction, and your child is not doing this. First, identify the behavior clearly. "You kicked your brother." Second, set the boundaries. "In our family, we do not kick each other." Then redirect the behavior. "I can see that you are tired of watching television, and you want some attention. What can you do, instead of kicking your brother?" If they can't think of anything, help them with some choices. "You could come and wash the dishes with me, or we could all play a board game." Children often misbehave in order to get out of doing something, or to get your attention.
Sometimes when your child is directly disobedient, they are angry and need to cool off. You might use a Cool-Down chair, such as a bean bag chair or comfy chair near you in the kitchen or living room. Instead of having your child sit there for 10 minutes, tell your child, "When you are calmed down, we can talk. After we talk, you can go back to playing." They might say, "I'm calm right now." Then you might ask them to sit in the Cool-Down chair for 1 minute, just to be sure they are calm. When they feel they are calm, then talk to them about the particular behavior, and about making better choices. Do not ask them why they did it. Talk about a better, more appropriate way to get what they want, to function in the family.
Sometimes your children are hungry or very tired, and it becomes hard for them to be well behaved. Be sensitive to their needs, and try to offer a healthy snack an hour or so before dinner, or give them a rest or an earlier bedtime. Keeping your child's daily routine similar every day will help a lot, too. Try to have them get up in the morning, and go to bed at night at approximately the same times, with regular mealtimes.
It is hard work being a good parent. But in the long run, working hard at parenting will help your children to become happy, capable, responsible, and more enjoyable. Children will try your patience on a daily basis, and if your child has disabilities, you may need extra understanding and patience. Read about parenting, get advice from reliable sources, reflect on how the day went-if something didn't go well, try something different tomorrow. You will help your child develop into a more capable, caring adult.