- Family and Parenting»
- Parenting Skills, Styles & Advice
How to Raise an Unruly Child? - The Ultimate Guide
Raising children can be a difficult task for parents.
Sometimes, there are communication gaps that make things difficult for parents, while sometimes it is the strong individual personalities of your kids that make it problematic.
There is no running away from unruly children and, as a parent, it is your responsibility to raise them as you should.
This is a 10,000+ word guide that discusses several aspects of parenting, communicating with your children, and raising them in the most ideal fashion. As it is a very comprehensive and lengthy guide, feel free to bookmark it.
This guide will be divided into the following chapters:
- Chapter 1 - Defining Unruly Children: How to Identify One?
- Chapter 2 - Why Do Some Children Behave Like That?
- Chapter 3 - Why Is It Important to Start from the Beginning?
- Chapter 4 - How to Help Your Child Deal With Their Feelings?
- Chapter 5 - Engaging Cooperation with Your Children
- Chapter 6 - Alternatives to Punishment
- Chapter 7 - Encouraging the Concept of Autonomy in Your Children
- Chapter 8 - Praising Your Children
- Chapter 9 - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) by Most Parents on How to Raise Unruly Children.
Chapter 1 — Defining Unruly Children: How to Identify One?
Before you start disciplining your children, it is important to first identify one.
Who is an unruly child? How can you identify one? It is actually very simple.
You have seen such children in restaurants, disrupting other people in there. You have seen unruly children in schools that you do not want to sit beside your own child.
These are the children who do not complete their homework on time.
These are the unruly children who are used to stay awake even after their nap-time.
You manage all of that, but the real problem starts when you realize that your own child belongs to the same group.
There are many reasons why a child becomes unruly and wild, which we are going to discuss at length in the next chapter of this guide. Moreover, we are also going to discuss numerous tips, tricks, and some really effective methods to control and successfully raise an unruly child.
But first, let’s start with the basics.
Chapter 2 — Why Do Some Children Behave Like That?
It is extremely important to start with identifying the real reasons why some children behave like that.
You must have seen dozens of different children. They are different from each other in almost every aspect, yet some of them are very similar. You must also have noticed and compared your unruly child with that of your other family members’ and neighbors’.
It is not that difficult and far-fetched to realize that there are many children around you who behave quite normally and have great manners. However, you fail to fathom why your child is so different from them. Why can’t he or she behave like other children? Why does your child always have to be so problematic and difficult to deal with?
Let us have a look at some of the most common reasons why some children behave like that:
It is quite common for children to behave as unruly and wild if their demands are not met. Those demands can be unjustifiable and completely illogical. If that is the case, this is a bigger problem than you think. This problem started from the way you brought up your children and how you did not make them more approachable and understandable of real and logical circumstances.
Another reason why some children behave wildly and shout a lot is usually because of the domestic issues. The way their parents are wired and exhibit their normal behavior also have a big impact on children.
- Sometimes, don’t you feel your children just hate you? This can be devastating for most moms. But the truth is that if you weren’t available to your children when they were young, it could be one of the main reasons why they are not more cooperative and loving with you now. Being emotionally distant can be a chief reason why some children hate their moms. This is why it is so important to spend a lot of time with your children, so they love you enough to be able to listen to you. An inherent emotional relationship with your children is always important.
Chapter 3 — Why Is It Important to Start from the Beginning?
You must have heard the phrase, “Nip it in the bud.”
If you see a problem or a bad habit developing in your children, it is important to end it right away before it becomes ingrained in their nature.
This is why it is very, very important to start from the beginning.
When your children are at a tender age, you need to observe them. Identifying what kind of personality traits they are developing will help you visualize and predict the type of children they are going to become in a few years.
Unfortunately, most parents do not pay any attention to their children when they are young. They wrongly assume that it is too early to make any judgment about how their child will turn out to be. However, as a matter of fact, it is that exact stage of life when a child starts developing his nature, good or bad habits, and the behavior he / she is going to exhibit in future.
Moreover, if you do not try to nip it in the bud and start acting right away, you will face a harder time to deal with their problems later on. With time, those bad habits and behavioral issues become second-nature to your unruly children. Their mentality becomes corrupted, and it is not that simple to make a difference that easily anymore.
Besides all that, this is an age of digital media, social media websites, and the internet. As children grow older, they start getting influenced from those external sources. In other words, your value as a parent and your lessons, restrictions, and teachings diminish in importance.
Furthermore, when children are young, they can understand your lessons in a much better way. Teaching them manners and the way they should behave is also a lot easier when they are young. You do not have the same kind of convenience when they become older.
Considering all the factors that are mentioned above, it is extremely important to start training, teaching, and disciplining your children right from the start — when they are still very young.
However, in case you have wasted that opportunity to teach your children when they’re still young, do not worry. It is never too late to take control of things. Better now than never.
The following sections of this guide have many actionable and practical tips on how to raise an unruly child. You will learn plenty of tips and tricks to deal with bad behaviors — along with dozens of different examples and scenarios. It is important to pay a lot of attention, as these tips and proven methods make the very core of your approach and future strategy. This also includes how you are going to behave, treat, and respond to your children from now on.
Apart from that, there is one more important thing to note before you start.
You may have to take it a bit slow. There are years of ideas and experiences in the following sections of this guide, and while you do not need years to read and finish this article, it is important to stay patient and really get the concept. All the tips are very effective and will play an important role in disciplining your child. But it will be up to you to determine which tips, tricks, and methods are going to be the most important and efficient ones for your particular child.
Therefore, spend some time reading and understanding each chapter before jumping on to conclusions or before you start acting on these tips.
So let’s begin with another very important chapter of this guide. You are going to find plenty of amazing tips in there.
Chapter 4 — How to Help Your Children Deal With Their Feelings?
Children have feelings, too, and when you cannot separate their feelings with that of your own, problems start to begin.
If you want to raise an unruly child by instilling manners and good habits in him, it is extremely important to start by dealing with their feelings.
Sometimes, you will feel that it is just too much. You will also begin to think that what your child is feeling is simply a waste of time to even worry about. You will be really tempted not to answer, ignore those feelings of your child, and even shout at him, but always remember that none of them is the right way to go.
