Every parent has gone through this before – the child who refuses to listen, reacts with negativity to everything you say, and throws tantrums when things don’t go their way.
After tutoring and babysitting children for more than 10 years, I’ve seen my share of difficult kids and equally difficult parents. Usually, are lots of complex emotions at play. The child feels neglected because the parent doesn’t pay enough attention, and as a result, is often verbally or physically abused. Meanwhile, the parent is frustrated and angered by their child’s lack of interest and response. They even feel self-pity when they compare their child to their friend’s children who are like angels.
1. Use Positivity
There was once a study about the positive effect of words on water crystals performed by Dr. Masaru Emoto. He took snapshots of water crystals after saying good and bad words to it. When he said kind words like “Thank you” and “Love”, the water crystals were clear, bright and had an exquisite design. On the other hand, when he uttered things like “I hate you”, the water crystal turned dark and murky. This incredible experiment showed the physical effects of our thought and our words. Just think about it – the human body is 60% water, think about what kind words can do to transform your body and mind!*
So try to turn every negative situation into a good one. If your child spills something, instead of yelling at how clumsy he is, help him clean up the mess and gently remind him to be more careful next time. Your child will notice the change of positivity in their everyday life. Positivity has a spillover effect whereby when the child sees the positive aspect of life, they will in turn evaluate situations with positivity. Their mental state of happiness will be elevated if they see things with a new light.
2. Be Proactive
Oftentimes, disasters can be diverted if the right interventions are implemented beforehand. Find a time in the day to ask your child how was his day, or what is bothering him. Try to resolve the situation before he erupts. This is particularly the case for introverted children who tend to bottle things up.
Help your child release their tension and stress by talking to him or her everyday for at least 10 minutes about their life, focusing on the bigger picture about how lucky we are to even be alive. In those 10 minutes, talk about everything that is positive about his or her life, relating it to world events, children in other parts of the world, or how things were when he or she was younger. This way, it helps the child jump out of their level of the problem to look at the better, more positive aspects of life.
3. Organize family activities
It is vital to show your child how much you love him or her, as well as your family. Organize frequent family outings such as apple picking, shoveling snow, and family vacations. Also, make sure to participate in your child’s education by regularly communicating with their teachers, joining the Parent Council at school and helping out with any school activities. Your child will appreciate the extra mile you’ve taken to take part in their life.
These activities will help the child feel that he is part of a family unit, rather than a one-person troupe. It will also give your children something to share with his or her friends. Believe it or not, children actually like to show off their parents and the things they do in their family. Many kids that I’ve tutored talk endlessly about how fun their family vacation was, or how much they enjoyed reading with Mommy or Daddy. It even makes me feel jealous the attention that they receive from their parents.
4. Watch the language
Good manners are developed on a daily basis. To instill a sense of discipline in your child, make your home into a no-swearing, good language zone. By language, I mean verbal and body language. When you speak to your child, look at your child in the eye with wide-eyed contact and animate your tone with excitement. This will capture your child’s attention and engage him or her immediately.
When your child is speaking to you, require him or her to be polite and respectful at all times. When I deal with defiant children who like to eye-roll at everything I say, I read them stories about children in ancient China with specific examples of their filial piety**. These stories get the child thinking how mean or disrespectful he or she is to their parents, and often helps to change their behavior. I would also ask the child to role play boss and employee (me being the boss of course), so the child has a mentality that he needs to be more respectful and disciplined towards elders.
When you discipline your child, don’t exercise physical violence. This is the last thing you or they need to straighten out their behavior. If you do it once, your child will feel extremely hurt and neglected by you, which they will use to justify and reciprocate the negativity towards you.
5. Enroll your child in extra-curricular classes
If your child is hyperactive, expend their excess energy by enrolling them in extracurricular activities like soccer or dance. Every child has a hidden talent that needs to be discovered and fostered.
I once tutored a child who was so hyperactive that she couldn’t focus on anything we were doing. So I asked her to act out all the things that we were going to learn, and she did a fine job acting and remembering all the key phrases. I realized that it wasn’t because she wasn’t smart, but because she needed to use her body to learn. I convinced her parents to enroll her in acting classes so she can develop her skills in something that she really enjoyed. Her parents saw her gradual development into an aspiring actress, and her concentration improved tenfold because she was able to go into the scene and character.
One other advantage to enrolling your child in classes is to take the load off of your shoulders for a while so you can spend some time with your significant other. It’s important to take time-out so you can focus on other important things in life, like your marriage.
Most of all, exercise patience and prudence when educating your child. If things go wrong, don’t blame it on your child.
One last thought – if you believe in the karmic cycle of samsara, perhaps your pain in this lifetime is caused by you hurting someone else in another. Perhaps in another lifetime, you were once the child and your child your parent, so now the tables have turned. So despite the trouble you feel by your child, remember he is in your life for a reason. Treasure your child and try to change him for the better, one step at a time.
*Emoto’s Water Experiment: The Power of Thoughts. http://www.highexistence.com/water-experiment/
**24 Paragons of Filial Piety. http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~asia/24ParagonsFilialPiety.html