Discipline Parenting

Parenting and Dealing With Poor Behavior

There is probably no more exhausting, exciting, frustrating, or gratifying job than that of being a parent. One-minute things are going well and the next you are pulling your hair out wondering if you are going to survive. There is no ?one size fits all? answer when it comes to parenting and discipline, however, here are a few ideas that may help.

By Julie Baumgardner

mothing and daughter disagreeingThere is probably no more exhausting, exciting, frustrating, or gratifying job than that of being a parent. One-minute things are going well and the next you are pulling your hair out wondering if you are going to survive. No matter what your socio-economic status or your education, parenting is an adventure second to none.
One well-educated mother recalled phoning a friend when it seemed that world war three was breaking out in her home between the adults and their child. The mother confided that she felt like a failure as a parent. Her friend reminded her that every parent encounters challenging times. If what you are doing isn’t working, then you have to try something else.
"That is a good thing for parents to remember," said Brenda Niel, local child and adolescent therapist. "Children are going to act out. You have to keep trying things until you find something that works with your child. The key is never to give up. And believe me, there will be times when it is tempting, but you have to hang in there."
In order for children to feel safe and secure they need to know that their parents are in charge.
"Some parents who grew up in an authoritarian environment might lean toward being less restrictive with their children giving them more freedom than they know how to handle, which can lead to disappointment for both parents and child, " said Ms. Niel. "It is critical for parents to understand that children need their parents to be authoritative, which means they are in control, setting limits and putting appropriate boundaries in place. Children who grow up in authoritative homes are constantly making decisions, which teach them how to be responsible for themselves. Children need to know that within the boundaries they can move freely, but outside the boundaries it can be dangerous."
Parenting is a 24/7 job requiring the tenacity of a lion and the gentleness of a lamb. While the job may be exhausting, there is no excuse for not stepping up to the plate when it comes to taking responsibility for your children.
“When children act out there is usually a reason,” said Ms. Niel. “Instead of getting frustrated, parents need to become super sleuths. Ask yourself these questions: What is happening that makes them feel like they need to do this? What is it that the child is lacking? It is almost like they have a hole in their bucket and you have to figure out how to plug the hole by giving them what they need. Watching what they do throughout the day will help you get in touch with who they are and what they need most from you.”
There is no “one size fits all” answer when it comes to parenting. However, according to Ms. Niel there are some basic things that parents can do to help their children behave.
Set limits and stick to them. A young lady said to her mother, “You would kill me if I got pregnant wouldn’t you?” The mother thought for a moment knowing that she would never hurt her child and then turned to her and said, “Yes, I would kill you.” Every so often during her high school years the daughter would pose this question to her mom to which she would receive the same response. Knowing the limits and her mom’s expectations of her helped keep her on track through high school and on into college.
Eat dinner together as a family. 
“Even if I had to pick up dinner on the way home, we all sat down and ate dinner together,” said Ms. Niel. “I learned everything I needed to know by sitting there listening to the conversation and learning how not to make a ‘conversation stopping face.’ I wanted the conversation to flow.”
Be clear about your expectations and reiterate them frequently. Children need to understand what your expectations are of them.
“Being a parent is a wonderful, amazing role,” said Ms. Niel. “Be prepared to struggle some, but be encouraged because as long as you stay engaged most acting out behavior will stop over a period of time. Eat your Wheaties, put a banana on it and keep putting one foot in front of the other and enjoy the journey.”

Biography: Julie Baumgardner is the Executive Director of First Things First, an organization dedicated to strengthening marriages and families through education, collaboration and mobilization. She can be reached at julieb@firstthings.org.



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  • I agree with most of the article. I don’t, however, agree with the “I’ll kill you if you get pregnant.” #1, no parent should ever threaten HARM to a child like that, and #2, don’t threaten something that you aren’t willing to follow through on. So unless you really WOULD kill your daughter, don’t use that as a threat. Otherwise, great article. It just gave me the shivers to imagine a mother actually threatening that to a child.

  • Ya’know, we just went thru a trying phase with our 3½ year old. All of a sudden he turned into this golden child overnight (fingers are still crossed). Just recently we put him and his younger sister in a babysitting establishment at our local city run sports facility. We did this because we felt they needed to be with others their age for a couple of hours a week (also for our own sanity so as we could some work done in our business).

    Within almost 2 weeks we noticed his behaviour was changing and not for the good. He was acting out more and took to biting people and other kids. It was instantly that we pinpointed it down to the babysitting room but thought maybe it would dwindle away.

    Well after about a week of H-E-*-* we decided to limit his stay there to just 3 hours and spending more quality time with him during the day. And he has now just turned a huge corner stone in his behaviour and understanding.

    And so the battle of will, wits and love will rage on till the day we die but I would never trade this lifestyle for any other.

  • I appreciate your thoughts on this, all points are important. In addition, there are more and more children today that struggle with connectivity issues between areas of the brain which make basic discipline and daily issues an even bigger concern and one in which the typical tactics don’t work the same way. If your child has any developmental or learning issues you will find that you have to back the train up and help teach them what emotion they may be feeling long before you can address the emotion at the root of a behavior. It can be exhausting but if you don’t understand it you’ll get even more frustrated. Additionally, there will be times when you feel you broke through and issue and reached your child and others when it is as if that didn’t happen. With so many parents dealing with PDD, ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia and other common related problems with brain connectivity I think it’s important to help them understand the additional steps they may need to take. 😉


  • In response to Brad’s post, I am offended. My son is also three and spends at least 6 hours (and up to a little more than 8) hours per day in a childcare facility. He has been in a childcare facility since he was 8 weeks old due to the fact that I work 8-5 generally. I think it’s fabulous that your child has “turned a corner” and is heading to happier days spent with the both of you; however, for other parents whose children are behaving badly, we (I) don’t have the option of removing him from the childcare facility – especially since I am a single parent. Yes, he has picked up some bad traits there such as a biting phase and now screaming, but that’s not to say that he wouldn’t have learned those anyway from playdates with other children.

  • I am late to the party, but in response to Karen…..it’s a teenage daughter. At that age, they understand sarcasm VERY well. The point the mom is trying to make to the daughter is that she’d be disappointed. Perhaps that needed to be explained in the article, but it’s not any different than my son saying “what would happen if I broke your golf club, Dad?” My response – “I would hurt you”. He knows what the response means. I don’t think it’s meant to be taken literally, and the author isn’t suggesting the mom kill her daughter. Your point is right on if the kid is four, though. I think humor goes a long way to make a point.

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