If you do not acknowledge those feelings — whether they are good or bad — you will never be able to establish an emotional connection with your family. And if you keep doing it that (wrong) way, your child will soon start behaving abnormally and more wildly to make himself heard. This is where most of the problems start. So, first of all, acknowledge that it is your responsibility and duty to help your children deal with their feelings.
Now, let’s discuss a few techniques, tips, and tricks on how you can do that.
1. Listening With Full Attention
It is one of the best ways to not only help your children deal with their feelings, but also to make your presence felt in their lives.
Listen with complete attention. Half-listening does more harm than good, and it is important that you keep yourself away from that. Besides that, when your children start realizing that you do not pay your full and undivided attention to what they have to say, they start emulating the same techniques in their lives.
It is very common to observe that such children start adopting the same lifestyle. They do not pay much attention, regardless of what you are saying to them. They ignore you completely, and this makes it extremely difficult for you to make them listen to you.
Therefore, if you do not want this to happen, it is important to start listening to your children with full and complete attention.
Let’s see an example:
Assume you are watching an important game on TV and one of your children come to you with something important to say.
He starts by saying: “Daddy, today Jim punched me in the school. And when I … Daddy, are you listening?”
You respond, “Yeah. I hear you. Go on.” But you are all too immersed in watching the game.
Your child complains, “No, you are not listening to me.”
But you still do not pay attention and say, “I’m listening to every word. I can listen to you and watch the game at the same time. Go on.”
And you before you know it, your child is out of your room thinking that you just do not want to pay any attention to him whatsoever.
What kind of an impression does it send? What do you think will be the repercussions of this little event? Although all of it seems petty and harmless, this kind of an attitude towards your children’s feelings can be very dangerous in the long term.
Your child will realize that you do not pay attention to him. He will also learn that if you do not want to pay attention to what someone is saying, the best way is to ignore it. After all, that’s how his parents do it.
Now, the next time you want your child to listen to you, he may very well act exactly the same. Then you will be very angry and disappointed by his behavior. But if you had listened to him attentively then, he wouldn’t be using the same tactic now.
Sometimes, a sympathetic silence is all that is needed.
So the best possible way to deal with the above-mentioned situation would be to turn the TV off for a while — or at least mute it — so your child can learn how to listen to other people.
Listening with complete attention is important to know what your child is feeling in a given situation. If you know what he is going through, you can have an appropriate response to it. All of this goes a long way in disciplining your child and making him behave well in front of others.
2. Acknowledge, Instead of Question, Advice, or Blame
It can be very hard for a child to think clearly and constructively if, instead of listening and acknowledging, you are constantly questioning, advising, blaming, or interrupting him.
Therefore, the second tip to help your children deal with their feelings is to acknowledge, instead of questioning, advising, or blaming.
When you are listening to something important — or serious — your child is trying to tell you, it can be very tempting to advise him right then and there. But the tip is to restrain yourself from doing it. There are many reasons why this practice of interrupting, advising or blaming is not ideal. Here are a few of those important reasons:
When you interrupt a child in between his conversation, you shatter his confidence and his ability to speak confidently in front of others.
More often than not, interrupting, advising, and, especially, blaming the child in between what he is trying to tell can lead to a change of story. When you either advise something different than what your child is telling you, or blame him for whatever it is that he did, children have a tendency to change the story midway so as to avoid further advices or blaming. If you want to know what really happened, let it out before you decide advising, blaming or judging your child.
Attentively listening to your child — without interrupting or questioning the statements — implies that you are fully invested in what he has to say. It’s more inviting and a kind of a prerequisite for building a strong relationship between parents and children.
Now, the main question is if you can’t interrupt, advice, or blame, how can you imply that you are still listening to what your child has to say?
You need to keep a fair bit of balance here.
First of all, the trick is to stop all the other activities you’re doing and listen to what your child has to say. During the conversation, even if you find something inappropriate, do not interrupt. Let the story unfold. However, in order to show your interest and the fact that you are listening, acknowledge the statements with genuine express like, “oh …”, “mmm…”, and “Then?”, “wow!”.
When you acknowledge the statements without particularly commenting on any of them, your child will be more likely to tell you the complete story without modifying it.
Secondly, by following the tip that is mentioned above, you will also be giving sufficient time to your child to be able to formulate his own thoughts, opinions, and feelings on the subject matter.
If you feel that happening, you can always ask about your child’s personal opinions and feelings about the whole situation in the end. If he is right, you can appreciate it. If he is wrong, you can rectify him. But whatever it is, acknowledging the conversation without questioning, advising, blaming, or judging, is the most important thing here.
3. Do Not Deny the Feelings
It is very common for children to have strange and illogical feelings.
But, as parents, it is your duty to make sure you do not deny them.
Denying those feelings only have a negative impact on your relationship and on your child in general. This is one of the chief reasons why a child becomes unruly. This is because when no one acknowledges his feelings, and he realizes that his feelings are always denied, he starts taking a completely different route to make sure those feelings do not get denied. Misbehavior and rudeness are some of those tactics that the child eventually adopts because of that constant denial.
It is actually a very strange phenomenon. Whenever we urge a child to push one of his bad feelings away, the child seems to only get more upset about it. And it really does not matter how kindly and efficiently we urge him to deny that feeling.
This is why it is really important not to commit this mistake.
So, what’s the solution then?
The solution is a rather odd one. The solution is to give that feeling a name. Instead of denying it, acknowledge it.
You see, parents do not give this kind of a response. It is because of a reason, and the reason why parents do not do it is because they fear that by giving a particular name to their child’s feelings, they are only going to make it worse. However, that is definitely not true. The child — who is clearly struggling with one of its illogical feelings — finds it very comforting to be heard and acknowledged. When someone — in this case, you — openly acknowledges your children inner feelings, it comforts him. More importantly, it calms your child and draws him further away from any rash or wild behavior.
4. Don't Always be Logical
Children often defy logic. If you want to help them understand their feelings, you may also have to do the same.
You can’t always be logical with them. This is because when you do become logical with them, it often backfires. The idea is to think like as they do and then, make them think like you. Instead of being boring by being logical, the idea should be to make them comfortable with you, so you can make them understand your own point of view.
For example, what if your child starts demanding a certain cookie that you definitely do not have in your house at the moment. If you keep telling him that you do not have the cookie, he will start crying and yelling. You can’t reason with him why you do not have the cookie in the home. Children do not understand logic.
