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6 Ways To Coach Your Child To Better Behavior

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I’m not a perfect father.  Ha.  I know, “way to establish some credibility right out of the gates.”  But I don’t try to be perfect father because I never will be.  My goal as a father is not to be perfect but to teach my kids how to deal with life and make good decisions when I’m not around.  Life isn’t always perfect.  However, I am a parent.  I brought people into this world and I have an obligation to teach them how to do the right things and make good decisions.  You have the same responsibility to your kids.

My kids behaving properly, for now. 🙂

At CNY Mixed Martial Arts we get quite a few parents that come in and want help with their child’s behavior problem.  I hear a myriad of excuses as to why their child is misbehaving.  My son has ADHD.  My daughter has a learning disability.  The mother doesn’t help out.  The father doesn’t help out.  It goes on and on.

You may not realize this but the world doesn’t care why your child is misbehaving.  No judge is going to let little Johnny off the hook for speeding, shoplifting, (insert your own issue here), because he has ADHD.  He isn’t in trouble for having ADHD.  He’s in trouble for not managing his behavior properly.  If your children aren’t behaving the way they should be they are going to face escalating consequences as they move on in their lives.

You might be asking yourself, “why should you listen to this guy?”  You don’t necessarily have to.  As matter of fact, you should read this and determine for yourself it makes sense in your situation.  Then do what you think is best.

Before we get to any techniques though, I want you to understand something.  Your child does not want to misbehave.  You might think they get off on it but they don’t.  Negative behavior elicits negative feelings, emotions, and unhappiness.  Your child wants to be happy and so do you.  Here’s how to make that happen more often.

Let’s use an example of your child doesn’t want to pick up their room.  Because they don’t want to do this, they become verbally abusive.  The reason your child is exhibiting this behavior is because he or she thinks it will get them out of picking up their room.  It’s probably worked for them in the past either for the same chore or for having to do dishes or homework or whatever.  What your child is telling you with this type of behavior is not that they are a bad kid but that they don’t know any other way to handle this other than to be verbally abusive.  This doesn’t excuse their abusive behavior and yes, there should be consequences.

You can tell your child to stop doing something until you’re blue in the face.  You can “ground” them for weeks or months at a time, but if you don’t teach your child what to do instead of the negative, abusive behaviors you are just going to see more of those behaviors and you’re going to become more and more frustrated and exhausted.

James Lehman, MSW, an expert on child psychology and author of and excellent program called The Total Transformation, calls these “replacement behaviors.”  You can say “don’t yell at me” but that doesn’t teach them what to say or how to say the right thing.  The negative behavior that your child is displaying is successful behavior.  Like I said, it’s worked for them in the past.  Telling them not to do something that has been successful in getting them out of certain chores and/or responsibilities in the past will not work.  You have to teach them a replacement behavior that will help them deal with their responsibilities in a better way.

So what do you do?  Here’s some ideas:

1)  First of all, talk with your child after things have settled.  It won’t do you any good to have a conversation when they are being abusive or when you are angry.  It also won’t do you any good to ignore their irresponsible or abusive behavior.  It will rear it’s ugly head until your child learns a better way.

2)  Acknowledge the fact that “xyz chore” is not the absolute most fun thing to do.  It is however a responsibility that they must take care of before they go off and do whatever they feel is the most fun thing to do.  Whining, complaining, and being abusive will not be successful in your family anymore.

3) Explain that being abusive is only going to take them away from the things they want to really do.  Abusive and irresponsible behavior has consequences and your child needs to know specifically what those consequences are.

In the case of my kids being verbally abusive to anyone (and this includes texting), they lose their phone privileges until they can demonstrate respectful verbal communication for an entire week.  If they slip up during that week, it’s starts over.  The punishment will last until they demonstrate acceptable behavior for a week.  They know this and I have very few issues with them being verbally abusive.

4)  Remind them that not everything they have to do in life is going to be something that they really want to do.  That doesn’t mean we can avoid it and/or abuse others to get out of it. Reinforce the fact that being responsible and handling things properly has zero punishment.  There are no consequences for doing the right thing and doing what you’re supposed to do.

5)  Help them with replacement behaviors that are acceptable to your family.  Teach them what to do next time they fell angry, disappointed, upset, helpless, etc.  What is the behavior you would like them to exhibit in those situations?  You need to teach your child another way of handling things instead of swearing or screaming at you or others.

6)  Encourage you child when you see improvements and when they slip up and revert to their old behaviors.  What I mean is suppose your child loses his temper and says something abusive.  Instead of getting angry be the coach that you have to be here.  Say something along the lines of, “I know you can handle this situation better than you are right now.  We’ve talk about it and I’ve seen you do it.  Let’s handle this properly.”

Yes, your child will “slip up” and go back to their old behavior from time to time.  They may even challenge you.  Especially if abusive behavior has been going on for any length of time.  But stand your ground and you will see their behavior change for the long term and they will love you for teaching them a better way.

NOTE:  This post is not intended to be a substitute for family counseling.

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