Challenging Kids – What Works, What Doesn’t
By Barbara McRae, MCC
Not surprisingly, parents usually contact me for help when they’re dealing with challenging teenagers. The complaints revolve around: being disrespectful, not abiding by the household rules, refusing to apply themselves at school, fighting with siblings or classmates and getting in trouble with the law.
The Problem-Focused Approach
Often parents wait to contact me until they’ve applied the usual ineffective and perhaps even counterproductive methods, (nagging, grounding, screaming or worse.) By this time these kids have been labeled difficult and disruptive; at this stage, you can be sure that they will live up to this negative image. I call this a Problem-Focused Approach. When your attention is focused on the problem, it will expand! But it won’t SOLVE the problem; it usually makes matters worse.
Some parents argue, “But it worked on me when I was growing up!” OK, that’s possible. And what does that have to do with your current situation at hand with your challenging kid? Absolutely nothing! Why? We are all different. What works with one child doesn’t with another one. What worked in one generation doesn’t cut it with the next one. Insisting that a certain parenting method work for everyone doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Most parents are very aware when a parenting strategy works or when it doesn’t. So, why do some parents continue to employ a traditional strategy that obviously isn’t addressing the difficulty at hand? Two reasons: (1) The strategy is repeated because it has become habit; (2) Parents don’t take the time (or don’t know how) to discover the underlying factors that contribute to the child’s difficult behavior.
Alright, so what can you do instead?
The Solution-Centric Approach
This practical and collaborative alternative is supported by the neurosciences and is based on the premise that “kids can do well IF they know HOW in a specific situation.” Now some of you might not like what I’m going to say next. What I’m suggesting is that interpreting a child’s behavior as belligerent, bratty, manipulative, or controlling is simply an assumption, a viewpoint. It might appear this way on the surface; but what is probably truer is that this kid is lacking the skills to behave collaboratively.
When you understand that difficult behaviors show up when an underlying, unsolved problem has been festering, then you can get to the root of the issue and get it resolved. Kids are generally not equipped to do this for themselves, so they “act out” instead. It’s really a cry for help. It’s up to the parent, the wise leader, to recognize what’s needed (or get help).
With a Solution-Centric Approach you emphasize the behavior you want to cultivate and teach your kids by example. Specifically, I’m referring to the time-tested Parent Coach collaborative communication steps found in my eBook Getting Your Ducks in a Row (or the complete book with specific examples in Coach Your Teen to Success.) This approach helps you explore what’s beneath the surface, listen to your nearly adult child’s concerns, and together work toward a satisfactory resolution.
Using these tools will help you to dramatically improve your interactions with your teenagers. These tools are now also being introduced to teachers to help transform the classroom. Change is achievable when you recognize that you can impact behavior by utilizing collaborative tools.
If you’re someone who benefits from having additional guidance for yourself or your teenager, or if you would like an accountability partner to help keep you on track as you develop your new skills, feel free to contact us or take a look at the sample of Coach Your Teen to Success facilitators that are featured at www.teenfrontier.com.
Barbara McRae, MCC
Teen Parenting Expert, Campus Calm
© Barbara McRae