Instead of telling him that he is acting like a baby and that he should not behave like this, you can take a different, more illogical route to comfort him.
So why not join him and say how you also wish you had the cookie, and that it would too much fun to eat them together. But since you do not seem to find any of those cookies, why not eat a different thing together and have the same amount of fun? More often than not, when you give enough time in between the conversation, be loving and affectionate, and encourage your children to respond, it will be your child who will offer you an alternative option.
That’s how simple it can be!
Sometimes, just having someone understand how much you want something makes it really easy to bear.
So there you have it — four possible and really effective ways to give first aid to a child in distress and help him deal with his feelings.
Let me summarize them once again for you. Here are the four ways we just discussed in this chapter:
Listening with full and undivided attention
Acknowledging his feelings, instead of questioning, interrupting, blaming, advising, or judging in between the conversation.
Instead of denying his feelings, give those feelings a name.
Instead of being logical, involve your unruly child in fantasies and grant him his wishes there.
All those words are important, but your attitude is more important. If your attitude is not of compassion, then whatever you say will be experienced by the child as phony, manipulative, or simply as a misrepresentation. It is only when our words are infused with our real feelings of empathy, love, affection, care, and understanding, they speak directly to a child’s heart.
Moreover, of the four skills you have just learned, perhaps the most difficult is to have to listen to a child’s emotional outpourings and give those feelings a name and acknowledge it.
It takes a lot of practice, patience, concentration and dedication to be able to look into and beyond what a child says in order to identify what he or she might be feeling. Yet it is very important that we give our children — despite what their behavior may have been — a thorough vocabulary to understand their inner reality. Once they have the words they have been experiencing, and once they can associate those words with the kinds of feelings they have been experiencing, they can begin to help themselves automatically. Your assistance will still be required, but it will be significantly lesser and easier.
Chapter 5 — Engaging Cooperating With Your Children
If you have followed the tips mentioned above in the right manner and with complete attention, you would be already seeing some great, positive results.
Hopefully, by now, your children have probably presented you with several opportunities to listen to them. More often than not, when something is bothering them, children let us know quite clearly.
As a parent, it becomes your job to be able to listen to what they are saying and deal with them in the most appropriate manner. This also means that you will have to deal with all the anger, frustration, and hurt that your children would be going through, and you will have to do all of this without ever losing your sanity. It is understandable if your children hate you. A lot of children apparently hate their moms — especially if those moms don’t always agree with them. If you have been experiencing a same kind of scenario, don’t worry. That is exactly the purpose of this guide — to help you understand your kids, mitigate their hatred towards you (the mom), and successfully raise them to be better persons.
If you have been struggling with unruly children, by now you must know that your old methods are not working anymore. You need something different — a new strategy that lets you connect with your children on a more intimate level, encourage them to talk to them on a regular basis, and allows you to enjoy an enhanced level of cooperation.
And in this chapter, we are going to discuss the exact techniques to encourage and increase that level of cooperation.
After an increased level of cooperation, you will be able to get your children behave normally and in a great fashion without many efforts. Gradually, it becomes their second-nature.
In this chapter of our guide, we are going to discuss 5 different ways to encourage and increase cooperation with your children.
So without further ado, let’s get started:
1. Describe the Problem — Don't Blame
There is a very fine difference between describing the problem and blaming it on to your children. Nobody likes to be blamed.
As a matter of fact, it is very hard to do what needs to be done when people are telling you what is wrong with you. Isn’t this the truth? This also affects your children the same way, and it is one of the main reasons why they act the way they often do.
Let’s explain this tip with the help of an example.
Assume that your child has forgotten to turn off the faucet for the water tub. There can be two possible responses to that. Here is one of them.
“You are so irresponsible. You always start the tub and then forget about it as if it is absolutely nothing. I have told you so many times about it. Do you want us to have a flood?!”
What do you think is wrong with this kind of an attitude and response?
The main problem is that it is all about shouting and blaming on your child. It may have a temporary effect on your child, but the long-term negative impact is far bigger than the positive here.
On the other hand, instead of blaming, you could describe the situation / problem and let the child think on his own and solve the issue.
Here is another possible response. This one encourages cooperation by just describing the situation, without focusing on the fault.
“Son, the water in the bathtub is getting close to the top. What should we do about it?”
The second response is far better than the first one because it not only describes the situation, but it also encourages a positive response from your child. More importantly, however, it encourages cooperation with your unruly children.
You see, you did not tell your unruly child what to do. You developed a sense of cooperation and your child dealt with the problematic situation on his own. However, you were there to guide him in the right direction if he could not figure it out.
Always remember that there are 2 rules in this scenario:
It is much easier to concentrate and find a solution with cooperation when someone just describes the whole situation to you in a calm way.
- Secondly, when grown-ups just describe the problem, it gives their children a chance to tell themselves what to do about that problem. It not only encourages cooperation, but it also promotes creativity and intuitive thinking capacity.
2. Giving Information
It is quite similar to describing the situation. But if you pay a bit of attention, you will be able to see the subtle difference between the two techniques.
In the first technique, you just described the situation, but you did not give any piece of important information that your child did not know on his own. However, in this technique, you provide adequate information to your children and hope for a cooperative response that leads to the ultimate solution.
Let me give you an example.
Remember the previous example in which you described the entire situation to your child. What did you say?
You simply directed your child’s attention towards the bathtub and mentioned that the bathtub is almost full.
However, if you were to give information to your children, your response would be slightly different. In this case, that would be:
“You know, son, if the bathtub starts overflowing with water, it will become a flood in the house and all the things will be destroyed.”
As you can see, merely describing the situation is a lot different than giving information. Although it may seem a very subtle difference, both the approaches are fairly contrasting in nature.
Here is another example that will, hopefully, make things even simpler and clearer.
Assume that one of your children drank some milk and then left it on the dinner table.
You can either shout at him or you can give some important information about it that will help him solve the situation on his own.
For instance, here is the negative response that you should definitely avoid:
“Who drank that milk and left the bottle standing out? That must be you, Kevin. You are so irresponsible and senseless!”
It has a negative effect on your child, and you definitely cannot raise an unruly child with this kind of an attitude and problem-solving approach.
Following is another response. This one demonstrates the “giving information” technique and how you should actually do it.
