How to Deal With Tough Kids
Reported in the Woman's Day, September 24th 2007, pages 86 & 87
Parenting isn't always easy, but some children are harder to look after than
others. If you are struggling to cope with your child's behaviour, don't think
you have to do it all on your own. Mark Le Messurier, family therapist, educationalist
and author has come up with effective strategies that work for all children,
and which are particularly helpful for families in crisis.
These kids seem to react quickly and at an intense level. They have trouble
putting thinking between their feelings and reactions. Strong tantrums and emotional
outbursts are frequent.
- Always look at the big picture. Pick your fights. Use the 90/100% rule.
Deal with the 10% worst behaviours and follow consequences right through.
- In times of tension, go into a really low-key style. These children
need to see a parent showing control and calm behaviour, not behaviour that
matches their tantrum.
- If your child can't make a wise decision, then follow through
with the consequences unemotionally. Consequences like losing TV privileges
shouldn't last more than a day.
This is all about youngsters who start to do things, but don't finish
them, consistently leaving them incomplete.
- Teach them to use 'self-talk' so they can get through the
problem and work out where to go next. This stops them going off mid-task.
- Sit down with them when they begin a project and do some modelling
- make a plan about how far they are going to go until they finish. If
they run out of patience, get them to stop and pack up, then they can get back
to the task after a break.
- Older kids can learn how to self-monitor. Use task sheets and other
external cues to keep them on the job, for example, setting up a timer and getting
them to work until the it goes off.
These children are those who are totally unable to manage their belongings and
- Draw a weekly timetable on a whiteboard, so kids can see how the days
are broken up and what's happening in the next week. It helps them develop
a routine and have a structure to work within.
- Go through your child's bedroom and streamline it. Get clean
spaces and clean desks.
- Make children accountable, but reward them for good behaviour. "Catch
them" doing good things, and tell them how pleased you are!
These kids lack the ability to cope and to bounce back from negative or difficult
- Use a 'catastrophic scale'. Help your child to decide which
worry is really worth spending the time on.
- Get a worry tin - write down annoying concerns and pop them in
it so that they can be forgotten about.
- Try not to solve your children's problems for them. Listen, help
them work through the process and sort through their emotions. Ask the child
reflective questions, such as, "How did you fee?" instead of rushing
in with a solution for them.
Tough Kids are...
More likely to have
They Can Show
- Learning difficulties
- ADHD/ ADD/ or both
- An autism spectrum disorder
- Oppositional defiance disorder
- Auditory processing disorder
- Delayed developmental milestones
- A lot of anger
- Egocentric behaviour - "It's all about me"
- Inability to wait for gratification - "I want it now"
- Inability to pick up on how others are feeling - "What are you talking