The 5 C’s of Parenting a Child with Behavior Issues
By Grant Stenzel, MS Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
When you buy a lawn mower, what comes with it? A manual. New car? Have a manual. Coffee machine for your house? You guessed it. Manual.
Know what doesn’t come with one? A new baby. Parents are given this tiny, beautiful new being and expected to raise it up. Parenting books are plentiful and helpful, but parents of young kids are often too exhausted to cultivate new strategies. Every day is Survival Mode, and before long, the baby has become a child.
Here at Stenzel Clinical, we obviously recommend counseling and believe in its proven benefits. We also have many therapists who specialize in Child and Family Counseling, and if you choose us for services, you will be paired with the perfect fit.
That said, you may not be ready for counseling (or medication) for your child yet. If you have the energy and motivation to work on some techniques at home, you’ll probably find the following helpful. It’s what I like to call the 5 C’s:
Consistency, Calm, Consequences, Counseling and Comfort.
As the parent, it’s your responsibility to run a fair and just household. Work hard to never play favorites with your children, and embrace your role as a moderator and conflict resolver. Have the same rule, punishment and reward policies for all kids so they know they’re getting equal treatment.
Consistency is a crucial component when it’s time to discipline. Not too harsh, not too lenient and absolutely no knee-jerk reactions. If you took Johnny’s phone for a day last time he brought home a bad grade, don’t take it for a week next time. Punishments you hand out should be predictable, and the punishment should fit the crime.
Consistency also applies to your demeanor. It might be oddly fun to be in a bad mood, but remember that it negatively impacts everyone in your house. When your child is having difficulties of their own, love them. Don’t strike, don’t yell, don’t demean.
And speaking of yelling…
Yelling at kids out of blind fury is not productive. Behavioral kids are often looking for a reaction. If you react, they’ve won. And if you give your kid your attention when they act out, guess what they’ll do more of in the future?
Here’s a truth a lot of parents don’t realize: Timeouts are for parents as much as they are for kids. Whether your child is an absolute angel or the complete opposite, there will be moments where you feel anger bubble over.
Take a second. Send them to their room so you can gather yourself, calm down and come up with the appropriate consequence.
I used to joke with my family that I was the benevolent dictator, and I had a policy in my house as my son and daughter grew up. They knew it well. If they told the truth and came clean, their punishment was halved. If they lied, the punishment was doubled. As a result, they were more than happy to fess up and enjoy a lessened punishment.
Punishments and other negative consequences are important, but remember to also identify and reward your kids when they do something great. Did they share a toy, love their sibling or clean up without being asked? Take them for ice cream or let them watch an extra episode of their favorite show. Make sure you tell them why they’re getting this sweet perk.
I mentioned this already, but it’s worth saying again. No good parent does it alone. You might have a spouse you can rely on, or family, or friends, or your church or your community.
At Stenzel Clinical Services, we are proud to be part of your community and a resource you can count on consistently. Reach out to us if now is the time to talk about behavioral therapy and counseling for your child.
This one is for you. No parent is perfect, and you need to give yourself a break.
Enjoy old hobbies and find new ones. Go on date nights. Get out in nature. Exercise and eat right. Get plenty of sleep (once those bundles of joy start sleeping through the night). Spend daily time in prayer and in the Bible.
In short? Do things that fill up your tank so your child can draw from it. Parenting is tough, but if you remember the 5 C’s, your child’s behavior issues will lessen.