Does your child fail to accomplish the goals that you know he or she is capable of, and for the life of you, you just can’t figure out why? Do you have a “challenging child” who is having difficulty following the rules? Perhaps he does not seem responsive to the natural consequences that you impose with regularity?
You may even know what it is like to have a child who excels and seems to be assimilating well with his friends, in the neighborhood and at school. This further confuses you because you have compared your parenting skills and you know that you handled both children in similar ways.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing about parenting is that many of the parenting techniques that you believe in have not work with your “challenging child”. Now we all know that parenting is trial and error and each kid is truly different. You couldn’t possibly treat them the same, because they aren’t the same. There may have been times that you made choices that were actually better for “the challenged child” and yet it seemed to have no impact.
The reality is that children oftentimes have inherited personality characteristics from earlier generations that play into their sense of identity. Some children are born with that drive to achieve while others seem to chronically underestimate their abilities. Children that are challenging or underachievers may not have the resiliency skills to know how to do better.
How do you guide them down the right path? Much of that depends on their age and circumstance.
If you have a child who is having difficulties and they are preschool or elementary age, you will need to set up an infrastructure that enables others to share the same values and role model the behavior you would like to reinforce.
Get them involved in Brownies or Scouts to learn important values?
Enroll them in a Sunday School (despite their difficult child status) so that they can watch other kids conform even if they choose not to.
Hook them up with an adult who can spend concentrated amounts of 1 on 1 time to reinforce the rules of life.
Role model areas that you want to improve and ask them to help you to get up earlier, clean your closet, make more dinners at home. Ask them to be your accountability coach!
If they are ages 13-18, the major interventions are to:
Encourage any effort the child makes to do the right thing. Noticing the effort reinforces positive behavior and it provides the foundation for success. Don’t get discouraged when they show some promise and then fall short of displaying that behavior again. It’s all part of their process.
Create consequences that fit the misbehavior. Be consistent. Don’t give them a consequence for one infraction and let them slide the next time.
Be creative. Employ any adult who has significant contact with your child to reach out and take an active part in their life. Whenever you use the team approach you have increased your chances for successful intervention.
No matter what age, many children will eventually figure life out and stop sabotaging themselves. They may indeed never turn out to live up to what you consider to be their potential, but they live a life that is comfortable for them. So don’t beat yourself up, be consistent and creative and most importantly…keep the faith. Your job is to support them while they learn from life!