You are in luck. There are some simple ways you can reprogram your own attitudes and behaviors that may help your child know what is and is not acceptable behaviors. My degree is in child development, and after years of fieldwork, I have a unique insight into the roots of interpersonal relationships.
Example: Jim wants his step-daughter Tory to do her chores. Normally it is a battle to get her to do them every morning, and when she does, she is constantly complaining about the entire processes.
Sound familiar? Let us break this down for a minute. First, we can review Jim’s attitude about this battle. We all know that mornings can be stressful though it does not need to be a battle between parent figure and willful child. So stop thinking of it as a battle and expecting a battle as that guarantees that you will be at odds.
New thoughts, new feelings, new outcomes
Try to wake up in a great mood and thinking or expecting a wonderful and amazing morning. Now start thinking of what you can do or say differently to get your desired results.
Example: Jim is accustomed to waking every morning to the child being disruptive. This is something he does not appreciate about the 12-year-old child, so when she makes noise, he snaps at her to shut up and tells her to do her chores without complaints. She complains even more than yesterday as a result of his reaction to her disruption. Jim needs to find a new way to get Tory to want to behave nicely in the mornings.
Now what we see here is a “monkey see monkey do.” His attitude was a negative one from the beginning, stemming from his expectations and irritations. She then in turn responded back with a similar attitude.
Let’s try this a new way shall we?
Example: Jim wakes up to Tory’s disruptions, and he decides that today is going to be a great day no matter what. “Tory, would you please come here for a minute?” She eventually makes it over to him. Jim waits for her to comply. She finally gets over to him. “Tory, I care about you and wish you to learn all of the best things in this life. I never want to see you upset or hurt or unhappy. With that in mind, when I ask you to help and do your part to keep this place running along with the rest of us, it would be a lot better for everyone, including you, if we can keep things less noisy in the process. Will you help me please?”
Tory crosses her arms and gives him a stubborn look.
“When you are doing your chores to be helpful for our home, I want you to know how much your mom and I appreciate the work that you do as it keeps our environment more healthy, so none of us or you get sick. Do you understand so far my dear?”
She, being 12, may say anything at this point, but Tory just looks at him skeptically and unsure. Jim continues, “It is very difficult for all of us to have a happy and smooth morning when through out your chores we hear loud complaints. I would like to give you a chance to tell me what is really bothering you during this time, so that in the future we may all have a more pleasant tome of helping each other out here. How can I help you help me with this process?”
Now I’m sure at this point a 12-year-old will typically rattle off a very long list of everything you have heard repeated this month out of her month when bothered by something. This is your chance to do some digging. Truly listen to what comes out of their little mouths until it gets to a point of too much to handle the repetition. Try looking further behind her words to try and catch the bigger issues behind the ones she is pointing out so dramatically to you here. When you spot the bigger issue, ask her about it plainly and bluntly. Now she gets a chance to help you better understand her. She feels heard and listened to and her mood lightens some.
Now you have heard her real issues from her point of view. Make an appointment with her to discuss further and in more depth all of her concerns one at a time. Give an incentive for her to make the time for your discussion later by letting her know how pleased you will be to see her then to fix this. Also, may wish to add that if she is the pleasant little helper you are wishing for, she can have something she really wants you already know is within your means and good for her to have whether an object or a privilege.
This may or may not work until a few times being consistent at it. That is important here, be consistent with your child. The second you let your own attitude slip into a negative one, you can always bet on your child to show you exactly the attitudes you are showing them.
How to do this
First, assess your own feelings and emotions about these subjects. Analyze them. How much from your own negative experiences from your past are you bringing into this present situation? What is fueling your negativity? How did you arrive at the conclusions you have made? Can you think of ways to turn any or all of that around? Can you remember how you learned to be who you are now? Can you imagine the way you would like your thoughts and feelings to be so your child can reflect those back to you instead?
The trick is to think yourself before you speak to your child and then teach such child to do the same with consistency in your own behaviors and attitudes you show to them.
Here is your chance to do better and be a better example for the child you are now responsible for. Not a good idea to bring to it all the baggage you have been carrying, so just find a way to let all that ick go from the past.
Once you have your own attitude under control your little monkey will follow what they see you do and eventually reflect that back to you. Be confident in your self and know you can do this. Things will get better with time effort and patience with both yourself and your child.