As psychologists we see so many parents who lament, “He just doesn’t listen”, or “I‘ve tried everything; timeout, taking away things, even hitting her and she doesn’t care, nothing changes.” “He goes berserk over the littlest thing, like I’m trying to kill him.”

Being a parent can sometimes make you feel frustrated, powerless, and as some parents have voiced, abused. When parents react towards their children’s bad behavior the resulting feeling it elicits in a parent is one of losing control or guilt. There is a multitude of books, articles, advice and common knowledge of what to do to discipline children, or on how to get them onto your side so that they will listen. These may or may not work and sometimes frustrate parents further.

A combination of all the advice and information may be what’s needed.  Children are not robots. What works one time may not work just a few hours later. They are normal beings with intense emotions and experiences that they are still trying to understand and respond to. When children are tired or angry or overwhelmed they may not be able to channel this in an appropriate way or in a logical way. Something that upsets a child today may only manifest in weeks from now leaving the parent confused and bewildered about the child’s tantrums, anger and tears. A toolbox of techniques or methods are required in raising children.

Some ideas and techniques:

Before reprimanding your child for bad behavior, when they are calm and emotionally available, the family needs to sit together to determine what are the family’s house rules. This can range from manners, respect, no hitting each other to chores and routines. This is a personalized ethos of your family.

Teach your children that all feelings are acceptable but not all behavior is.

Have a keen sense of awareness of your child’s like and dislikes, what frustrates them the most, what is currently going on in your and their lives. But do not excuse bad behavior. Empathize, validate, but do not excuse.

Give your children “limited” choices instead of instructions. Instead of “You have to put on a jacket” try, “Go choose either your red, or green jacket.”

Write them notes instead of always shouting. Dear Amy. This playroom needs to be tidied up. Even if your child cannot read yet, write a note and when they find it they can come to you for it to be read.

Fulfil their wants with imagination and exaggeration. If they are asking for an ice-cream they cannot have – “An ice cream would be amazing wouldn’t it. A cone the size of this house with heaps and heaps of ice-cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles that we can eat forever!” Validate feelings without giving in to demands.

Explain your reasoning, decisions and feelings to your children in family meetings instead of when they’re having tantrums and strong emotional reactions.

Try not to lie or give false reasons for your rules. Children will not trust you and are more likely to rebel and get angry or cry. Don’t pretend.

There are many more techniques and guidelines but the root it is to know that each situation will have to be dealt with until you begin to understand your child and develop guidelines and rules that are tailored around your family. Each family is different and a life needs to be built around what works for your family instead of what works genericallyForcing members of your family and yourself to conform to what you don’t agree with, will only cause resentment and frustration.

Finally get to a place where you enjoy your children and family life. For help and more guidance on how to implement what is discussed and for more techniques and understanding please call Sheethal Behari at Psychmatters on (011) 450 3576 or

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