Help Your Child Manage Anger

Anger is one of the most destructive emotions; people who have difficulty managing their anger can end up hurting others and themselves. As adults, they can destroy their most important relationships – those with spouses and children. Parents can help their kids have lifelong satisfying relationships by helping them to find healthy ways to deal with anger. In addition, when parents provide their kids with anger management tools, parenting itself becomes easier and more pleasant. On the other hand, when free range is given to angry outbursts, temper tantrums and rage, family life becomes very stressful. Moreover, children who are allowed to vent their rage not only scare their siblings and their parents, but they also frighten themselves. Their out-of-control behavior leaves them feeling emotionally out of control as well. For all these reasons, parents will want to help their kids deal effectively with inevitable provocative and upsetting situations.

The following are some tips on how parents can help children manage their anger:

Anger is Not Always Loud
It’s important that parents know how to recognize anger. Some expressions of anger are obvious and easy to spot. For example, raising one’s voice, banging hands on a table, and kicking the trash can are external and explosive ways of dealing with anger. But there are also more hidden and subtle expressions of the emotion. Passive-aggressiveness, depression and sarcasm can be signs of anger that are more internalized. If parents know how their child expresses his or her anger, then they can shape their interventions appropriately.

Model How to Handle Anger Well
Parents are in the best position to teach kids about anger during discipline. When offering negative feedback, correction or any type of guidance to a child (including giving negative consequences for misbehavior), show that you have control of your anger — even if you are really upset. If children can see that there are assertive (polite yet firm) ways of expressing anger, they will use them themselves. When you find yourself getting angry at a child, model the entire process of calming yourself down. For instance, tell the child, “I am getting frustrated. I need to calm myself down before I say anything more about this. I’m going to the kitchen to get a big glass of water and I’m going to sit down and drink it slowly until I feel better. Then I’m going to start thinking about what I need to do to about your behavior so that this problem doesn’t happen again.”

Take Ownership
Never blame the child for your anger. This teaches the child to blame others (like his siblings, friends and you!). In other words, don’t say things like “You’re making me mad” or “If you do that again, I’m going to get mad.” Instead, just take ownership: “I’m starting to get mad.” Remember, you may be getting mad because you are sleep-deprived, stressed, and hungry. You might feel helpless with this child, not knowing how to gain his cooperation. None of these reasons has to do with the child. All kids misbehave. It’s the parent’s responsibility to learn how to handle misbehavior without anger.

Don’t Accept Excuses
Similarly, don’t excuse your child’s angry behavior. Teach your youngster that “He broke my castle” is not a good reason for hurting a toddler. It’s an opportunity to use words “You’re not allowed to break my castle! I’m not playing with you now.” Even if the child is angry for really good reasons such as the fact that parents are going through a difficult divorce, or the child himself is challenged by illness or whatever – angry behavior cannot be excused or condoned. You understand, of course, that the child is very stressed. However, as a parent you want to teach the child that he still has control over his mouth and body. He can choose his behavior. Choosing to be hurtful or destructive is only one option. A stressed person can choose to remain sensitive to others even though he himself is suffering emotional pain. 

Don’t Accept Abusive Behavior
Anger is a feeling. Behaving hurtfully or destructively is a behavior that is abusive to others or to the environmnent. Slamming doors, yelling, swearing, throwing things, hanging up – all of these aggressive behaviors are abusive to those on the receiving end. Punching holes in walls, smashing furniture, and so on, are also acts of abuse in that they terrorize the household. Use negative consequences for abusive behavior: “You cannot say or do hurtful things like that every again. From now on, when you choose to yell, swear (etc), such & such consequence will occur.” (See Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for a detailed approach to discipline).

Teach Your Child Safe Ways to Release Anger
Parents can help their children deal with anger by teaching them how to use their words effectively. The most powerful tool for this is the parental model. Saying to your child, “I am really upset about this” teaches the child to use those same words when she is feeling upset. In addition, actually teach the child to use such words. “It’s not O.K. to call someone names. Instead, just tell them how you feel. For instance, when you’re mad at me, don’t say ‘you’re the worst mother in the world’ but instead say ‘I’m really really upset about this.'” Equivalent phrases include “I’m not happy about this,” “I’m not happy with you right now,” “I’m really frustrated,” “I resent what you did,” “I’m extremely displeased,” “I am furious,” “I am angry.” Sometimes a child will be so angry that she’ll want to throw something or break something. Such behavior is destructive and cannot be permitted. However, you can teach your child to rip paper into shreds (an exercise that makes a good ‘ripping’ sound and uses a fair amount of physical energy), or let out a silent scream (just open her mouth and imagine screaming at the top of her lungs) or pull and twist a folded towel (which releases excess physical energy). Punching a pillow or punching bag is NOT recommended as this activity actually stimulates more anger rather than releases energy. Another good way to release fury is to sit down with pen and paper and write really fast, pouring out all the wrath in words onto the page. The page should be thrown out afterward. Younger children can be offered a big black ‘mad’ crayon to scribble pictures and feelings onto paper. Teenagers can be encouraged to release angry energy by engaging in intense physical activity like lifting weights, doing push-ups or riding the exercise bike.

Give Examples of Destructive Anger
Your child need not learn through the school of irreparable mistakes. They can learn through the mistakes of other people. When you hear stories in the news of people committing angry crimes, talk about it to your children. Let them know that anger is a dangerous emotion when it is not controlled and expressed in healthy ways. Show them that you value communication and the skill of calming down.

Consider Bach Flowers
Bach flower remedies may help your child feel less angry. The remedy Vine can help reduce an angry nature. The remedy Holly can help children who are easily offended or prone to jealousy. Impatiens can help those with a short fuse. (These remedies can help adults too!) For more information on the Bach Flower Remedies, look online, in books and throughout this site.

Point Out Positive Role Models
Similarly, when you see or learn about people who handled a difficult situation gracefully, be sure to talk about it with your kids. Emphasize that people always have control and can make the choice to maintain their dignity and the dignity of others even in very stressful situations.

