In every family, there are innumerable problems, especially related to argumentative children. Sometimes, no matter how supportive and friendly we are with them, kids still argue, misbehave, and demand more than they can have. Their unreasonable demands inevitably lead to conflicts and misunderstanding within a family.
Due to the westernization of modern society, there are a lot of causes of the increasing number of family conflicts. Firstly, children tend to demand more privacy and independence from their parents which leads to teenage angst and rebelliousness. Often, this is a recurring problem. They may not cooperate while getting ready for school in the morning or refuse to timely go to sleep at night. The problems may also be related to doing homework, or fighting with siblings. Children may be rude or disrespectful, or refuse to cooperate when asked. Over time, these common problems of daily living begin to eat away the quality of our relationships with our children – and our own peace of mind as parents.
This is where most parents and guardians get stuck. In the face of all our best intentions, kids become stubborn and difficult—and so do we. In this blog post, I will outline five essential steps that we should take while dealing with such a situation of family life.
1. Take a Step Back
Children want to solve problems, and they want to do well. Like us, however, they may become frustrated and even feel hopeless that solutions are possible. And, like us, they may just not know what to do.
The first step in solving any recurrent problem in the life of a child is to take a step back. Problems related to kids or angsty teenagers are best solved – and perhaps can only be solved—with a calm mind. When we are reacting to our children’s behavior, our immediate response is always the worst. All kinds of specialists and counselors will agree on this point.
2. Identify the Root Cause
Most parents tend to react Look for causes, not just symptoms. You will solve problems more successfully when you have been able to identify the daily experiences in the life of your child that are sources of painful feelings. These may be frustration in learning, or frequent criticism, or bullying, or exclusion.
Then, listen to your child’s grievance. Let him tell you what he believes is unfair in his life. Tell him what is right about what he is saying before you tell him what is wrong. You can say, for example, “I know you feel that we are always on your case about your schoolwork, and maybe we are. But we’re worried and we need to solve this problem.”
3. Place the Problem Before Your Child
Once you have identified a recurrent problematic situation and made some effort to understand its causes, the next step is to place the problem before your child. Say, for example, “We have a problem in the morning, when it’s time to get ready, and I often end up yelling at you,” or “I think we have a shower problem,” or “A lot of times, we have a problem when I tell you that it is time to turn off the television.”
4. Elicit Your Child’s Ideas
It seems almost reflexive for many parents, when faced with a child’s defiance or lack of cooperation, to attempt to solve this problem by imposing a “consequence” for their child’s misbehavior. Although some problems may require this approach, I recommend that you first engage your child in an effort to solve the problem—to elicit her ideas.
In this way, you will often be able to engage her in a search for solutions. She will then be less absorbed in angry and defiant thoughts, less stuck in making demands or continuing the argument. She will begin to think, even if just for that moment, less about getting her way and instead about how to solve a problem, how her needs and the needs of others might be reconciled – an important life lesson, for sure.
Once you have placed the problem before your child and asked for her ideas, give her some time. You can say, for example, “Why don’t you think about it for a while? Let’s talk again later, or tomorrow, and see what your ideas are.” In doing this, you will be teaching yet another important lesson, because this is how most problems in life should be solved.
5. Develop a Plan
In my experience, almost all children respond positively when I tell a family that “I have a plan” to solve a recurrent problem of family life. They may be skeptical, but they listen with interest. Deep down, they want a plan, as much as we do. (I will offer plans for solving specific family problems in future posts.)
6. Express Appreciation and Praise for Increments of Effort and Success
Be sure to offer praise and appreciation for every increment of your child’s effort at compliance and self-control. Your acknowledgment of her effort and progress is a basic principle of successful problem solving.
Psychologists have learned from psychotherapy research that ongoing collaboration is an important element of successful therapy. This is also true in solving problems with our children. We should regularly, proactively, check in with children, and ask, for example, “How do you think we are doing with our morning problem?”