Some kids are rougher than others, which causes a lot of destruction and damage. Here are some tips on how to help them learn to handle their feelings while protecting your own possessions.
Don’t Give Kids Contradictory Messages
This is a big one. Most parents do it, and it ends up coming back to bite them. “Don’t swear,” we say, and then we do it ourselves.
“Smoking is bad for you,” and yet we smoke ourselves.
“Be honest,” and then we bribe and manipulate our children into doing what we think they should be doing.
These actions are self-defeating. For many, the simple act of being honest is difficult. It sounds so strange, but it’s true. Never give your child contradictory messages, and they’ll never learn that it’s OK to act dishonestly, be hurtful, or malicious. And, this can curb a lot of bad behavior before it ever becomes a problem.
Acknowledge your child’s feelings, but don’t rush in with a solution – give them the opportunity to solve their own problems. Don’t lecture, teach. Don’t tell them how they should feel, or validate or invalidate their emotions or thoughts. Simple acknowledge them, and ask them what they think about it. Be a guide, not an authoritarian ruler.
Don’t Bribe or Bargain With Them
Bribing is one of the most subtly destructive ways parents undermine the parent-child relationship. When you bribe your child into being good, it actually reinforces bad behavior. It teaches the child to be manipulative, because he or she is rewarded on the “back end” of the bad behavior.
For example, if your child is destroying your stuff, and you make a deal like “If you’ll just be good for this evening, and not break anything, I’ll take you out to the movies.”
You think, in your mind, “I’m teaching my child to be good by rewarding him for good behavior.” What your child hears is, “Mom (or dad) is buying a stay of execution. I’ll be bad later and cut a better deal.”
From the child’s point of view, there’s no consequences because you’re willing to bargain for good behavior. You should never have to do that.
Is The Problem Dietary?
Believe it or not, there is some evidence that gut microbes (bacteria) can influence behavior. This is because bacteria that live in our guts naturally make hormones like serotonin. And, these hormones have a profound effect on our moods.
And, for children, and even teenagers and adults, our gut ecology can be an underlying reason, or a trigger, for bad behavior, if environmental and social triggers are also present.
So, for example, if you’ve had to buy new Shear Comfort covers for your car seats because your child has torn the OEM ones to shreds or damaged them in some other way, as crazy as it might sound, it may be something going on inside their gut.
This is something an experienced gastroenterologist would be able to look at with gut pathogen screening and other advanced diagnostics. And while it certainly doesn’t excuse their behavior, it can at least partially explain some triggers of it.
Hold Your Child Accountable For His Or Her Actions
This doesn’t always mean that you should punish your child in the normal or customary way. In fact, spanking or hitting your child could make things worse.
Natural consequences for your child’s behavior should be drummed into them. This means that, if they break a chair in your house, then that chair becomes their chair, not anyone else’s. If it’s unusable, they may have to stand at the table because there’s no other way for them to sit down.
It might initially seem cruel, but it will teach a very valuable life lesson – that actions have consequences.
What if it’s a teen? A punishment might be a reduced allowance, or an agreement to pay for whatever was damaged. Another way to punish your child might be to reduce the amount of money spent on school supplies or clothes. If you normally spend $200 on clothing, spend $100, and use the difference to fix what your child broke.
Your child still gets all the clothes he or she needs, but you may have to shop at a cheaper store or get clothes that don’t exactly fit right.
If your child is truly remorseful, this might be enough to make the lesson stick. If not, you may need to dig deeper into the underlying reasons why your child is destructive. Children aren’t usually naturally malicious.
Whether you need to talk to a psychotherapist or whether you just need a heart-to-heart with your child, find out what the problem is and what you can do to solve it.