Managing Difficult Behaviour
“My son is constantly picking on his younger brother, loses it when I ask him to stop a video game, and moans and groans when I ask him to put his plate in the dishwasher… We fight over the same things day in and day out. I feel exhausted and stuck. Most of the time I end up shouting and threatening to take his playstation away, even though I don’t like it and I know that it doesn’t help. I just don’t know what to do. I got to the point where I look after him because I have to, but there is no joy in it. I don’t even like him anymore.”
You might have asked your child at some point: “Why do you do this?” You might have had a conversation in our own home in frustration and exasperation, saying: “Why will you not just do what I can see is good for you?”
Have you tried different approaches and found yourself back in square one, dealing with the same behaviour again? Are you feeling frustrated, overwhelmed and… losing hope? Do you just want it to stop and life be a bit easier and more peaceful?
If that’s how you are feeling, I understand.
Difficult behaviour is challenging not only for parents, but it is exhausting for children as well. It is never their first choice. If they could stop acting out, they would.
Children often can’t stop acting out because the difficult behaviour is a message about the discomfort they can’t express directly. They might not know what it is or how to put it into words, but they feel uncomfortable in their skin, which comes out in their wonky behaviour.
For as long as we focus on managing the behaviour on the surface, it persists because the message has not been heard yet, the need that drives it has not been met. This is the tricky bit that we need to do if we want to help our children: we need to dig deeper to understand what they are asking for and look for ways to give it to them.
Even though the behaviour can be the glaringly obvious thing that needs to change, when we work together, we look to understand what is underneath this behaviour, what is driving it and what we can do about it. We are looking to meet and support the child on a whole different level.
This approach helps you to shift your role from managing your childs behaviour, to helping them manage their own behaviour. You can support your child to make different choices that maybe they don't see right now, but they can experiment with and find a way through.