Helping your child to change

Perhaps your child has a bad habit you would like to cure or a problem to solve. It is surprisingly easy to change habits by following this sequence: 1. Choose your goal. You already know what you don’t want. It might be whingeing or not obeying until the 15th time you ask, for instance.

The first step is to turn this around and specify what you do want.

For whingeing.. .use a normal voice not obeying.. .do it straight away hitting.. .use words to let people know you’re angry being a loner.. .join in the game 2. Consider possible reasons for the behaviour. You could ask the child for their reasons but they may not know. Also, think over any changes or circumstances which could have triggered the problem. A child might be disobedient because they have a hearing impairment. Perhaps they are allergic to food dye or farm sprays in your area. 3. Decide to act. Explain to the child the new rules — what will be happening from now on and your goal. Be strong and stick to your decisions. 4. Look at yourself as an example to your child. Sometimes we have to fix the problem in ourselves first. If we solve problems by hitting our child, we can hardly expect them not to hit, too. If we don’t go out and make friends, we can’t expect them to be good at socialising. 5. Be creative — try new options. Don’t bruta-lise children if they don’t respond. Sometimes it takes time to find out there is something beyond their control. Check that the new goal is within their ability — appropriate to their age and physically possible for them. (Remember that if a child has done a thing properly once, it is within their ability.) Once you’ve decided that it’s an appropriate goal, get in and help them to want to do it. Creativity can give you amazing solutions and make parenting a lot more fun. 6. Be positive. Look for and reward each success. Keep imagining your child as having already achieved the goal. Say encouraging things like: ‘I know you are good at playing with other kids. Go and ask if you can join in.’ ‘You are very clever at working things out. Go and try again.’ ‘You got the first part right — you picked up your toys and took them to your room. Now you have to think about the right place to put them.’ Here are a couple of solutions from parents:

– Regan, 7, had to be asked nine times before he would do what he was told. His mother decided she would double the amount of work she was giving him, instead of just repeating her request. His reactions speeded up wonderfully.

– Elly, 6, was dreamy, so her mother clapped her hands in front of the child’s face, then asked: ‘What did I just say to you, Elly?’ That got her attention straight away.

The parenting group had a tea break.. .and a toilet break, after talking to Harry and Marg about their son’s bladder!

The next questioner was Jane, who had astonished the group by saying she had five children under eight years of age, yet was still able to smile and speak coherently.

I’ve got one who whinges. She really gets me down.

What do you want instead?

I want her to not do it.

Not talk? Or not whinge? (Jane laughed.)

Would you like it if she used a normal voice?


Why do you think she whinges?

Well, I’m pretty busy with the baby. She just goes on and on at me, until I give in for peace.

So, it works.

Yes, I guess it does.

Smart kid.

But annoying. I can’t stand to be around her.

It gets me down.