Seek Professional Help
If you have tried all of these interventions and your child is still easily anger, aggressive, or verbally abusive, consider making an appointment with a child psychologist. A mental health professional can provide effective treatments to reduce anger.

Won’t Dress Properly for Cold or Wet Weather

Young people often don’t have the patience to put on layers of protective clothing – no matter if that includes jackets, scarves, hats, gloves or other items. Moreover, they frequently claim that they’re not cold – even when the thermometer clearly makes a dip. Many youngsters don’t seem to care about getting wet either: “I don’t need a raincoat,” “I don’t need boots,” “I don’t need an umbrella.” Oddly enough, mothers are often at the other extreme. This part of the population often feels chilly and is willing to layer clothing, wear extra coats and gear and do whatever is necessary to cozy up. Mothers just don’t understand why their kids don’t want to be warm and comfortable! Fathers, however, are a different story. Often, men are much like the kids, braving the elements with minimal protection (although, of course, there are many exceptions to this generalization!). However, whether it’s Mom or Dad that is concerned about the child’s lack of warmth, the underlying issue is usually about the child’s health and well-being. Parents worry that an under-dressed child may catch a cold, flu or worse. And in fact, some under-dressed children tend to do just that. There are kids who are vulnerable when they are chilled. Naturally parents don’t want a child to become sick (and feel awful and miss school and so on); just as importantly, parents may not want to be personally affected by their child’s sickness such as by having to take days off work to tend to a sick child or by catching the child’s sickness themselves. These are legitimate concerns: one sick child can cause the entire household (siblings, parents and whoever else is around) to become sick too.  Consequently, parents do really want to find a way to get their kids to look after themselves by dressing properly for weather conditions.

If your child refuses to button his coat, wear a hat, or otherwise dress appropriately for cool or damp weather, consider the following tips:

You are the Parent
Try to keep this in mind! You have both the responsibility and the right to direct your household. Your child’s behavior affects other people in the household, as explained above. You have every right to insist that he dress appropriately for the weather. Although this doesn’t guarantee that the child won’t get sick, it is one step that the child can take to protect himself. (You may have discovered other steps that the child needs to take as well such as getting enough sleep or eating enough healthy foods and so on. We’ll limit this discussion, however, to the issue of dressing warmly.) Some parents feel that it is up to the child himself to decide what he wants to wear. They reason that the child needs to learn through his own experience that under-dressing is uncomfortable and can lead to illness. In fact, personal experience IS an ideal way for the child to imbue this lesson of self-care. If you can allow your child to become a little uncomfortable (without rescuing him when he wants you to drive over to school with more clothing!), then you should. Experience is truly the best teacher. However, if this particular child gets sick easily (that is, sick enough to have to miss school) or if YOU get sick easily, then you may not have the luxury of allowing the child to experience the consequences of his own actions. In that case, remember that as a parent, you are allowed to insist that your child wear the appropriate clothing.

Use Your Regular Forms of Behavioral Management to Help Your Child Dress Appropriately
There are many ways to encourage cooperation in kids. Refer to other articles on this site (or the book Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice) for detailed explanations of the main interventions that encourage cooperation with parental requests such as the 80-20 Rule, The CLeaR Method, and the 2X-Rule. Positive techniques should be employed before bad-feeling interventions (like discipline with negative consequences) are used. Therefore, if the child is listening to you and decides to wear the boots or put the sweater on, be sure to offer positive feedback (“that’s great – I really appreciate your cooperation” or “that’s very cooperative of you!”).  If the child is not listening and you yourself will be layering heavily due to inclement weather, you can use non-aggressive discipline (i.e the 2X-Rule). On round two of this conersation, your message might sound like this if  you are speaking to a nine-year-old who is on the way out the door to school, while you are on the way to work with little time to spare: “I asked you to wear your warm coat and if you do not put it on right now, then when you get home today, you will have to write out ten minutes worth of lines ‘ I need to do what my mother asks me to do’ (or use any other slightly annoying negative consequence such as losing computer privileges, losing dessert, going to bed early or whatever you think will be annoying enough to motivate the child to wear the coat next time!).  The point is that a young child doesn’t have to understand all of the parent’s thinking processes and calculations. He won’t understand until he is much older. He doesn’t have to agree with the parent either. What he DOES have to do, is cooperate with his parent’s instructions. Giving the child negative consequences for failing to comply will help him to comply eventually – not necessarily right away. You are not looking for instant results. Rather, you are looking for positive results over the long run.

If your teenage child isn’t listening to you, it will be more helpful to strengthen your 90-10 rule with that youngster (the relationship-building ratio of positive to negative communications from you to your child). Application of this rule with adolescents greatly encourages their cooperation.

Sometimes the Child Doesn’t Like His Outer Clothing
Sometimes your child’s lack of cooperation is not due so much to defiance as to simply not liking his clothing. You can always ask him why he doesn’t want to wear his coat, gloves or whatever. If he doesn’t like them, take this seriously. Kids are very sensitive to peer pressure. Perhaps their clothing isn’t “in.” Do whatever is possible to purchase clothes your kids like and are willing to wear. Even adults don’t like to wear clothing that their friends would not like. This social consciousness is actually healthy. Don’t tell your child that it doesn’t matter what other kids think; it actually DOES matter what other kids think. Being socially appropriate helps people succeed in their lives. Being out of sync with the crowd, doesn’t work well for most people. Remember the kid in your class who didn’t dress right? What did YOU think about him or her? While we’re not trying to encourage the development of a mindless, cookie-cutter kid, we ARE trying to encourage the development of a child who can read social cues and manage to fit in well with his or her peer group.

Sometimes the peer group just isn’t wearing scarves or hats, no matter what the temperature out there is. When this is the case, you may be able to find some acceptable alternative like ear muffs, 180’s, a coat with a high collar etc. Your goal is to help your child stay as warm as possible without looking “nerdy” to his peer group. Keep in mind that YOU wouldn’t want to be the only one wearing mittens in your office if no one else ever wears mittens there! Again, social norms ARE important. Of course, if your child has particular health issues, he may just HAVE to be different in order to be healthy. However, do not impose difference on a child who has pretty good resilience just because you think he should dress the way you had to dress when you were a child!

