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Parenting tips for challenging child behaviors to help stop parent/child fights.

BON2052409 1 / -  
May 25, 2013   #1
Research paper rough draft 8-10 double spaced pages with cover and works cited based around thesis statement. Submit for peer review and then submit with draft to instructor.

Did My Kid Really Just Say That?

Bonnie Hertneck

Connie Watts
19 May 2013

Bonnie Hertneck
Connie Watts
17 May 2013
Did My Child Really Just Say That?
Have you ever found yourself in disbelief, wondering if your child really just said that? Most children have sassed their parents at least once or twice, but unfortunately, there are parents that deal with backtalk and other "challenging" behaviors all day, every day, almost constantly. I am one of those parents, and I know first-hand how frustrating and exhausting it can be when your child seems to turn everything into an argument. I have faced insults, swearing, disrespect, shouting matches, and public humiliation because of the fights. My home was a warzone, yet I never wanted to leave in fear of the usual public scene our arguments would make anytime we went out.

I have spent many hours relentlessly looking for ways to overcome the "challenging" behaviors I face with my daughter and it took years before I found anything that improved our situation. No matter how hard you try to fix something, if you aren't using the right tool for the job, you won't get very far. I am a mother that knows first-hand how difficult it is to live with these behaviors, and how hard it is to try over and over again without any success. I want to share what began my family's journey on the road to a peaceful future. The three most important tips for other parents dealing with "challenging" behaviors are to remain calm, not take things personally, and stay focused.

To begin, let me define what I refer to as "challenging" behaviors. For the purpose of this paper, I am relating to frequent and continuous displays of defiance by a child. To be specific, behaviors including, but not limited to, backtalk, argumentativeness, opposition, aggression, shouting, antagonizing, cursing and/or other similar behaviors that recur frequently and on a consistent basis. Every child acts out occasionally, who hasn't ever been angry when their parent said no? Other displayed behaviors that are typically grouped within either of the terms "challenging" or "oppositional", include children easily frustrated or quick to lose their temper, and children that are more often than not seemingly ungrateful and aggressive. Generally, these characteristics suggest a power struggle, and although "it is necessary for kids to learn power struggles, they need to learn how to handle them appropriately" (J. Lehman, Power Struggles Part I: Are You at War with a Defiant Child?).

Children that display these discussed behaviors commonly do so because they lack the tools they need to handle something about the situation they are facing. This is why sometimes these children are thought of as being mean, because they become frustrated and don't know what to do. But, as James Lehman points out in one of his expert articles, "Children with this behavior pattern aren't bad kids", and they most likely are not intending or aware that they are being mean. Lehman also states, "They merely lack the skills to be able to resolve whatever is bothering them" and usually feel they are the victims (J. Lehman, Sick of Your Kid's Backtalk? Here's How to Stop It).

Ironically, there is something both parents and children share in common. They lack the skills needed to achieve the outcome they desire in certain situations, which is why the arguments begin. Most parents are not born with the skills necessary to effectively teach a child that displays most types of oppositional defiance. And just like with anything in life, trying to fix something when you do not have the right tools to do so, makes for a very physically and emotionally exhausted, frustrating failure.

TIP #1
This is why the first, and probably most important, tip for eliminating "challenging" behavior is to always remain calm. Learning how to remain calm in stressful situations is an important, but difficult, life skill to learn. Being able to maintain your composure is a skill that ties in to many different areas in life such as health, parenting, problem solving, relationships, career, school, etc. One of the significant ways it comes into play with parenting is that it teaches your child how to react to a stressful situation when they encounter one. This is because you are actually modeling behavior with everything your child sees you do. This is why you should always model the behavior you want your child to learn from. Just like that old saying goes, "children learn more of what they see than what they hear".

Other benefits include helping you in maintaining your parental authority and earning your child's respect. How? Well, one way is that it can prevent you from stopping down to the level that your child's defiant behavior is at. When you lose control, "your child gains the perception that he's in control because he [sees that he] can make you lose control by getting you angry" (Bean).