“Kevin, do you know that milk turns sour when it isn’t refrigerated?”
Depending upon the age and the intelligence level of your child, this is a wonderful technique to subtly make them realize that they have done something wrong. As soon as your child gets that knowledge or new information about milk turning sour, he will instantly react. This is not just a wild guess, because your child just drank the milk and it shows that he likes it. He really wouldn’t want it to be spoiled.
This technique also has a couple of rules that you need to remember. They are:
Keep in mind that information is always a lot easier to take and process than an accusation. Even unruly and wild children can take and process information, but they will definitely not like an accusation.
- When children are given such information, they usually figure out for themselves what needs to be done. Just as it was with “describing” the situation, it encourages cooperation, their intelligence level, and thinking capacity.
3. Using Just a Single Word
It is arguably one of the best techniques how you can raise an unruly child and encourage his cooperation without having to shout for an entire day.
In this scenario, less is truly more.
Make sure to make your children do what you want them to do in just a single word — without using multiple sentences.
One of the best advantages of using a single word is that it increases your value in the eyes of your children. Secondly, it minimizes the chances of any negative impact you may have on your children while instructing them to do something. Lastly, children really dislike hearing lectures and long sermons, so using a single word perfectly fits the bill.
Here are a couple of scenarios to help you understand how to use this wonderful technique.
Let’s assume a scenario when your child is about to leave for school and forgets his lunch. It is a pretty common problem, isn’t it?
Now, as always, you can have multiple responses for this situation. Let me distinguish between the negative response — which you should avoid — and the positive one that you should use.
Negative response: “Look at you! You are walking out the door without your lunch again. Why are you so absent-minded? You would forget your head if it weren’t attached to your body!”
Positive response: “Lunch”.
Yeah, that’s it. Just a single word to remind your child about something important, without being pushy.
Avoid a lot of words, which saves a lot of negative impact on your children and his future behavior.
Here is another example for you.
Another very common scenario is when children are not ready to change into their pajamas. What do you do then?
Here are the two possible responses:
Negative response: “I have been asking and asking you children to get into pajamas and all you have been doing is clowning around. Why don’t you ever listen to me? You agreed that before you watch TV you’d be in your pajamas, and I still do not see a sign of anything about it.”
That is a long, long response, isn’t it? But it is definitely not the right way to approach such a scenario.
Here is how a positive response should be like:
Positive response: “Children, pajamas!”
The concepts to understand here are:
Sometimes, less is truly more. Use it to your own advantage.
Long sermons do not help you much. In fact, they only make your children hate you even more.
Unnecessary words are insulting to children. They demoralize them, shatter their confidence and abilities.
- Most importantly, children dislike long lectures, sermons, and lengthy explanations. For them, the shorter the reminder is, the better it is.
4. Talking About Your Own Feelings
If you want your children to act rationally and understand the way you are feeling in a particular situation, it is important to talk about your own feelings, too.
While talking about your own feelings with your children, it is very important not to make any comment on your child’s character, traits, or personality. This way you wouldn’t make your children uncomfortable, while, at the same time, you will be encouraging cooperation.
When you want to talk about your own feelings with your children, it is important to use the word “I” or “I feel …”. And there is no problem if you express a little bit of frustration, disappointment, or anger while describing your feelings to your unruly children. This helps them understand that a certain activity of them frustrates you. And if you have a good level of cooperation with your children, they will definitely be more responsive and cooperative of that.
Here are a few examples for using this tip:
Assume you are at a cash counter and your wild child is constantly pulling your sleeves to draw your attention. You can either scold him and shout at him, or you can talk about your feelings and what you do not like about this.
The negative response in this scenario would be: “Stop doing it! You are such a pain!”
On the other hand, the positive response in this scenario would be: “I don’t like having my sleeves pulled.”
By describing your feelings, you make your children aware of what they should and should not do.
Similarly, what if one of your children come into your kitchen and leave the screen door open? This may be frustrating for anyone who has been busy for hours trying to cook the perfect meal. But the key is to not shout, but instead try to describe your feelings about that particular act of leaving the door open.
In this case, the negative response could be: “What is wrong with you? You always leave the screen door open! How many times do I have to tell you about this?”
Conversely, the positive response requires you to describe your feelings. For that, you should say: “It bothers me when the screen door is left open. I really do not want flies around our food, you know.”
Always remember that children are fully entitled to hear their parents’ honest feelings about a particular scenario. By describing what you feel, you can be genuine without being hurtful — and that is the key.
From the children’s point of view, it is a lot easier to cooperate with someone who is expressing their genuine feelings, without being hurtful. As long as the children do not feel under-attack, they would be more willing to cooperate with you.
5. Leaving a Note
Writing and leaving notes is one of the best and most efficient ways of encouraging cooperation with your children.
It’s fun, and it does not expose your children to potential anger, frustration, and the feelings of being undermined or under attack.
It is also equally important to remember that sometimes, nothing we say is as effective as the written word. Leaving appropriate notes to make your children do something you want is a perfect way to achieve your desired level of cooperation.
Suppose the following scenario.
Your child comes back from school and, before doing his homework, he jumps onto the couch, turns on the TV, and starts watching it.
If you can relate to that, most parents, when they see a child watching TV before completing their homework, start shouting. They also turn off the TV, and that counts as an act of rebellion. The same nature is later instilled in the child, and this is why he, too, becomes a sort of a rebellion in your house — a very difficult one to control.
How can you solve the above-mentioned problem with the help of a note?
The answer is simple. Write a note and post it on the TV. The note may have the following words:
“Before you turn this TV on — think — have I done my homework? Have I practiced? You should.”
Let’s discuss another possible scenario.
What if your daughter always clogs the sink with her hairs and leave it just like that? You could easily solve this problem with a simple note that could say:
“HELP! Hairs in my drain give me pain. Please help me. Your clogged sink.”
It will remind your children what to do, without needing you to tell them constantly.
When writing and leaving notes for your children, it is important to remember that you can be funny, witty, charming, or even emphatic.
Here is an example of a more “understanding” and “emphatic” note:
“Dear son, I know you are very busy with sports and study, but these papers need tying, old buddy. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks. Love, Dad.”
So there you have it!
These are the five tips that can easily encourage cooperation without leaving any residue of bad feelings — especially the last technique of writing and leaving notes.