Sometimes the Clothing is Hard to Put On
A related but different reason for opposition may be that some articles of clothing are hard to put on or do up. If this is the problem, try to get easier clothing to put on.

When Your Child is Generally Uncooperative
If your child isn’t cooperating because your child just doesn’t cooperate in general, make sure you are following the 80-20 Rule and allow a week or two before seeing a turnaround in attitude. If you still don’t see improvement, consider trying Bach Flower TherapyThe Bach Flower Remedy called Vine (available at health food stores and online), will often melt away a defiant, uncooperative attitude – sometimes within 24 hours, or sometimes a little longer. The remedy is a harmless form of water, safe for infants, nursing moms, pregnant ladies and everyone else. Put 2 drops of Vine in a small amount of any liquid (water, chocolate milk, milk, tea, juice etc.) 4 times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Bach Remedies don’t interact with other medicines, herbs, foods or health conditions; they can be taken with or without food. If you still don’t see improvement after this treatment, you can consult a Bach Flower Practitioner for a more specific remedy mixture and try this method a little longer or, you can make an appointment with a mental health professional or parenting expert for further advice.

Colicky Baby

Inconsolable crying in babies is understandably anxiety-provoking to parents. After all, crying can be caused by many things, pain and illness included. When parents have tried all means of soothing a child, it’s easy to imagine the worst. If only babies would be able to speak and tell their parents what’s wrong!

If you have a child who tends to cry and fuss frequently, for no understandable reason, consider the possibility that your child has colic.

What is Colic?
Colic refers to the condition characterized by a healthy baby who tends to have periods of intense crying, fussing and/or screaming for no known reason. Traditional medical definition classifies colic as crying episodes that last more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks, although variations of colic outside these parameters also exist. It is believed that colic affects 1 in 5 infants.

Symptoms of colic typically appear within one week after birth, and can last up to the baby’s fourth month – after which they generally go away on their own. While crying episodes can happen anytime within the day, it usually reaches its peak during late afternoon or early evening.

What Causes Colic?
The exact cause of colic is still unknown, although many theories exist. This is why the phrase “healthy baby” is critical in the condition’s definition; infections, diseases and all kinds of illnesses have been ruled out in most (but not all) cases of colic. Proposed explanations for colic include overfeeding, gastro-intestinal upset, allergies or sensitivities, a child’s innate temperament, anxiety in a household, and difficulty adjusting to the environment outside the womb. Research findings so far show no bias towards any one of these explanations.

In general, colic is harmless, and is not associated with developmental delay or impairment of any kind. In fact, the bulk of the impact of colic is felt by the parents. Colicky babies have been known to trigger fatigue and burn-out, feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, as well as anxiety and depression, among their primary caregivers.

What can Parents Do?
Traditional soothing techniques for infants are specially recommended when caring for a colicky baby. These techniques include rocking the infant gently in one’s arms, singing to the baby and walking the baby outdoors he or she is upset. Changing the baby’s position, e.g. turning them on their stomach, and swaddling (wrapping the baby in a warm blanket) have also been found to be helpful.

There are also medications that are specifically for colic, although many have expressed concern regarding medicating someone so young. It’s best to consult your pediatrician if you want to know your pharmaceutical options for dealing with colic.

Some nursing mothers have found that adjusting their own diet helps reduce their babies colic. For instance, removing gas-inducing foods like beans and cabbage may help the baby. Or, removing dairy products, wheat products or common allergens might sometimes make a difference. Some parents have discovered that their crying baby is reacting to something in the environment like cotton clothing or baby creams or powders – and when they remove the offending substance the colic suddenly stops. However, the majority of parents with colicky babies cannot trace down a specific trigger. They and the baby just have to deal with the upset.

Obviously, parents must pay attention to self-care. It’s easy to get defeated by the stress of caring for a colicky baby. There’s loss of sleep from the baby’s crying, frequent trips to the doctor to figure what’s wrong, worry over the baby’s health, and just the effort of keeping the child calm when he goes into one of innumerable cryng spells. When parents can get some time off of caring for their baby, they will come back more refreshed and able to handle some more stress. Babysitters can help or parents can relieve each other, taking turns caring for the baby as much as possible. It’s important to get out of the house, see other people, exercise and have some fun; all of this strengthens a person to deal with the hours of crying and fussing. Picture the baby growing a bit older and a lot quieter – it WILL happen! Realize that colic is temporary and keep your eye on what’s up ahead.

When should Parents be Concerned?
Excessive crying among infants is such an ambiguous symptom to interpret. It can be colic or something else. To be safe, parents need to check-in with their pediatrician regularly. They should always note any other symptoms that accompany crying such as fever, skin rashes, diarrhea, vomiting or developmental delays. Most colic is nothing but colic and will disappear on its own in a matter of months.

Bad Manners in Public

It’s bad enough when kids display bad manners at home but all the more upsetting when they behave that way in public! Most parents are mortified when other people can see how their kids eat with their mouth open, speak disrespectfully to grownups or sneeze without the benefit of a tissue.

But don’t worry: good manners can be learned (and taught!). If your child displays bad manners in public, consider the following tips:

Consider the Child’s Age
Bad manners are more common in certain age groups. For instance, pre-schoolers are quite impulsive and have trouble waiting. Consequently, this age group is prone to interrupting adults in order to get what they want or need at the moment. Since the behavior is age-appropriate, parents need to be gentle when offering education. “I know it’s hard to wait sometimes. When you see Mommy or Daddy speaking, just sit nearby and tap your fingers on your knees. Soon, Mommy or Daddy will stop talking and see you there and will be happy to help you with whateer you need.” If the child continues to interrupt despite the gentle instructions, parents might consider that the child is not yet ABLE to wait patiently. Older kids, however, have developed more impulse control and can be expected to be more restrained. Also, young children are used to shouting in the school playground and may not realize that shouting in a shopping mall or place of prayer is not equally acceptable. Some kids may slurp up their drinks in a noisy manner without realizing that there is another way. In general, young children must be taught how to display good manners – they’re not born knowing the rules of civilization. Patient guidance from parents is important. Using encouragement and positive reinforcement to encourage good manners is always the first route. Only if these fail to attain the desirable results would one move on to discipline.