Speaking of benefits, it is common knowledge that people with less stress in their lives are healthier and at less of a risk for many medical conditions. This is because our brains and bodies simply function better and are more efficient. Which enables us to think more clearly compared to when we are stressed or emotional. And when we think more clearly, we are better at solving problems, which leads to better parenting. So now you know why you should stay calm, here are tips on ways to achieve this. First, come up with a plan. Think about how you will respond the next time you are in a battle with your child. Recall past situations and the types of behaviors you were confronted with from your child. Plan how you will respond to any behavior you recalled ahead of time. This way you do not have to think about or decide anything in the heat of the moment, you just have to follow your plan. And if you still feel yourself getting worked up, take several deep breaths or count to ten. These simple actions can make quite a difference because any reaction from you is not immediate so you have had more time to think about how you will react. With the first technique covered let's move on to the next tip.

TIP #2
The second most important factor in successfully managing parent and child arguments is do not take anything personally. Let me warn you that this is not the easiest thing to do. Actually it is very hard when your child is cursing at you or screaming, "I hate you", to not be hurt. Still, it is imperative that you separate your feelings and leave them out of your parenting situations if you want to effectively parent "challenging" behaviors. The main reason for this is because your feelings can landslide into misconceptions. You may start thinking your child's behaviors mean your child is intentionally disrespecting you. Reality is, however, in your child's mind it has nothing to do with you. Pretty good reason wouldn't you say?

And yet another important reason as to why you need to keep your feelings from being involved is because when you don't do this, your emotions can cloud your judgment. When you aren't seeing things for exactly what they are, you will not parent exactly the way you should. Your emotions could even cause you to place blame on your child for your own actions or inability to remain calm. I remember a few times when I was so frustrated and lost control in a situation with my daughter. I will never forget when I said, "Why do you make me yell at you? I hate it when you make me act like this". The problem here is that I blamed my daughter. I modeled something I do not want her to learn to do, blame others for our own feelings, actions, or reactions. No matter what I said that day, what my daughter learned was how to blame someone else. And by learning to blame, she was not learning how to take responsibility for her own actions, which is another necessary life skill (Pincus, 4 Tools to Help You Stay Calm with Your Difficult Child).

Now that I have explained why your feelings should not be involved in your parenting, I need to reinforce the fact that in no way am I suggesting that your child's defiant behaviors should be tolerated or accepted (Banks). I am merely saying that when you detach your hurt feelings you have a better view of the specific behavior that needs to be addressed. And when you can see only the specific behavior, you can discipline only that specific behavior rather than possibly for your feelings as well. One thing that helps me accomplish this is in my mind I think of the inappropriate actions as if they are developmental issues. This way it becomes harder to get angry with your child (Pincus, 4 Tools to Help You Stay Calm with Your Difficult Child).

TIP #3
Moving on, the final parenting tip for dealing with "challenging" behaviors is stay focused on the issue at hand. Children will do anything they can to distract you from addressing something they did wrong (Pincus, How to Stop Fighting with Your Child: Do You Feel Like the Enemy?). They know how to get to you and they will push your buttons just to engage you in a battle. Why do they do this? Sometimes it is because if they get you to engage and react, it not only works to distract you from what you were originally going to hold them accountable for, but it also gives them the feeling that they now have taken control of the situation. Since this is the only way they have learned to gain any control, they do what they know will work.

In order for children to learn another way to feel in control they must be made to solve their problem themselves, but with your guidance. This relates directly to you staying focused. Since your child is attempting to throw you off course by way of distraction, your best bet is to not allow yourself to get thrown off course. If you are able to withstand the temptation to react when your child antagonizes you, eventually they will realize that method no longer gets them what they want (J. Lehman, Oppositional Defiant Disorder: The War at Home). This may sound simple, but the truth is, it can be one of the hardest things a parent has to change. It is never easy for a parent to disregard a cry or plea from their child, but there are times when you have to in order for them to learn how to resolve a problem on their own. Something that helps me in this area is not viewing backtalk as a challenge to my authority. I have learned that so long as I remain focused on the behavior I initially addressed and follow through a course of action in regards to that behavior, my authority will remain intact. In addition to these strategies, there are still many more things that can help you to stay focused.

