How to deal with a child’s challenging behaviour

Parents often come to me with issues around conflict within the family. The biggest mistake I have seen over the years is a parent not staying calm.

‘Be the calm you want to see’

biggest parenting mistakeI learnt to transform my parenting with this one change – Being calm, peaceful, patient and present.

Why? Because you produce better behaved children.

Dr Markham says in her new book this one change will be transformative in your household – it was in mine

1. Big idea for today – Regulate yourself

Over the years, parents, teachers and principals have said to me ‘Shouting does not work, it only makes things worse’. When I asked my children ‘How do you find me?’ I was so shocked when they said ‘I find you threatening sometimes’. No parent (including me) ever wants their child to feel threatened and I committed then and there to get my emotions in control.

2. Take a step back

Usually, when we shout, we are shouting for help. So, for me the challenge was in the moment to ask myself ‘What do I need to do for myself now?’ The answer was always to step back, to put my hand on my tummy and to take three deep breaths. You are probably asking – but what about the child? Don’t worry; that you need to teach her a lesson, she is getting the most important lesson of all, learning to self-regulate emotions responsibly. Regarding the incident that triggered it, my mantra was ‘Deal with it later’. Then, she is more receptive and your delivery is better!

3. Move from reactive to proactive parenting

I had always been very reactive, stepping into conflict, raising my voice and now saw that this only ensured that conflict escalated. Usually, I was personalising the child’s behaviour as somehow being about me! I now began to see that the child’s behaviour was about the child, maybe they were tired, or angry with a sibling or frustrated.

Now, my new ability to stay calmer (most of the time) ensures I interacted with the child calmly, respectfully and something amazing happened! My child began to mirror what I was doing and their response was calmer and more respectful.

When we regulate ourselves, the child learns to regulate themselves!

4. Hit your pause button

Start today observing your responses and you will ‘catch yourself’ getting angry. It can be helpful to place a hand on the heart and one on the tummy and to name your feeling ‘I feel angry’. Then the No 1 responsibility in the moment is to say ‘What would be helpful for me to do here?’ Maybe, you may say ‘I need to breathe to self-calm’.

My responsibility as a parent was to allow the emotion to pass without acting on it. Stand, breathe in deeply through your nose and breathe out through the mouth very slowly. With the out breath, you should feel your shoulders coming down from your ears, your muscles softening and a sense of calmness over a few deep breaths.

This is the best lesson you can teach your children: ‘When I get cross/upset or angry – I use my breath to calm myself’. Often, this will also have proven a distraction and diversion to the event that led to the upset – which may also be helpful.

Regardless, when you are calmer, you can help the child with their emotion and you are likely to be more patient and compassionate and less irritable.

‘When you act different, they respond differently!’

Your calmness has a more powerful influence than shouting.

‘How can you expect them to learn to control their emotions, if you don’t control yours?

Watch Sheila’s video for some tips for a happier home