Model Good Manners
The best way to teach good manners is for you to display them on a constant basis. If saying “good morning” or “good afternoon” is part of the family culture, then expect that your child will be greeting people courteously outside the home too. If some formality is present when you dine at home, then kids will practice table manners in public settings too. You can demonstrate how one answers a telephone politely, how one introduces oneself or other people, how one eats and so forth. You will still need to TEACH in addition to modelling. However, it will be very difficult to teach if you fail to provide the model of the behavior you are looking for!

Consider That Your Child is Misbehaving for Attention
Does your child have impeccable manners at home, but horrible manners when there’s an audience? If this is the case, consider the possibility that your child’s poor etiquette is his way of getting negative attention. When this happens, just ignore the bad manners; don’t reprimand or laugh. Also, be sure to give your child more positive attention both when he is behaivng appropriately and when he is just doing nothing wrong. When a child gets enough positive attention, he usually doesn’t try to get negative attention. However, if he feels that the only way he can get a parent to talk to him is to misbehave, then that is exactly what he’ll do.

Don’t Reprimand in Public
When a child shows bad manners in public, it’s tempting to reprimand — after all, people are watching! But reprimanding a child in public may backfire on you; your kids might feel embarrassed at being lectured or punished with an audience. Worse, you may be reprimanding when your child didn’t deliberately misbehave, but acted based on what they thought was right in that situation.  Indeed, it is ironic how ill-mannered a parent can appear when reprimanding a child publicly – some parents raise their voice, use unpleasant language or act gruffly. Such behavior can never instill good manners in a child! Instead of giving in to other people’s disapproving stares, wait until you both get home and gently teach alternative, more appropriate behaviors.

Reward the Exercise of Good Manners
You’d be surprised at how well a child will adapt a practice or behavior when he or she knows it pleases you! Praise your child when they practice courtesy and good manners, and provide a smile when they behave well. And if they did something really considerable, such as made a grandparent or a visitor feel good, then you can go for big rewards, like taking a visit to the ice cream parlor or buying a small gift.

Bad Manners at Home

Sometimes children have trouble following basic etiquette or displaying good manners. During meals, for instance, your child may eat with his hands or burp out loud (without so much as a “please excuse me!”). When playing with a friend or sibling, he may grab a toy without asking or refuse to share. When a parent speaks he may interrupt. He may pass wind when at home, without caring about whether anyone is present. However, no matter what specific issue your child has with manners, there is a way to help remediate it. Even though these behaviors may occur in the privacy of your home where no one might be upset by them, addressing them is still important. It’s a parent’s job to help socialize a child, giving the youngster the essential skills that will help him in life. Possessing good manners is one life skill that will always serve your child well.

If your child displays bad manners consistently consider the following tips

Be a Role Model and Educator
This is obvious, but important enough to state anyways. We aren’t always aware of ourselves, so we may not realize that we eat with our mouth open or talk with our mouth full – especially if no one ever complains to us. It’s easier to see such behaviors in our kids. When you correct your child you may occasionally hear something like, “You do the same thing!” If this happens, thank the youngster for pointing it out and then say something like, “I guess we’ll both have to work on this habit.” This goes for any form of bad manners: putting your shoes on the sofa, grabbing things out of people’s hands, eating before the others have arrived at the table, taking portions of food without offering to others and so on and so forth. It can be a fun project to get a book on etiquette (there are many excellent ones available) and read tiny sections of it to the family at dinner time (it might take a year or longer to finish!). It can be used to stimulate discussion as well as to learn about social standards of behavior.

Use the CLeaR Method and Other Positive Strategies
The CLeaR (comment, label, reward) Method can be used when your child has a real problem with manners. In the CLeaR method, a parent reinforces the child’s behavior through the use of positive comments, positive labels and, for a very short period, a simple reward. This method feels better and actually works better than the nagging method – the technique most parents use to correct their child’s poor manners. It is also more pleasant than using punishment to correct the negative behavior. Suppose you were trying to teach your youngster to eat with cutlery instead of his hands. The CLeaR Method might look something like this: If the child begins to eat inappropriate food with his hands, hand him a fork and then make a comment (“You’re using a fork!”) Then offer a label. (“You have good manners!”) Then offer a small reward. (“I think that deserves a special treat for dessert for everyone!”) When using the CLeaR Method to teach a behavior, refrain from using discipline for that behavior at the same time. (Learn more about how to use the CLeaR Method to replace punishment, nagging and ineffective interventions, in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.) In fact, it is best to refrain from correcting the child when he is doing the wrong thing (i.e. talking with his mouth full) altogether. Correction is a form of attention that can accidentally reinforce the undesirable behavior. For instance, every time a child uses his talks with his mouth full, the parent tells him “finish chewing before you speak.” This comment – even though it is a correction – is a form of attention for the child and, as such, can have the consequence of INCREASING the inappropriate behavior! Instead, either use the CLeaR Method for that child or give specific praise to another child at the table who happens to be eating with his mouth closed (“I like the way you are eating quietly with your mouth closed”). (By the way, you can “set the child up” for the CLeaR Method by quickly and quietly asking him to talk only after he’s finished chewing and then giving loud and clear CLeaR Method attention to him when he does that.)