Summarizing the Chapter
Let me summarize this entire chapter with another scenario and example for you. I will use one particular scenario and then use all the five technique mentioned above to handle it.
It will be really helpful for you, because you will be able to see the subtle differences in all the approaches. And then you will be able to decide which technique suits you better in a similar situation.
Problematic Scenario: Your child leaves a wet towel on your bed / blanket.
Technique No. 1: Describing the problem
Response: “There’s a wet towel on the bed.”
Technique No. 2: Giving information
Response: “The towel is getting my blanket wet.”
Technique No.3: Using just a single word
Response: “The Towel.”
Technique No. 4: Explaining your feelings to your children
Response: “I really do not like sleeping in a wet bed.”
Technique No. 5: Writing and leaving a note for your children
Response: “Please put me back so I can dry. Thanks. Your towel.”
(You can leave this note on the towel rack, so your children know where to put it.)
Chapter 6 - Alternatives to Punishment
In the previous chapter, you learned some really important skills to engage and encourage cooperation with your children. As I mentioned earlier, increasing cooperation is arguably one of the best ways to raise your unruly children. However, there is a lot more to it.
As you begin to use some of the skills mentioned in the previous chapter, you must have realized that it took a lot of thought and self-control on your part not to say some of the things you normally say. For examples, many of you would normally use lectures, warnings, threats, sarcasm, and name-callings. But in an attempt to engage cooperation, you wouldn’t be normally doing it. However, I can understand that it can be a difficult thing to let go of your familiar routine.
Similarly, you also need to let go the idea of “punishment” if you need to raise your children in a proper way.
There are many alternatives to punishment, and we are going to discuss a few those in this chapter. Remember that punishment to unruly children does not mean much. As a matter of fact, it ruins them even further. So the key is to not get involved in the idea of punishing your children, and, instead of that, raise them in alternative ways.
Here are a few tips for you:
1. Point Out a Way to Be Helpful
Punishing your unruly children or threatening them is not the right way to go. Instead of that, one very effective tip is to point out a way to be helpful to them.
Here is an example:
Suppose your child is not doing his homework and instead is running towards the TV to turn it on.
You can have two responses for that scenario.
The negative (punishing) response would be: “You are not listening to me, are you? You are going to get some when your father comes home in the evening!”
But as I mentioned earlier, it is not helpful at all. In fact, it has a long-term negative impact on the psychology and habits of your unruly child.
So the positive response here is to point out a way to be helpful to your children. For example, “It would be really great if you could do your homework first, before you watch TV. If you do it now, I can help you. Are you interested?”
Everything is better than punishment. Your child knows this, too. And if you are particularly offering to be helpful, he is not going to decline the offer.
2. Expressing Strong Disapproval
Sometimes, being helpful is just not possible. You can try that, but sometimes it just does not work. So what are your other options?
Expressing strong disapproval is another great alternative to punishment.
With this technique, you show your anger, frustration and disapproval of what your child is doing. However, despite all that, you never attack your child or his character. So, in other words, no negative impact.
Here is a brief scenario.
Suppose you are in a shopping store and your child is constantly running in the aisles. It is frustrating you as well as the staff members and other customers. Despite saying it normally a couple of times, your child is not listening to you. What do you do?
As always, you can hit him, but that is not a perfect way to go about it. Instead, the tip is to express strong disapproval.
For instance, you can say, “I don’t like what is going on here. It’s disturbing to shoppers when children run in the aisles. I don’t approve of this, and it stops NOW!”
Moreover, note that this disapproval does not always have to relate to you. So in the above scenario, you can also say that staff does not like that, and you would not like it if you get a complaint from them.
3. Offering a Choice
Offering a choice to your disturbing child is arguably one of the best ways to divert his mind and get a desirable solution in any given situation. More often than not, this technique works like a charm!
Let’s reuse the previous example of the child running in the aisles and not listening to you. We are using the same example so you can learn the difference between the two techniques.
In the previous technique, you expressed strong disapproval because your child was not listening to you at all. However, by using this technique, we will take a slightly different approach.
The idea is to offer your child a choice between two options. It is important to remember that none of those two options are the one that your child has been doing until now.
For example, if your child has been running in the aisles, you can offer him two different choices. The ideal response would be:
“Son, no running in here. You have two choices: you can either walk with me or you can sit in the cart if you like. It’s your choice. Decide.”
The idea is that when a child is given two choices (despite the fact that none of those two choices is the one he was actually doing), he quickly makes a decision and get on with it. The idea of making his own decision satisfies his personal ego, while you get what you initially wanted.
4. Let Them Experience a Few Consequences
However harsh it may seem, letting your children face a few consequences can have a lot of positive results in the future.
Let’s continue the shopping store scenario.
What if you expressed strong disapproval to your child and he still did not listen to you? What if you also offered him a choice, but he kept running in the aisles? What if he disturbed the other customers so much that you had to leave the store?
In such a scenario, it is important not to lecture your child, but instead let him experience the consequences of his mistake.
In other words, when you are about to go to shopping the next time, and your child asked to come to the store, don’t take him with you. When he asks why aren’t you taking him, let him know that he didn’t listen to you the last time they went to shopping. He will definitely ask for another chance, but it is your responsibility to let him face the consequences for at least that one time. Remind him that he will have plenty of chances in the future if he starts listening to his parents, but you are going alone this time.
It is a very common phenomenon with child that they fail to realize the reality of their mistakes and its respective consequences. They do not gauge the seriousness of their offense. This is why, sometimes, it becomes important to let them face the consequences, so they do not end up doing the exact same thing the next time they come with you.
5. State Your Expectations
Another great alternative to punishment is to clearly state your expectations to your children. Expressing your strong feelings and stating your expectations can bring a lot of positive results for you.
It is a proven fact that most children, contrary to the common belief, like to be trusted with a responsibility before they start acting responsibly.
For example, if we continue with our earlier scenario of your child running in the aisles, we can use this technique in the following way.
You can clearly state your expectations before you visit the shopping store. Your ideal response would be:
“I expect that when we enter the store, you will not run in the aisles at all. All right?”
Stating your expectations in a clear way can help your children understand the way you want them to behave. This also encourages them to act more responsibly — exactly the way they should.
