Fresh Ideas for Dealing with a Difficult Child

I am still fighting a battle against the snails and birds who are determined to eat all our strawberries! I have a strawberry bed and a strawberry pot; the snails are eating the strawberries in the bed and the birds are enjoying pecking through the netting around the pot to get their strawberry tea. This morning I found a snail on the strawberries; he had dodged the snail deterent, scaled the broken eggshells and finally got caught in the bird netting.  I must have made a noise about the snails quite a lot because my favourite two-year-old was looking through his animal picture book and when he saw the snail he told his mother that snails eat strawberries.

Misbehaving snails (but not darling two-year-olds) remind me that we often have trouble-makers in our lives in a variety of ways.  I once read an interesting article about handling trouble-makers in the work force.  The writer of the article, John L. Beckley, said that when trouble-makers have been shifted to new departments they have sometimes surprised everyone and turned into very satisfactory employees.  All it took, in many cases, was a manager who recognised the problem.  By giving the employees more attention and more credit, the boss turned the situation around.  Apparently, there are lots of ways to make employees feel that their jobs are important:

•           Talk with them frequently.

•           Explain the importance of doing this job well.

•           Give them occasional special responsibilities.

•           Watch for special abilities; praise good work in front of others.

•           Ask their opinion about various problems.

•           Listen to their opinions. Show an interest in them and their personal lives.


When I read the article, it made perfect sense.  I have seen this wisdom applied successfully many times in various places and especially with children.  It worked when I was a classroom teacher, and it worked with children at home.

I have found that giving more attention and credit is a fabulous way to interact positively with my children.  My own experience is that proper ‘talking’ to children helps a lot.  Not the barked commands, instructions or sermons or even preachy chats that we all slip into now and again. But genuine talking, which is very helpful, even with tiny children.

Children love to be given appropriate responsibility; they want to work at useful things. They respond beautifully to honest, realistic praise. Not gushing words like ‘awesome’ with every other word, but genuine praise about a specific success or ability.

As we get closer to the end of term and Christmas, life get busier and our expectations of what we can cope with and what our children can manage tend to get a bit unrealistic.  So if you do start observing difficult or disagreeable behaviour beyond the general ups and downs of daily life you might like to consider why.

Why is your child grumpy?  What caused it? What helps to relieve it?   Are we slipping into bad habits that we want to stop quickly?

I would be interested to hear about your experiences in this area.


P.S. John L. Beckley’s books are now all out of print, but you might be able to find a second hand copy if you are lucky.


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