Use Consequences
Children can misbehave for many reasons. Your child may have bad manners, not because he doesn’t know what to do, but because he is choosing not to do it. Always check that your communication with a youngster is within the ideal 80-20 Ratio – that is, 80% of what you are communicating, feels good to the youngster (90% for teenagers – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on the 80-20 Rule). A good ratio reduces defiance and behavior problems in kids and teens. In addition, positive, good feeling, techniques should always be tried first when you want to educate a child. However, while such techniques will do an excellent job of education in most cases, they don’t ALWAYS provide a timely cure. If a child repeatedly displays a particular bad manner despite your positive efforts at eradicating it, it is time to try more traditional forms of “bad feeling” discipline such as the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details). Suppose, for instance, that your child enjoys burping at the table. You will inform the child that burping is not acceptable (except on rare accidental occasions, during which you say, ‘excuse me.’). After your information is delivered, the child will likely burp again at some point. Now you go to Step 2, telling him “from now on, when you burp at the table, you will have to leave for 5 minutes and then you can come back and try to behave at the table appropriately.” The third time the burp occurs and every time thereafter, a negative consequence will be applied. Use the same consequence for 3 or 4 occasions in order to see if it is being effective in reducing the rude behavior. If it isn’t, just announce that there will be a different consequence from now on. Use the new consequence for 3 or 4 times to see if the burping is happening less often. Continue to switch consequences only if you fail to see any improvement.

Use Bibliotherapy
Take some books or videos out of the library on the subject of good manners and read and discuss them with your kids. There are materials suitable for every age group, from the very young right up till adult! Explain the role of good manners. There are special films showing children of dignitaries how to behave appropriately. These can be entertaining as well as educational. As suggested above, you can read “Miss Manners” type books at the table and discuss with the family.

Consider Professional Help
If the bad manners are part of a larger picture of negativity or defiance, and your interventions have not helped sufficiently, consider seeking out the help or assessment of a mental health practitioner. Parents can also seek additional tips on how to deal with bad manners from a parenting professional.

When Your Child is Rude or Disrespectful

There is a saying: “sticks and stone can break your bones but names will never hurt you.” How wrong that is! Verbal abuse can truly hurt – not only in the short term but also for extended periods of time, sometimes even a lifetime! Inappropriate verbal behavior in the form of verbal abuse is common in family members: sarcasm, name-calling, insulting, yelling, swearing and many other forms of hurtful and diminishing communications. Children and teens sometimes learn this kind of behavior from their parents, but just as often they pick it up in the schoolyard or on the block. They can also learn it online and through social media. Even television, movies and songs can teach kids how to use language inappropriately.

In order to help children stop engaging inappropriate verbal behavior, consider the following tips:

The Parental Model is Important
Children and teens will learn that people of all ages communicate very poorly at times. Their friends, neighbors and relatives will provide live demonstrations of inappropriate verbal behavior. Parents are always the most powerful teachers, however, so it is crucial that YOU model appropriate verbal behavior for your child. Even when you are frustrated, tired, irritable, sick, stressed or enraged, always speak in a respectful manner. If you give in to shouting and cursing, chances are very high that your kids will learn to express strong emotion that way too.

Appropriate verbal behavior is more than controlled anger. It is also behavior that shows the correct respect to others in all circumstances. For instance, children need to show an extra level of respect toward parents, grandparents, teachers and elders. Again, your own model of appropriate verbal behavior to this class of people will be important. Be aware of how you sound on the phone when talking to your parents, and watch yourself when you are speaking to them in person – no matter how frustrated you may feel at a given moment. Your child is listening and learning.

Your Home is a Training Ground
Don’t allow your child to practice verbal abuse. The more your child whines, yells, snarls or otherwise communicates inappropriately, the more likely it is that he or she will continue in that way throughout life. The more someone does something, the easier it is to do again. This is due to practice and the fact that more neural pathways are produced for repeitive behaviors. People don’t just wake up one day when they’re 30 years old and start yelling and swearing; this is something that they’ve learned in their formative years. Therefore, help your child to STOP inappropriate verbal behavior as soon as you see it. Use the full gamut of parenting techniques to encourage appropriate verbal behavior and discourage inappropriate verbal behavior (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for a complete program). Whether your child is rude to you or to a babysitter, relative or sibling – get to work on it right away and nip it in the bud! If it has already been going on for a decade, you can still address it starting today. You need a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate verbal behavior. Any behavior that others would consider obnoxious or any behavior that would harm your child’s relationships should be targeted. This can include not only direct verbal abuse as described above, but also mumbling, repeating oneself, talking on and on and on without regard to the listener’s attention span, speaking too loudly and speaking too quietly.  All inappropriate verbal behaviors can cause your child pain in his or her own social world, therefore it is important not to ignore them and just hope that they will clear up by themselves. Do what you can do to help your child and when you’ve exhausted your own ideas, call upon professional help.

Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind
Inappropriate verbal behaviors may reflect emotional issues that require attention. A child who expresses anger through inappropriate verbal behavior may need to learn better communication techniques but he or she may also need help to address the underlying anger itself. A child who mumbles or speaks too quietly may need to learn how to express him or herself in more attractive and age-appropriate ways, but he or she may also need help in addressing social anxiety or insecurity. In other words, both the behavior and the emotions often need to be addressed. Professional help can often help in the deepest, most thorough and quickest way, so ask your doctor for a referral if you have any concerns whatsoever about your child’s feelings.

Using Negative Consequences Effectively

Every Saturday is your child’s schedule to wash the dishes. But like many kids, he hates the chore. So every Saturday, there’s a slimy pile-up in the sink just begging to be cleaned. You decide to issue consequences for ignoring responsibility. The rule goes: until all the dirty dishes from lunch are washed, the whole family will have to forgo dinner (after all, there won’t be any clean plates!). You thought that if everyone had to go hungry, the pressure would motivate your youngster to do his job.

Unfortunately for you, this child is not so easily intimidated. Not only does he NOT wash the dishes, but he actually goes to the cupboard to pull out a clean one and makes himself his own dinner!

What happened?

In theory, the consequence to the misbehavior was perfect. You didn’t nag, yell or criticize.The consequence made it clear that you are instilling the rule in order for the whole family to be able to eat together on time. And the consequence was even logically related to the behavior you want to correct. It should have worked!

