Bring Out the Best in Your Child

Best Child, p.4

Work on changing one behavior at a time. However difficult your child is being in general, don't try to change everything at once or he'll feel that you're trying to change him and, therefore, that you don't love him. Why then, his logic will go, should he try to please you?

Pick the behavior that bugs you most -- and most often (like all the time) -- and focus your attention on that first. Whatever you choose to work on, be aware of your own example. Keep in mind that your child won't do what you say if what you do is different. So if it's her bad language that's really driving you crazy, you and your partner may have to come to a private arrangement to set a good example with your own remarks and conversations. Likewise, if your child is hitting or bullying other children, make sure nothing that goes on at home could make him feel it's okay to behave that way. For example, kids who are spanked a lot often take it out on smaller children.

Make provisions for play. If you're over 40, maybe you remember a time in your childhood when you were kept in bed and then indoors for a week because you were sick. That would rarely keep a child under house arrest today, but safety or space issues often do. If your child is one of the millions who can't go outside with her friends after school and who has nowhere to play the spontaneous, unstructured games that leave muscles tired and brains flowering, consider this: Better play opportunities may improve her physical and mental health and your family life too. A backyard that's too small for ball games may fit a treehouse or gym set, and the time you spend driving to an art class or soccer practice might be better spent loading the children and bikes in the car and heading for the neighborhood park.

Furthermore, when you're at home, try not to use the TV, computer games, or the Internet to keep your child busy in his room and out of your hair. Those are some of the influences that are most likely to be overstimulating and worrying him, and they certainly won't help him learn the social skills and self-regulation that will improve his behavior. Confine high-tech activities to the family room, where you can monitor them and talk about what your child sees. And how about some low-tech stuff? How many card games does your 8-year-old know? When was the last time your family played a board game?

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Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the June/July 2002 issue of Child magazine.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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