The act of disciplining the child can be a frustrating one. However, it needs to be stressed that discipline means education. Discipline is essentially programmed guidance that helps people to develop internal self-control, self-direction, and efficiency. If it is to work, discipline requires mutual respect and trust. On the other hand, punishment requires external control over a person by coercion and force. Punishing agents can seldom respect or trust the one punished.
Perhaps this is why Dr. Fitzhugh Dodson, of How to Father, said:
“Punishment is a very ineffective method of discipline … for punishment, strangely enough, often has the effect of teaching the child to behave in exactly the opposite way from the way we want him to behave. Many parents use punishment simply because no one has ever taught them better ways of disciplining their children.”
Similarly, Rudolf Dreikurs also echoes the same thoughts with the following words:
“Confused and bewildered parents mistakenly hope that punishment will eventually bring results, without realizing that they are actually getting nowhere with their methods. The use of punishment only helps the child to develop a greater power of resistance and defiance.”
Chapter 7 - Encouraging the Concept of Autonomy in your Children
One of the most important goals for the parents is to encourage the concept of autonomy in their children.
The idea is to help our children separate from us and become independent individuals who will one day be able to function on their own. It is important not to think of our children as an extension of ourselves, but they should be seen and treated as unique human beings with different temperaments, attitudes, behavior, traits, personalities, dreams, desires, and feelings.
So how can we do that? How can we encourage the concept of autonomy in our children?
The general idea is to let them do things for themselves and permit them to wrestle their own problems. Let them fight their own battles; let them face their own consequences, and let them learn from their own mistakes.
But it is much easier said than done. It is obviously very hard to resist the temptation of seeing your child struggling with something and not doing anything to help him.
You might be thinking there is nothing wrong with helping your children doing menial things, such as, tying shoelaces. One may argue that parents should not be thinking about such things, and their children would only learn if parents teach them how to do such relatively smaller chores.
However, the main problem is that when a child becomes totally dependent on his parents, certain feelings arise. Some of the common feelings are:
You certainly wouldn’t prefer to have your child feel like this. This is why it is very important to encourage the concept of autonomy in your children and encourage them to do most of their tasks on their own.
In this chapter, you will learn several techniques that minimise your children’s feelings about being dependent on you.
Now, the main point of this chapter is that when a child starts making the right decisions on his own, he ceases to become an “unruly child”. He starts to mature and that is, without any doubt, the single most effective way to raise an unruly child.
Let’s start discussing some of the major techniques:
1. Let Them Make Their Own Choices
Let your children make their own choices. It is definitely one of the best ways to help them become a mature person, who makes their own (right) decisions.
You can start this training procedure even if your child is a toddler. As a matter of fact, it is recommended to start at this stage.
For example, when your child is about to get dressed, you can offer him two choices:
“Are you in the mood of the black pants or the grey one?
In a different scenario, it could be:
“What would you prefer? Doing your homework before dinner or after it?
These are all choices that give your child a valuable practice in making decisions. It must be very hard for an adult who is forced to make decisions about career, education, and lifestyle, without having a lot of experience in exercising his own judgment.
2. Appreciate Your Child's Struggles
There are a lot of tasks that seem pretty easy and simple to you, but your children genuinely struggle with them. After all, they are just children!
Instead of taking things into your own hands or shouting, the tip is to appreciate your child’s struggles and acknowledge the situation he has been going through.
For instance, assume that your child is struggling to open a tight jar.
You can take the jar from him and open it for himself. But that is not the right way to go.
Instead, you should appreciate your child’s struggles and motivate him to do even better. The ideal response would be:
“A jar can be very hard to open. You’re doing great. But sometimes, it helps if you tap the lid with a spoon.”
The idea is that when a child’s struggle is respected and appreciated, he gathers more courage to complete that job all by himself. On the other hand, if you keep interfering and doing his things yourself, he will never be able to achieve the desired level of skill or commitment to complete the task without your help.
3. Don't Rush to Answer the Questions
When children ask questions, they deserve the chance to explore the answer for themselves first. It’s really that simple.
If, whenever your child asks a question and you rush to answer it, it will never give him ample time to figure things on his own. Delaying your answer or asking another related question about it can encourage the concept of autonomy in your children.
For example, when your child asks a simple question, like, “Daddy, where does rain come from?”, you can either rush to answer his question right away or you can ask another related question to encourage creativity, intuitive thinking, and imagination.
A good response would be: “That is an interesting question! What do you think about it?”
Such a response gives your children a mental exercise with enough time to imagine, visualize and figure things on their own. Of course, when they give you a wrong answer, you can always rectify them and teach them the right concept. But not rushing to give answers is a great and very effective technique to encourage the concept of autonomy.
4. Teaching Them to Use External Sources
It is your job to teach your children that there is an outside world that is full of knowledge. And more importantly, your children do not always have to be completely dependent on you. The fact that there are a lot of external sources that your children can use on their own makes them more autonomous and independent, fully capable of making their own decisions.
For example, what if your child is asking you to find him a guitar teacher?
Your response can be that you are looking and that you will soon find a good teacher for him. But is it productive? Does it really encourage the concept of autonomy or does it make your children more dependent on you?
Yes, you guessed it right. It’s not the right solution.
So, instead of that, a good response would be the one that teaches and encourages your child to use external sources to complete a task.
For instance, you could say, “I am still making inquiries. But I’d also like you to ask around the school for some recommendations.”
The idea is that we want our children to know that they don’t always have to be dependent on us. The world outside our home can also be utilized to find answers and good solutions to their problems. And our job is to help them learn how to do that.
5. Giving Them Hope
Hope is a good thing. It shapes the personalities of your children. An optimist child is more likely to listen to you. They also make great leaders, businessmen and go much farther in their respective careers.
As a responsible parent, it is your job to give your children hope and protect their dreams. Some of those dreams will seem very stupid and illogical to you at a given stage, but your job is to not neglect them. They might not be of any importance to you, but remember that your child values that dream — despite how illogical and impractical that would be.
The tip is to give your children hope, instead of preparing them for disappointment, just because you think that they will not succeed.
For example, if your 10-year old daughter — who doesn’t get good grades in mathematics — tells you that she is going to be an engineer, your job is to give her hope.
Don’t say, “You want to be an engineer? Have you forgotten your math grades? One needs to be very good at mathematics to become an engineer. You can’t do that.”