Perhaps there are other things missing from the equation, which is why your child doesn’t accept the consequence. Consider the following possibilities:

You Have Failed to Establish Authority
Parental authority plays a huge role in getting kids to accept consequences. If you’re inconsistent in setting rules and consequences, there’s a good chance that your child will not take you seriously. You may, for example, have let him off the hook before despite his misbehavior. Having done so would have convinced him that he doesn’t have to worry about actually receiving a punishment – in his eyes you are “all talk and no action.” Or you are strict on him, but lax on siblings. To ensure that setting consequences work, make sure that you are serious about consequences and will implement them.

Your Child is Misbehaving — Again
Here’s a thought: what if your child’s refusal to accept the consequence is also misbehavior? Remember, misbehavior has goals, and your child may be refusing to do the dishes and refusing to accept your consequences for the same reason. Find out what the reason is; perhaps your child is seeking negative attention, or going for revenge. Have you been too angry or too punitive lately? That tends to backfire, leading to more misbehavior. What is going on in your relationship with him? What are the stresses in the household? Is he experiencing stress at school or in relationships? When you address the need behind misbehavior, you’ll see less misbheavior. Moreover, your rules and consequences will work more effectively.

The Consequence Doesn’t Really Affect Him
For consequences to work, they must affect your child in a significant way. While they’re not supposed to bring pain,they must at least provide an inconvenience, or serve as a roadblock for something that the child wants. In the case above, the consequence was likely ineffective because the child knew there were other clean dishes to eat from! Choose consequences carefully, making sure that they are real deterrents. Consequences do not need to be “logical” in order to be effective – they need to be “the right priced ticket.” That is, they need to motivate the child to comply. You can remove possessions and privileges (for up to 24 hours for a child and up to 48 hours for a teen). Or, you can assign extra work (this only works once your child has learned to accept punishments). Study up on your discipline strategies and talk with other parents about effective negative consequences they have discovered.

Your Child Doesn’t See the Purpose of the Consequences
Consequences are there to teach the child the logical link between misbehavior and an unwanted event. Hence, some discussion must come alongside the implementation of the consequence. Perhaps your child just doesn’t appreciate why the punishment is needed. If you can explain the rationale of using a negative consequence, then he or she may be more likely to accept it. Indeed, any respectful communication about the misbehavior can help. In this case, explain to the child that everyone in a family has to help out. Explain how it makes you feel when you’re the only one doing everything. Explain how unfair it would be if everyone except this particular child had various household responsibilities. Explaining the issues with the child’s behavior, can help the child realize that he should cooperate and also help him realize that a deterrant for failure to cooperate makes sense because it is meant  to help him succeed in cooperating.

Temper Tantrums in Public

When a child doesn’t get his way, generic he or she might throw a temper tantrum – a “fit” in which the youngster expresses rage both verbally and physically. While having a tantrum, a child might throw himself on the ground, kick and flail, cry, scream and shout verbal abuse or other types of hysterical rants. The tantrum can be a reaction to not getting a candy, a toy, or another object of desire. In fact, it can occur for any type of frustration. Sometimes, a child may throw a temper tantrum in public, which can be especially embarrassing and aggravating for parents to experience.

Public temper tantrums are normal for toddlers and pre-schoolers and also occasionally happen with school age kids. For pre-teens and teens though, this behavior is rare and is reason for concern and specialized intervention. No matter what age your child is, however, temper tantrums must always be addressed.

If your child has public temper tantrums, consider the following tips:

Stay Calm and Respectful
When your child throws a temper tantrum in public, you may be angered by the embarrassment he is causing you and you may be tempted to react the way you’re feeling. However, it is important to stay calm and not display any anger in this scenario. First of all, you are also in public at the same time as your child. No one wants to watch an angry parent make a scene, even if they understand your particular predicament. In addition to this, you are a role model for your child. If you react angrily to something you don’t like, you are showing him that anger is an acceptable reaction, which is exactly what you don’t want to show him here. Instead, speak slowly and calmly to him, despite your frustration and demonstrate the proper way one should react to frustration.

Use Emotional Coaching
When your child has a tantrum, you can briefly name his feelings. “I know you’re upset.” “I know you’re not happy about this.” There is no need to go beyond the simple naming of his feelings at this time when he is in an intense state of distress. Tantrums are not “teaching moments.” It is useless to try to get the child to understand anything while he is having a meltdown.

Don’t Reinforce Tantrum Behavior
When your child is having a tantrum, do not give him lots of attention or try to console him through hugs and the like. Do NOT give the child the thing he desires that is the subject of his tantrum (i.e. if he wanted you to buy him a toy and then threw a tantrum when you said no, don’t buy him the toy to stop his tantrum). If you give into his tantrum, you will only be encouraging this type of behavior in the future. He must learn that tantrums are not the way to get what he wants.

Teach Alternative Methods of Responding to Frustration
After the tantrum is over and your child is calm, teach him how to properly respond to frustration with the use of words instead of tantrums. Use the CLeaR method to reinforce his efforts. For instance, teach the child to say something like, “I’m not happy about this” on occasions that he is disturbed by your response to him. Then, if he asks you for a treat and you tell him that it is too close to dinner time and he remembers to say, “I’m not happy about this,” you can use the Comment, Label, Reward (CleaR Method) strategy to reinforce his appropriate behavior. You could say, for example, “You remembered to tell me your feelings in words! (Comment).”  “That’s very mature of you! (Label)” “Since you spoke so nicely even though you were frustrated, I’m going to change my mind and give you that treat after all (Reward).” See more about the CLeaR Method in Raise Your Child without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

Use Discipline
For children older than four, use the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Child without Raising Your Voice) to discourage tantrums. Think of a negative consequence that will always follow a tantrum and tell the child that you will use it from now on, whenever he has a tantrum instead of using his words. In this way, the child’s brain will make the connection between his tantrum and something unpleasant happening afterwards. The next time he thinks of throwing a tantrum, he’ll think again!

