Do you have a child who is having difficulty following the rules or does not seem responsive to the natural consequences that you impose with regularity? You are in a quandary because you are at a loss and you are starting to question what you could do differently. 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 cannot figure out where you went wrong?
Most likely you have examined your parenting and you know you were not perfect, but your parenting techniques worked well with the other kids in your household. You probably have had a child who excelled and seems to be assimilating well with his friends, in the neighborhood and at preschool or 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 worked on your last child or have been identified as excellent parenting strategies” may not work with you “challenging child”. Although there are inevitably some mistakes you made that contributed to your child’s difficulties you are perplexed as to why your child seems so non-responsive to the limits, boundaries, and incentives that you provide. Now we all know that parenting is trial and error and each kid is different so it is impossible to treat them the same.
The reality is that children oftentimes have inherited personality characteristics from earlier generations that play into their sense of identity. That is why some kids while others falter. Some children are born with that drive to achieve while others seem to chronically underestimate their abilities. Research show that some kids seem to be born with addictive features while others seem detached from any external reward. Some kids look at life with that half empty mentality while others seem to see life without any barriers. If your child is challenging or an underachiever, he or she may not have the resiliency skills to know what is in his or her best interest.
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 it will be important for you to seek professional guidance if they seem “lost”. More than likely, you have already exhausted your list of things to do to get a child motivated.
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 is all part of their process. Secondly, you must create consequences that fit the misbehavior. Be consistent. Don’t give them a consequence for one infraction and let them slide the next time. Thirdly, be creative. Employ every 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.
It may feel heartbreaking to watch them merely exist as opposed to excel, but parents can only guide their children—they cannot do it for them.