Parent’s concerns about their children’s behaviour and how best to manage and cope is a common source of stress for parents. Being a parent can be both difficult and rewarding. During the difficult times it is possible for parents to fall into ‘parent traps’. Parenting traps add to the burden of stress and make the job of raising children more difficult.
What are some common parenting traps?
- The criticism trap – becoming locked into frequent and usually unnecessary power struggles with your child. This can present as parents reacting to a child’s misbehaviour by fighting and arguing, criticism (e.g., “Michael, leave your brother alone”), threats (e.g., “If you do that one more time you’re in big trouble), or hitting
- The leave them alone trap – ignoring the child when they are behaving well or playing cooperatively. If good behaviour is taken for granted and ignored, it will occur less often in the future. By attending to and encouraging to positive behaviours, this can increase the likelihood of these behaviour reoccurring
- The for the sake of the children trap – parents staying together in unhappy and high conflict marriages/partnerships ‘for the sake of the children’ rather than learning ways to resolve their marital conflict. Often times this is driven by the assumption that children need two stable parents, however research shows that children experience more emotional and behavioural problems in families with high conflict and stress
- The perfect parent trap – parents aspiring to be perfect rather than merely competent parents. Since there is no such thing as a perfect parent, setting these standards can lead to disappointment, resentment, guilt, and feelings of inadequacy
- The martyr trap – parents becoming over-involved in parenting that they neglect their own needs for intimacy, companionship, recreations, privacy, and fun. This can lead parents to feel dissatisfied within their own life and resentful
Tips for coping with children’s behaviour
Depending on the nature of the difficulties, it may be beneficial to consider professional counselling or therapist support. At Qualia Psychology we use evidence-based practice whilst customising treatment to suit individual and family needs.
Here are some general tips for managing difficult behaviours in children:
- Set consistent limits to your child’s behaviour
- Praise you child for behaving appropriately – providing them with positive feedback when they do the right thing
- Respond to misbehaviour immediately, consistently, and decisively, and by telling your child what would have been more acceptable
- Remain calm when speaking to a child who is upset or who has misbehaved
- Attempt to prevent problems by ensuring that your child has plenty of interesting and engaging things to do
- Deal with the problem yourself rather than threatening someone else’s action
- Provide a quiet space for the child to calm down
- Time out (roughly the child’s age)
- Implement ‘planned ignoring’ for minor behaviours in order to reduce the frequency of the behaviour (not paying attention to it)
- Discuss rules with your child and give them a chance to be involved in deciding on family rules
- Set aside time with your child for quality one on one interactions – join in on your child’s play activities or read a book together – during this time ignore minor misbehaviours, and seek out moments of positive behaviours your child displays and praise these
Sanders, M. R (1992). Every Parent: A positive Approach to Children’s Behaviour
Fuller, A (2007). Tricky Kids: Transforming conflict and freeing their potential