For older kids and teens, attempt to explain how you feel when he throws a public tantrum and point out that there are far more appropriate ways to convey and handle distress and frustration. You may also try discipline (i.e. revoking certain valued privileges whenever he throws a public tantrum).

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
If your child is prone to frequent tantrums, consider the Bach Flower remedies Vine (for children who MUST have their own way – or else!), Cherry Plum (for those who lose control) and/or Impatiens (for those who quickly disintegrate when frustrated). Or, consult a Bach Flower Practitioner for assessment and recommendations. You can find more information about the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

Consider Professional Help
When children – especially older children and teens – continue to have tantrums despite your interventions, they may benefit from professional counseling or even anger-management training. Ask your pediatrician for an appropriate referral

When Your Child is Wild

Some children have LOTS of energy! If they don’t literally hang from the chandeliers, buy they certainly do so figuratively – running around, shrieking, and maybe even being a little destructive in their impulsivity. While they may be happy, their parents are not. Parents of Wild Ones are always trying to figure out ways to calm their youngsters down.

If your child is wild, consider the following tips:

Excessive Energy is All Relative
Toddlers and pre-schoolers tend to have lots and lots of energy. Their wild behavior is actually normal for their age group. Since they are not yet totally socialized – that is, they don’t know the rules of proper behavior – they often follow their impulses. They’ll open cupboard doors, throw things around, experiment with whatever they find – not because they’re naughty, but simply because they are normal, inquisitive, small kids. However, this same kind of behavior in an older child may actually indicate the presence of a developmental disorder. For instance, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can cause wild behavior in both children and teens. Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, bi-polar depression and other syndromes can also lead to wild behavior. Of course, mildly wild behavior can just be a personality issue; a child may just be very active and a little impulsive without having any biological condition of concern. This latter kind of wild behavior should respond well to the interventions below. However, if it doesn’t, then speak to your pediatrician. A proper assessment may be helpful.

Avoid Negative Labels
Don’t call your wild child a wild child! Labels like “wild,” “destructive,” “immature,” and so on, have a way of sticking in the child’s brain. The more a parent calls a child “wild,” the wilder that child will tend to be. Labels affect self-concept and self-concept leads to behavior. Therefore, even when correcting a wild child, use words like “calm,” “restrained,” “slow,” “careful” and “self-control.” For instance, a parent can tell a child who is running madly and loudly around the house, “Jason, you need to go slowly, carefully and quietly right now. Please calm down. Use your self-control.”

Minimize Attention to Wild Behavior
Don’t get wild yourself! Speak quietly and slowly to a wild child – lower your voice. Your intensity can accidentally reinforce wild behavior by giving it too much attention, whereas your restrained and calm demeanor can rub off (a little, anyways) on your youngster.

Use Emotional Coaching
Let your child know that you understand his feelings. He wants to run around and enjoy himself. Show him that you understand that by articulating his feelings (i.e. “I know you want to run around now.”). Avoid using the word “but” after you speak his feelings (i.e. “I know you want to run around now but it’s making a lot of noise.”). Using the word “but” is akin to saying “I know you want to do this, but I don’t care!” Put a “period” after your acknowledgment and start a completely new sentence if you want to give your youngster instructions. It might sound like this: “I know you are having fun running around. You need to settle down now and play more quietly.”

Use the CLeaR method
Reinforce positive behavior with the CLeaR method. When your child plays normally and is not wild, make a comment to show you noticed his behavior. Then give him a positive label (and perhaps a reward) to reinforce such behavior in the future. A sample dialogue would be, “You’re walking slowly and carefully.” (Comment), “That’s very mature of you!” (Label), “You can play outside for a bit longer today because I see you are working on your calm behavior!” (Reward). 

Use Discipline (2X-Rule)
In the 2X Rule, the child is told to continue a behavior (in this case, being too wild.) Then if the child continues this behavior, he is warned that there will be a consequence issued the next time he ignores the warning. For instance, you might say, “You need to play quietly and calmly. If you continue to run around, you will have to sit in a chair beside me for a few minutes until you have calmed down.” When faced with a consequence, children are more likely to think about what they are doing before they do it. You can find more information on the 2X Rule in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

Use Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can improve behavior. For a wild child, you can use the flower remedy Impatiens (for kids who race around). Chestnut Bud is the remedy for kids who act this way over and over again with no sign of improvement (and also for those who engage in dangerous and destructive activities). For children with too much energy, try the remedy Vervain. You can mix several remedies together in one treatment bottle. To do so, fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy (to prevent the development of bacteria). The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the behavior improves. Start treatment again, if the behavior degrades. Eventually, the behavior should improve permanently.

Wait
Many “wild” children outgrow this behavior as they grow up. Even children with ADHD whose hyperactivity is wired into their brains tend to become fidgety, rather than racey, as they mature. However, many wild kids are not suffering from hyperactivity, but rather immaturity. Their condition simply improves as they mature. However, if your child is ten years-old or older and still very wild, consider consulting a mental health practitioner for assessment and treatment ideas. It is possible that social skills training may be helpful.

Strategies for Dealing with Misbehavior

All kids misbehave from time to time. Parents need to know how to handle misbehavior WITHOUT harming their child. Frequent anger, excessive criticism, over-punishment and other harsh interventions are strategies that are likely to cause more misbehavior rather than less. Moreover, these strategies also cause various emotional difficulties in children and can, when intense enough, harm the parent-child relationship. Fortunately, parents can learn a set of tools that will help them correct their kids in positive ways. With these tolls, parents will find themselves taking firm but quiet control, finding ways to respectfully teach their kids right from wrong.

If your child ever misbehaves, consider the following tips:

Reasons for Misbehavior
Your child may misbehave for all kinds of reasons. Some misbehavior is actually accidental – like when a child just isn’t paying attention (i.e. when he runs around the house and breaks something). Or, he might be experimenting and testing the limits of what he can get away with. Maybe he seeks the intense attention his parents give to his negative behavior. Or maybe there’s a physiological reason for the misbehavior such as fatigue, hunger or illness – or a biologically based mental health condition like ADHD, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, etc. Your child (usually!) isn’t an evil person who consciously intends to make your life hard. There’s generally a reason for his or her misbehavior.

