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Four Keys to Better Behaved Kids

June 19, 2017

What many parents do not realize these days is that social, economic and technological pressures have created a disconnect in families and as such we are seeing more squirrely (anxious) looking kids.

It is as if they are flailing around not knowing what to do and thus get caught up in inappropriate behavior and given our disconnect, we the parents have limited influence to restore connection or behavior.

The answer is not in better punishment, scolding or shaming.

The answer is in managing our guilt for lack of availability; taking responsibility for those things we allow to disconnect us from our kids; and then restoring our connection.

There are four key strategies that can help:

  1. Time over stuff: As for our guilt, no longer can we assuage it by giving our children stuff. Giving stuff suggests to kids that stuff is more important than relationships and we the parent we only be valued for the stuff we provide. No stuff, no value. Of course kids who are constantly given stuff don’t otherwise listen to parents. Rather than stuff, give 10 minutes of special attention to engage in a quick activity or admire something of the child.
  2. Disconnect to reconnect: As much as parents complain about their kid’s use of tablets, smart phones and social media, truth is, so too do parents preoccupy themselves with such things, even when purportedly talking or being with their kids. Turn the devices off – at least certain times of the day such as at meals and at bedtime. Be truly present and undistracted when with your child. That you turn off your device (actually off, not on vibrate) is a huge signal to your child that they are of value to you over and above anything else. Then you are in a position to truly reconnect.
  3. Reconnect through normal activities: Have time together as a family, typically through shared mealtime. Shared mealtime can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Statistically, the more shared mealtime together, the better children’s behavior and the more likely you can transfer your values and morals to your kids directly as opposed to their picking up whatever by surfing the Internet. In addition to dinner together, consider a board game, throwing a ball, riding your bikes or even enjoying a movie together. Anything… just make sure to turn off your own device during your time with your child. Let them remember you and not the interruptions.
  4. Parent with intention: Not all expectations are a discussion. Just like in school when the teacher says, take out your books, this is a demand, not a question. So too parents need to act with reasonable authority and a tone of voice that demonstrates not anger, hostility or fear, but a clarity that what is being sought is actually required. If time for bed…it is time for bed and not a negotiation. Don’t ask… tell. “It’s time for bed”… Kiss on head…”Go”. In view of back-talk, repeat calmly yet firmly: “It’s time for bed”… Kiss on head…”Go”. Even if it takes 20 repetitions (each time like the first) continue until your child goes. The child doesn’t wear you down or trigger anger. The child learns you remain friendly, yet firm.

It is remarkable how in some situations kids behavior can be turned around quickly.

Our connection serves to settle them down. As we bring calm energy, love, attention and meaningful expectations our kids feel safe and cared for.

Safe and cared for. Safe and cared for. Safe and cared for.

Try it for a week. See what happens.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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