Instead, give your child hope and motivation. It is also recommended to ask them more questions about it.
So a good response would be:
“So you are considering a career in engineering? Tell me more about it.”
It encourages them to think on their own. More importantly, it encourages the idea of using their own judgment and making their own decisions. Most likely, that decision will be changed as your child grows, matures, and discovers new opportunities. But the lesson will be with her throughout her life — and that is the more important part.
A lot of those skills may seem like common sense at first, but that is far from the truth. It takes a lot of patience, determination, and practice to talk to your children in the ways mentioned above.
Many times, you will be tempted to become your normal self, but, at that time, don’t forget that fostering your child’s independence and the idea of autonomy in them is more important.
An independent, self-thinking, and mature child can never be an “unruly” child.
Chapter 8 — Praising Your Children
Many times, you fail to understand what an unruly child truly wants from you.
You seem to do almost all the things a normal person would do, but your child would still not improve his behavior.
If you have been experiencing similar situations, it might be a great idea to start praising your child for the things he does right.
Praise and appreciation can have a lot of positive impact on your children. As a matter of fact, if it is properly directed — and provided if it is the praise the child so desperately seeks — the much-needed appreciation can play a defining role in helping you raise an unruly child.
Following are a few techniques you can use while praising and appreciating your child.
1. Be Descriptive
It basically depends on the specific personality of your child, but being descriptive in your praise and appreciation can bring great results.
Sometimes, when you are not descriptive enough, your child assumes that you are praising him just for the sake it, and that you do not mean it. It is important for your child to understand that when you appreciate his efforts, you always do it from the heart. When a child believes that his efforts are truly appreciated, he does it again to get the same praise and appreciation. Also, he tries to stay away from all the things that normally upset you.
In short, the idea is to be descriptive in your praise so that your child can really see you mean it.
For instance, if your child writes a poem and shows it to you, you can have two responses. You can either say, “Good job!” or you can be very descriptive in your analysis and appreciation. But as you can see, a simple “good job” may not have the same meaning in it.
However, if you say, “I am very moved by your poem about that blind eagle. I especially liked the part about its commitment, honesty, and giant wings.”,
Your child will definitely love it. It will increase his confidence that he can write good poems. More importantly, he will behave better in future.
2. Describe What You See
Although both these points may seem similar to you, they are not. There is a subtle difference between the two tips that you must know.
In the first tip, we discussed the importance of being descriptive about how you feel. However, in this second tip, the idea is to be descriptive about what you see.
Unlike feelings, tangible things may have a greater impact on your children. It can also help you getting your point across. Assume the following scenario.
Your child, who never cleans his room, finally does it. You see almost everything in its proper place and, therefore, feel the need to appreciate his efforts.
Now, you can either say “Wow!” or “Excellent work!”, but as always, it won’t mean much.
However, if you describe in detail what you see in a clean room, you can translate that praise in a positive energy. So the ideal response would be describing what you see. Here is an example:
“You sorted out your Legos, cars, and farm animals, and put them in separate boxes. This is very good. That’s what I call organization! Great job!”
Praising and appreciating your children are often necessary. However, at the same time, it can also have several negative consequences and impacts that you must avoid.
In other words, it is important to be cautious about praise.
Following are a few important rules that you should consider while praising and appreciating your children:
The first rule is that the appreciation and praise should be in level with your child’s age, intelligence, and level of ability. For instance, praising a very young child for regularly brushing his teeth is logical and highly recommended. It fills him with a sense of accomplishment. However, if you do the exact same thing to a teenager, it would feel irrelevant, insulting and sarcastic to him.
Any praise should never be done in a way that signifies a past weakness or past failure. For instance, if your child successfully passes a very difficult exam, you should not be praising him in the following way, “I never thought you’d pass the course — but you did it.” This can ruin your child’s sense of accomplishment. Moreover, it can also hurt him deeply. Instead, you should try to rephrase your praise in a more positive manner, e.g., “I know you put a lot of hard work to pass this course. Great job!”
Another important rule is that you shouldn’t be over excited about your child’s accomplishment and goals. This is because appreciations done in over-excitement can subdue your child’s own sense of accomplishment and achievement. For example, if you keep praising your child on his average guitar-playing skills, your child will start thinking that you want him to play more than he wants it for himself. It takes away his own excitement and will of achieving a particular level.
- Praises invite repetition. This is one of the primary reasons why you are recommended to praise and appreciate the good things your children do. But if you praise your child for something you don’t particularly like, be ready for a lot of repetition of the same activity. Therefore, the tip is to use appreciation and praise wisely and selectively.
Chapter 9 — Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) by Most Parents on How to Raise Unruly Children?
After reading this in-depth article, you may have a few questions that need to be answered. Following is a list of some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) that are related to the tips and tricks taught in this guide as well as to general parenting.
Here we go.
- Is agreeing with the feelings of your children really important? Does it not have any negative impact on their thinking and lives?
Please note that in one of the earlier chapters in this guide, we did discuss this. But the idea is to acknowledge your child’s feelings. Their feelings do not have to be agreed with, but they should be acknowledged. There is a subtle difference between the two terminologies.
Instantly agreeing with the feelings of your children may have a negative impact. For instance, a simple statement, like, “You are absolutely right!” may be very satisfying for your child to hear from you, but it will prevent him from thinking things on his own.
2. It is important for children to know that parents understand them. But if that is the case, what is so wrong with simply saying, “I understand how you feel.”?
It’s not that simple.
On paper, both the responses may seem similar, but they have different impacts on the psychology of your children.
The problem with saying “I understand how you feel” is that most of the children just do not believe it. More often than not, they will answer — or they at least think — that, “No, you do not understand.”
This is why it is important not to be so simple and predictable in your response. If you take the trouble to be specific, then the children know that you really do understand, and they will truly believe you.
3. Isn’t accepting — or acknowledging — all or most of the feelings of my child wrong? Won’t that give him the idea that anything he does is perfectly fine with me?
Every parent is worried about being too permissive. It is only natural.
However, with time, you will realize that this approach was permissive only in the sense that all feelings were permitted. For example, you can acknowledge the feelings — or a certain activity — of your child, just like in the following scenario.
“I can see that you are having fun making designs in the butter with your fork.”