Attend to and Reinforce Desirable Behaviors
The CLeaR method is one super-charged way that you can reinforce positive behavior; it is described in full in Sarah Chana Radcliffe’s book, Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice. Use of the CLeaR Method involves 3 steps: comment, label and (sometimes) reward. An example using the CLeaR Method would be this scenario of a child who has a bad habit of climbing on counters to help himself to cookies. One day, the child remembers to ASK for a cookie, to which the parent responds“You asked me for a cookie instead of trying to climb on the counter.” (Comment), “That’s very mature of you!” (Label), “Yes, go ahead and take a cookie.” (Reward). The CLeaR Method requires forethought and actual planning, but it is truly effective when used consistently and correctly. With this method, your child learns to associate appropriate behavior with positive feelings, causing him to become more likely to do the “right” thing in the future.

Reward charts can also be used to encourage desirable behaviors. These are more fun and more successful than using tools like criticism, correction and punishment to address the negative behavior. For instance, instead of yelling at a child for leaving his shoes in the hallway, you can put up a star chart in front of the shoe cupboard and ask the child to give himself a star whenever he puts his shoes away properly. When he accumulates a certain number of stars, he gets a small prize.

Even praise, smiles and other simple signs of pleasure applied to DESIRABLE behaviors are preferable to negative feedback for undesirable behaviors. Nonetheless, positive strategies alone do not always eradicate misbehavior. See below for how to use discipline constructively when necessary.

Follow the 80-20 Rule (90-10 for teens)
In the 80-20 rule, 80% of communications between parent and child must be positive, while only 20% can be negative. Negative communications include criticism of any kind, behavior tips, and rebuke. For teens the ratio is 90%-10% as teens become less tolerant of criticism. Too much negative interaction with your child can lead to rebelliousness and damage the parent-child relationship. The 80-20 rule can dramatically decrease misbehavior while it fosters cooperation. Learn more about The 80-20 Rule in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice.

Get in the Habit of using Emotional Coaching
Emotional coaching can be a great tool to help reduce misbehavior. It involves naming a child’s feelings. When your child misbehaves you can begin your intervention by acknowledging the feelings prompting his behavior (i.e. “I know it’s fun to throw rocks.” or “I know you want to have a cookie right now.”). Then, offer your correction (i.e. “Throwing rocks is dangerous.” or “You can’t take cookies without asking permission.”) Make sure not to join the acknowledgment of the behavior with the reason why he can’t do it with the word “but” (i.e. “I know it’s fun to throw rocks but it’s dangerous.”). Using the word “but” is akin to saying, “I know you like this but I don’t care.” so try to avoid using it here. Emotional coaching makes the child feel understood and accepted, even when his behavior is unacceptable. As a result, the child is more likely to want to cooperate with the parents’ requests. This method can greatly reduce misbehavior and encourages compliance.

Avoid Bribes and use Grandma’s Rule
Instead of saying, “If you clean up your toys, you’ll get a treat” (which is a bribe), try saying, “After you’ve cleaned up your toys, you can have a piece of cake” (which is the structure used in Grandma’s Rule). The word “if” denotes the option of doing or not doing something, when in fact you don’t want to give your child that option. The words “after,” “as soon as,” or “when” indicate that the behavior will be accomplished – it’s only a matter of when. The reward will be forthcoming WHEN the behavior is done, not “if” it is done!

Use the 2X-Rule When You Need to Discipline
Sometimes it is necessary to use discipline to reduce negative behavior. The 2X Rule (as described in the book Raise Your Kids Without Raising Your Voice) is a good rule to follow. When your child misbehaves (i.e. hits his sister) tell him that he should refrain from the improper behavior, tell him why he should refrain and tell him what he should do instead of that behavior. That is called Step One. If the child does the misbehavior again, you’ll be on Step Two of the 2X-Rule. Here, you’ll repeat Step One and then warn him that if repeats that behavior again he will receive a negative consequence. You could say something like, “The next time you hit your sister, you will lose your computer privileges for the rest of the day.” Children are more likely to think about what they’re doing before they do it when faced with a consequence. Make sure to follow up with whatever consequence you promised (be reasonable) so that your child takes you seriously. If the misbehavior happens routinely, use the rule version of the 2X-Rule, which, on Step Two, sounds more like this: “From now on, whenever you hurt your sister, such and such consequence will occur.”

Experiment with Different Approaches
There is no one-size-fits-all approaches to parenting. What works with one child in the family may just not work with another. Therefore, read a few books, join a few forums, take a few parenting classes! You may learn a new strategy that really helps THIS child improve his or her behavior.

Try Bach Flower Remedies
Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless water-based naturopathic treatment that can ease improve your child’s behavior in addition to other things. Some flower remedies that can help a child who often misbehaves include Holly, Vine and Chestnut Bud. Vine is for the child who wants to do what he wants to do, no matter what you want him to do (strong-willed). Chestnut Bud is the remedy for the child that simply doesn’t learn from his mistakes and punishments, and repeats bad behavior over and over again. Holly is used for children who are jealous (i.e. jealous of a brother’s toy) and misbehave as a result. You can mix remedies together and take them at the same time. To do so, you fill a one-ounce Bach Mixing Bottle with water (a mixing bottle is an empty bottle with a glass dropper, sold in health food stores along with Bach Flower Remedies). Next, add two drops of each remedy that you want to use. Finally, add one teaspoon of brandy. The bottle is now ready to use. Give your child 4 drops of the mixture in any liquid (juice, water, milk, tea, etc.) four times a day (morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening). Remedies can be taken with or without food. Continue this treatment until the behavior improves. Start treatment again, if the behavior degrades. Eventually, the behavior will improve completely.

Consider Professional Help
If your misbehavior is part of a larger picture of negativity or defiance, and your interventions have not helped sufficiently, consider seeking out the help or assessment of a professional mental health practitioner.