Q: My 5 year old will be starting school in the fall. He is a difficult child that people call ‘wild’. I try to control him but I usually find that I have to give in because he screams, kicks and swears so much. Any suggestions?
A: When you give in to your child’s screaming, kicking and swearing, you are in fact, rewarding him for these behaviours. I recently attended a conference on troublesome children. The main focus was that the earlier you get a child’s behaviour under control, the better the outcome for this child’s future. The other important point made was that the only way to get the child’s behaviour under control, is to get the adults in the child’s life to all act in a consistent and controlled manner. This means parents, babysitters and school teachers. Everyone must give the child the same message—that negative behaviour brings about negative consequences and positive behaviour brings positive consequences and that the adults in his life are able to control and keep safe, not only him, but themselves as well.
If the adults behave in a chaotic way and scream and fight, it is unreasonable to expect the child to do different. They emphasized that family therapy was the most effective way to bring about the necessary changes. This is true even if the child has other problems compounding the situation such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Learning Disabilities (LD) and even if they are on medication for these conditions. When the response is consistent, the changes will happen.
A child who has good behaviour will fit in with others and will thus develop good self esteem. Furthermore, if he does not learn to fit in with others at this age, there is a good likeliness that he will develop Oppositional Defiant Disorder which can lead to Conduct Disorder and eventually to the child becoming a juvenile offender, in trouble with the law. I am referring to ‘he’ in this case because it is more often boys that follow this route. In family therapy, you will learn how to effectively use the techniques that will help your child grow up to be a happy and productive member of society and make your home life much more satisfying for you all.