10 Options for Dealing with Persistent Problems

In my last post, I spoke about dealing with problems in a general way.  However, many parents have more difficult problems with their children such as when the child seems to be tenacious about continuing in a behavior that may be destructive, disrespectful or harmful.  In other words, when the intensity of the problem is beyond normal parenting options, what options have you?

Choosing which option works best for solving a persistent problem

girl screaming
Persistent problems require a more specific approach (photo courtesy of

If you find yourself seeking options for solving persistent problems with your child’s behavior, it is wise to take on only one problem at a time. Then for that particular problem, you can choose which options evoke the best response from your child.

Due to the ages and stages of child development, possible learning problems, maturity levels or situational factors, parents should be flexible to choose different options that fit the situation.  Of course, you may use these options in combination. The important thing to remember is that you have alternative ways to deal with a persistent problem.

Here are some options for you to choose from:

1. Requesting: Describe to the child the specific behavior that is a problem, and why it is a problem. Ask the child what he/she may be willing to do to help with the problem. If he does not respond at all, then a parent can assume a more “take-charge” stance, but make sure that if the child has responded, you have listened well to the response.

2. Persisting: When behavior you have assertively described to a child as unacceptable is continuing, you can decide to remind the child in a systematically repetitious way what behavior is expected. Tenacity helps the child remember you will not compromise on this issue.

3. Monitoring: This is a way to provide close supervision. It means staying with the child to see that the behavior is being accomplished. The child knows this and needs to see the parent as an external control.

4. Ignoring: The parent changes unacceptable behaviors by not responding when the child performs them, but attends to the child when acceptable ones are performed. This approach must be planned. It must be done calmly and without dramatics. The child must know that the behavior does not put a strain on you, or it may encourage him to continue the behavior.

5. Charting: This involves a system of keeping a record of the number of infractions which the parent shares with the child. It helps the child to see more clearly the extent of the problem.

6. Rewarding: This involves providing tangible rewards for positive behavior. It is different from bribery which involves enticing a child to stop negative behavior, which is often used as a last resort by frantic parents). Rewarding is done when adults are in charge, when adults want to promote positive behaviors that are replacing negative ones. It is a way of appreciating behaviors the child may find to be difficult, anxiety-provoking or unappealing.

7. Encouraging: This is an intentional plan to compliment any actions that are steps toward the desired results. It uses social, verbal reinforcement rather than tangible ones (praise rather than treats).  It involves catching and commenting in front of the child on his good behavior.

8. Compromising: This involves lessening but not eliminating your expectations. It is a decision to re-negotiate the situation.

9. Disarming: This is used when you feel the child is delighting in the fun of giving you a hard time, or if he is allowing negative behavior to feed on feelings of inferiority. It is a way to shift gears.

10: Withdrawing Privilege/Using Consequences: This is the most often used response to negative behaviors and should be used the least. Adults need to avoid having children focus on their resentment at feeling deprived or overpowered.  However, it is a way to work to deter the unacceptable behaviors.

Remember that parents should not use withdrawal as punishment but rather for effective teaching. Consequences focus on the misdeed and not the child.

I want to acknowledge the parenting education writing of Dr. Mel Silberman for giving us these ten options. I hope these options will broaden your parenting knowledge and opportunities to help your children grow through the more difficult and persistent problems which need constancy of work and support for you and your children.

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Information taken from “Effective Discipline,” 2014 by Diane Wagenhals.  Licensed materials.  All rights reserved.

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