Tips for Dealing with a Misbehaving Child or Angry Teen
By Matt Burch, LPC
Children act out at all ages. When it comes to disciplining children and teens, there are many approaches taken by parents. Among the most common:
The Bluffer threatens a child with a stiff consequence for misbehavior, but when it comes time to follow through, caves in with either lesser or no consequences.
The Heavy overreaches with discipline, enacting severe punishment for minor offenses.
The Minefield parent is unpredictable in their discipline – sometimes a child dodges consequences and other times their parent explodes with harsh measures.
Can you relate to any of these approaches? Do you fall somewhere in between? Children of all ages respond best with consistency and follow through. Here are three quick tips that can help.
1. Set it up. Clearly state or write the rule and consequence ahead of time. When a child chooses to break a clearly stated rule, the consequence will apply to his/her learning. If it wasn’t set up, the child could be angry with you instead of taking the blame. If you forget to set it up or miss a chance to enforce… IT’S OK. Look for the next opportunity (which your child will surely present).
2. Don’t use the relationship as a consequence. The goal for effective parenting is not to wound, but to teach. Set up a consequence that you are willing to enforce around a behavior that you want to eliminate. Step back and allow the choice. Think of ways you can maintain a connection with your child even while enforcing a consequence.
3. Use consequences that are easily enforced. One reason parents hesitate to enforce consequences with their child that is acting out, is that it will be too difficult to manage the enforced consequence.
Although it can be difficult to discipline when emotions run high, clearly outlined consequences can help you remain calm, consistent and in control. They also empower your child to make choices and learn when their choices fall short.
Matt Burch is a Licensed Professional Counselor who has been counseling parents on the Choice-Consequence discipline model for more than 10 years. He currently serves on the staff of Eagle Ranch, one of Georgia’s largest residential programs for children going through a crisis. Eagle Ranch works closely with families, teaching them how to use the Choice-Consequence model in their own homes.