You acknowledged what your child was doing, but it definitely does not mean that you permitted that behavior. As soon as you remove the butter, you can let your child know that, “But butter is not for playing with. If you want to make designs, you can use your sketchbook or clay.”
It is a proven fact that once you accept your children’s feelings, they are more capable to accept the limits and restrictions you set for them.
4. Is it okay to give children advice when they have a problem?
It is not too bad to give your children advice whenever they have a problem. In fact, it is one of your primary duties as a parent.
However, at the same time, it is important to understand that giving children advice or instant solutions all the time can deprive them of the important experience that comes from finding their own perfect solutions.
5. Is there anything you can do if you realize afterward that you have given your child an unhelpful response? What should you then?
Every time a parent says to himself, “I shouldn’t have said that”, he automatically gets another chance. Life with your children is pretty open-ended in nature, and you get plenty of opportunities and chances to rectify yourself.
That opportunity may not always come at the same time, but it will arise sooner rather than later. Then you can rectify your bad response in a more helpful way, e.g., “I have been thinking about what you told me before, and I realize how upsetting that would be for you.”
In the life of your children — despite how wild and unruly they may seem — compassion is always appreciated. And it does not matter if it comes sooner or later.
6. Isn’t “how” you say something to your children just as important as “what” you say?
It definitely is. The attitude behind your words is just as important as the words you use. Most children are very sensitive and perceptive when it comes to the behavior and attitude of their parents.
7. If we assume the above statement to be true, and if attitude is so important, why bother about the words we use?
Both of those things are equally important, and you have to consider both of them in a positive response.
If any of the attitude or the words you use is wrong, it can hurt your child deeply. A few bad words can linger in the memories of your children and can have a very negative impact on their overall life.
Moreover, as we are discussing about the ideas and skills used to raise unruly children, it is important to understand that some of the words and bad attitudes, which parents exhibit in their conversations, are later recalled and used by their children. This makes things even worse.
This is why it is important to realize the importance of both these factors in conversations with your children.
8. Is there something wrong with saying the word “please” to a child if you want him to do something in particular?
Generally speaking, there is nothing wrong with saying the word “please” to your children. It teaches them the way they should be talking to you and to other people. It establishes good manners in them.
Moreover, when you are requesting small favors, e.g., closing the door or passing the salt, it is perfectly fine — and even recommended — to use the word “please” in your conversation.
But it is equally important to note that the word “please” itself lends a sense of relaxation and comfort. So if you are really upset, it is not recommended to use the word “please”.
9. If humor works best with my particular child, is it fine to just go with it?
There is nothing wrong with using humor if it gets the job done for you. In fact, it can be even recommended if it keeps you away from displaying feelings of anger, frustration, and disgust.
10. It can be commonly observed that even after repeating the same thing over and over again, some children just don’t listen. Is there a way to avoid this?
There certainly is a way to avoid this.
It is common to some children to simply ignore whatever it is that you say to them. You end up repeating the same thing over and over again without any response from your children.
The trick is to stop repeating yourself from saying the same thing again.
When you feel tempted to remind your child about something you just said for the second or third time, stop yourself. And instead of repeating, find out from your child if you have been heard the very first time.
You: “Son, we are about to leave in 5 minutes. Get ready!”
Your son does not answer to that and keeps doing what he has been doing.
In such a scenario, instead of repeating yourself, ask, “Would you tell what I just said?”
Your son will respond that you said that you were leaving in 5 minutes.
This is the best possible trick in such scenarios.
11. We learned that punishing your children is not a productive option. But if a small child who has not started talking yet touches something dangerous that he shouldn’t, is it okay to slap his little hand to let him know that it isn’t right?
You may think that your child, who has not started speaking yet, cannot understand you, but it is not true. Just because of the fact that children have not started speaking yet, does not mean that they can’t listen or understand. They are constantly learning new things. Now it is up to you to decide what are they learning?
You can either slap their hands and teach him that it is the only way for him to learn what not to do or you can treat him like a dignified small human being. Give him the information that he can use now and learn for the rest of his life. Do not spoil him by slapping or using any external force.
Since it is a very small child, you will have to repeat yourself several times before you start seeing any positive reaction. But that is what good parenting is. It takes time, patience, and a lot of dedication from you.
12. Is there any major difference between punishment and natural consequences? Or are they just two different words with the same meaning?
There is a very important difference between the two terms. You are recommended to use “natural consequences” as an alternative to punishment for your children, but actually “punishing” your children is definitely not recommended at all.
A punishment is about deliberately depriving a child of something for a specified period of time. It can also mean inflicting physical pain to let him know he did something wrong. However, on the other hand, natural consequences do not fall into the category of punishment. Consequences are the natural result of your child’s bad behavior.
Remember the example we mentioned in an earlier chapter about a child who was constantly running in the aisles. In order to let him face the consequence, his mother went alone the next day for shopping.
13. We learned that expressing your disapproval is an alternative to punishment. But what if it makes my child guilty and miserable for the rest of the day? Am I overdoing it?
It can be common for some children to be sensitive of their parents’ strong disapproval. It is not a very bad thing, as it shows that your child loves you, your opinions, and that he cares for your feelings. It also shows that with the right attitude and approach, such unruly children can easily be brought back to the right track.
However, if your reaction is making the child feel worthless, then you will have to adjust a little bit. In any way, parents should not abuse their power and control over their children. Otherwise, the exaggerated feeling of guilt and worthlessness will affect the child’s personality.
14. What if I ask my child to do something, but he never does it even after committing it to me?
If you say something in particular to your child and he never follows through, this can be a bit of a problem.
You can’t show a lot of frustration and anger to him because he has committed to doing a certain activity. It is just that you are never sure of the time your child will do something at. It’s hard to predict a timeframe when all your child says is, “Sure. I’ll do it later.”
In such a scenario, the tip is to know the exact timeframe from your child and later hold him accountable if he does not do it.
For example, if you ask your child to do his homework and he responds with the usual “Sure, I’ll do it soon”, you need to get a specific timeframe from him.
Your next response should be, “I’d feel better after knowing exactly when you plan to do your homework.”
Your child may say, “I’ll do it after this TV show is over.”
Then you need to inquire even further to get a specific time. You should say, “And when is that?”
If your child says “in an hour”, you now know an exact time frame that you can count on. If your unruly child keeps stalling you, having a specific time-frame can help you overcome this very common problem.