Of the other means of assistance in maintaining focus is one that can also prevent fights from starting. As the parent you have the ability to choose which battles you engage and which you do not. Not every battle has to be accepted, and once your child knows you are serious and are onto their efforts to engage you in battle, the frequency of these efforts to battle will begin to decrease. So before you engage in any battle, think about whether or not it is worth the effort, and whether or not it needs to be dealt with right now (J. Lehman, 4 Ways to Manage ODD in Children). There are surely times when issues can wait to be addressed later when you have both calmed down or are in a more appropriate setting. For instance, if you are out in public and your child says a swear word, you might choose to say, "Cursing is not acceptable and we will deal with your behavior when we get home today." It is kind of like a two player game and each of you have the option to participate or sit on the sideline. As the parent, whichever battles you choose to accept be sure to win.

This way of thinking is also a good way of explaining how interactions with your child should go. Imagine you and your child are each holding one side of a rope for a game of "Tug of War". If your child tugs on the rope, what do you do? You have to dig your feet into a set position if you don't want to get thrown around. Next, you have to hold firmly in place to stand your ground. The same goes in any confrontation with your child. When they first try to engage you in a battle, calmly, but firmly state your position and do not stray from that it. Your child will try over and over again to push or pull to throw you off course. Just as in the game of "Tug of War", if you were pulling on your rope and also had to try to catch an egg like in the Egg Toss game, if you tried, you would most likely drop your end of the rope. You couldn't successfully accomplish both tasks at the same time. This is what children count on, so do not try to engage in other things, hold your ground. The fact of the matter is, once you have stated your position, there is no need for further discussion. What do you think would happen if you suddenly dropped your end of the rope? Well, then your child has only themselves to battle with, the game no longer has any other players.

In summary of the tips and tricks I have discussed, learning to parent a child with "challenging" behaviors with minimal arguments is an extremely difficult task. A task that we are not automatically given the necessary tools we need to succeed. By understanding why these behaviors occur, and what we can do to eliminate the root of those behaviors, there is hope for an end to what may feel like infinite war. No matter how much effort we must put forth, it is our job as parents to teach our children the necessary life skills they need to grow up and be successful, responsible individuals. Remember that behaviors like your child displays are not developed overnight, therefore they will not disappear overnight. But if you can remain calm, not take things personally, and stay focused when parenting these behaviors, you will be able to make progress toward stopping the fighting between you and your child.


Works Cited
Banks, Carole. "Disrespectful Child Behavior? Don't Take it Personally." n.d. Empowering Parents Child Behavior Help. web. 19 May 2013.
Bean, Sara. "Parenting an Angry, Explosive Teen: What You Should-and Shouldn't-Do." n.d. Empowering Parents Child Behavior Help. web. 20 May 2013.
Lehman, J. "4 Ways to Manage Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Children." 20 June 2011. Psych Central. web. 20 April 2013.
Lehman, James. "Oppositional Defiant Disorder: The War at Home." n.d. Empowering Parents Child Behavior Help. Web. 15 May 2013. .
-. "Power Struggles Part I: Are You at War with a Defiant Child?" n.d. Empowering Parents Child Behavior Help. web. 17 May 2013.
-. "Sick of Your Kid's Backtalk? Here's How to Stop It." n.d. Empowering Parents Child Behavior Help. web. 16 May 2013.
Pincus, Debbie. "4 Tools to Help You Stay Calm with Your Difficult Child." n.d. Empowering Parents Child Behavior Help. web. 16 May 2013.
-. "How to Stop Fighting with Your Child: Do You Feel Like the Enemy?" n.d. Empowering Parents Child Behavior Help. web. 14 May 2013.
rozha 15 / 34  
Jun 12, 2013   #2
this topic is so long , if you write it briefly , i think it will be helpful for us , thank you.
dumi 1 / 6,927 1592  
Jun 13, 2013   #3
I have faced insults, swearing, disrespect, shouting matches, and public humiliation because of the fights.

I have often been victimized with insults, disrespect, verbal abuse and public humiliation caused by such fights and confrontations.

yet I never wanted to leave in fear of the usual public scene our arguments would make anytime we went out.

.... I like if you express this a bit differently, because your idea does not flow very clearly. I actually don't get your idea here.

. You may start thinking your child's behaviors mean your child is intentionally disrespecting you.

You tend to believe that your child's intention is to disrespect you with his or her particular behavior.

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