EveryParent: Challenges



Got a thumbsucker or a headbanger? Tips to curb bad habits

No kid is perfect. There are the thumbsuckers and headbangers, the whiners and the hitters. 

Luckily, most of these bad habits go away on their own. The key, experts say, is how you respond.

“Yelling, calling attention to the habit and punishment do not usually work to stop the behavior, but praising the absence of the behavior, using positive rewards and patience, are likely to help,” says Kathryn Tancig, assistant program manager of Healthy Families Palm Beach.

So how exactly do you do that?

  1. Calmly explain what you don’t like about the behavior and why. You can use this approach with a child as young as 3 or 4 to increase their awareness.
  2. Involve your child in the process of breaking the habit.
  3. Suggest alternative behaviors. “Let’s wiggle our fingers instead of biting our nails.”
  4. Reward and praise self-control. And be consistent.
  5. Be patient – and supportive!

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Empower your middle schooler to just say no

It may be hard to imagine your middle schooler trying drugs or drinking alcohol, but that’s typically when old-fashioned peer pressure kicks into gear.

That’s why local experts urge parents and caregivers to keep the lines of communication open during this transitional stage.

“Conversations need to be early, often and age appropriate,” says Jan Cairnes, chief executive officer for the Hanley Foundation in West Palm Beach. “The easiest message to give children of all ages is to model appropriate drinking behavior.

“For example, have a glass of wine with dinner, not a bottle; have a beer, not a six pack.”

Empower younger teens to make their own decisions, even if it’s picking out clothes or choosing what to make for dinner, experts say. Encouraging your children to be independent thinkers can help them stay stronger later in challenging peer situations.

For a list of local resources that can help, sign up or log in to EveryParent below.

4 key tips for connecting with your difficult teen

If you’ve raised (or are raising) teens, you’re more than familiar with eye rolling, foot stomping and door slamming. So it’s natural to wonder how best to connect when your teen keeps throwing up virtual walls. Experts suggest these four tips:

  1. Watch your tone. Even if your teen’s tone of voice is pushing your buttons, try to stay calm and firm. Yelling may cause them to tune out.
  2. Stick to the goals. Teens can be great at throwing a conversation off track. Clearly state what you want your teen to know and stay on course.
  3. Show appreciation and praise. Even if it seems like your teen isn’t listening, they hear you. Say something kind and motivating. Acknowledge their accomplishments. And let them know you love them.
  4. Consider whether they’re coping with trauma. Children who’ve experienced a loss or suffered abuse may act and react in unexpected ways. If you’re concerned about your child’s behavior, reach out for help. Start by calling 2-1-1, the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County (561.801.4357) or the Children’s Behavioral Health Collaborative (561.366.9400).

For more tips on handling challenging behavior, sign up or log in to EveryParent below.

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