Here are some ideas for tackling common parenting problems.

Parents know their own children best. If you ever suspect a medical problem may be affecting your child, always consult a suitably qualified professional without delay. Please see the links page for the contact details of support organisations.

I have a long list of problem parenting situations, which I will gradually add to build up the Problem Solver as a resource, but if you have any ideas to share or problems about which you would like some suggestions, do please contact me.

My child won’t listen to me!

  • First of all, you need to be a great role model when it comes to listening. If you expect your children to listen to you, you need to listen to them very attentively and actively
  • Also, ensure that you model effective, polite listening skills when other people, such as any partner, family members or friend,s are talking to you
  • Consider making active listening a rule in your house – ” When someone uses our name, we always give them our attention, listen carefully and respond politely”
  • If you do have such a rule, you will also need to decide on a suitable consequence if your child breaks the rule and does blatantly ignore you (i.e. assuming they actually did hear you)
  • When possible, try to speak to your children when there are few distractions for them (or you), or remove the distractions. For example, trying to talk to a child when they are wrapped up in the exciting end to a film may be difficult and perhaps irritating for them. If appropriate, ask when would be a good time to talk

The avoidance or removal of distractions (e.g. older children texting on their phone when you are trying to talk to them!), will make it far easier to have a situation in which children do listen to you. Then, to ensure that you gain and retain their attention:

  • Think about what you want to say. Remember, if you are instructing your child to do something and they do not have a choice, do not ask them a question (such as “Would you like to come to the table now?”)! See Instructions for more information
  • Get close to the child (i.e. rather than shouting from another room!)
  • Get eye contact with your child (physically get down to the level of younger children)
  • Reassure them, if appropriate, that they’ll soon be able to get back to what they were doing
  • Use age appropriate language
  • Explain what you want to talk to them about in a succinct, polite, thoughtful way
  • Check that your child has heard and understood what you have said or discussed and what, if anything, you have asked or instructed your child to do
  • Assuming that your child has done so, thank and praise them for listening well and politely

My child is always on the Internet, on their mobile, or watching TV!

This is an aspect of your child’s life where, as their parent, you definitely need to be in control. The Internet and TV can both be very entertaining, great ways to relax and also very valuable and important sources of knowledge and learning. However, they can both be used inappropriately by children if their parents allow this. The Internet and TV can become big time wasters, with children – especially school-age children – spending most of their free time watching TV, surfing the Internet (or playing computer games). This can prevent children from doing all sorts of other things, including getting physical exercise and having more social, face to face interaction with friends and family.

It is also, of course, the case that unless children’s use of the Internet, TV and computer games is supervised by parents, children can be exposed to very inappropriate material  of a violent, sexual or other nature, which could have a serious adverse short and/or long term effect on them.

Technology continues to develop at a rapid pace and it is important that children are encouraged to be curious about technology and to want to use it, but in an age-appropriate way. So, how can parents achieve this?  It varies, according to the child’s age. The following is a suggested approach:

  • Firstly, get or keep up to date yourself with technology, including what’s available and possible with the Internet, TV, mobile phones and computer games. You do not need to be an expert! Just to know and understand enough, to make informed decisions about what you are and are not happy for your child to do with the technology available. There are lots of good guides for parents available on the Internet, including on the Safer Internet website.
  • Decide what you are and are not happy for your child to see on the TV or Internet and what sort of computer games you are prepared for them to play. Also decide and agree on how much “screen time” you are prepared to let your child have and ensure this is stuck to. Screen time could be used as a Reward for completing homework for example, with denial of screen time used as an agreed Consequence for breaking relevant rules. Be sure that relevant safety filters and settings are always in place when your child is accessing the Internet, through whatever device
  • Ensure that you know how your child is using social media websites (assuming you are happy for them to do so). Parents have traditionally (and understandably) been interested or watchful about the friends or company their child is keeping. It is just as important for parents to do this in an on-line social media context. Many parents, for example, insist on being given access to their child’s social media accounts as a condition of
  • Take an interest in what your child is using the Internet for and show how it can be used effectively for research to help with homework for example. You could also research things together – perhaps related to your child’s interests
  • Ensure that you talk to your child, in age appropriate terms, about the possible dangers on the Internet and how to stay safe. There is a great deal of really helpful advice and information about this available, with different advice available for younger children and teenagers
  • Even if you are not comfortable with technology or a liker of the Internet, the bottom line is that you must effectively supervise your children’s use of the Internet so that the gain from its many benefits and possibilities, but are not exposed to its very real and potentially very serious dangers. For example, as long ago as 2005, research (by Livingstone and Bober) suggested that 57% of 9-19 year-olds had come into contact with on-line pornography

My child always misbehaves in public - it’s so embarrassing!

It is worth bearing in mind several points first I think:

  • Everyone’s children misbehave at some time when they’re out – so it’s normal
  • If you’re children are shouting or having a tantrum, they will be making a lot of noise and that is bound to make people look round to see what the noise is
  • Because all parents’ approach will be different to particular situations, it is inevitable that some people will think that someone in your situation with a misbehaving child should handle it one way, while someone else will think you should do something entirely different. You can’t know or control what people are thinking and so there’s no point worrying about it! All you can do is handle the situation in what you feel is the right way for you and for your child, according to your values, rules and discipline approach

How can you avoid the likelihood of your child misbehaving? Try the following suggestions:

  • Think about the situations in which your child misbehaves
  • What triggers their misbehaviour? Is it when they are tired? Is it a particular activity and they get bored (e.g. trailing round Sainsbury’s for two hours on the weekly shop)?
  • Can the activity or situation be avoided (clearly you do have to buy food!) or shortened or changed to make misbehaviour less likely
  • Explain to your child – before you go out – what you will be doing and where you will going
  • Also be sure that you have clearly explained to your child how they are expected to behave and what rules and/or rewards (if any) apply in that situation (e.g. staying sat at their table in the restaurant)
  • But talk positively about the trip out, not negatively (“You remember what happened last time when you were such a naughty boy, I do NOT want a repeat of that young man….”), otherwise history is more likely to repeat itself
  • Make the activity interesting for them and make it into a game if you can and ensure that you give them plenty of attention while you are out
  • If you need to take them away from something they are enjoying, give them countdown warnings (e.g. in 5 minutes, in 4 minutes….) and, when the time comes to go, be decisive and assertive about it and get them thinking about something else you are going to do later (e.g. “What story would like for bedtime….?”)
  • If necessary, consider setting up a Reward Scheme to reward a child for good behaviour while out in public

If your child does misbehave:

  • Do not pay any attention to what other parents may be doing or saying
  • Warn your child what will happen if they do not behave
  • If they do then behave, Praise them
  • If they do not behave as required, implement your discipline approach – for example a Logical Consequence (no comic at the end of the supermarket trip or whatever it may be), or the use of Time Out, which can be effectively used in public, provided you ensure your child is close to you and in your sight at all times

If your child does behave well:

  • Give them lots of Praise and, if appropriate, a Reward

As with managing any behaviour problems in the family home, you need to be Calm, Assertive, Persistent and Consistent when dealing with misbehaviour in public. If you do this, misbehaviour will reduce and there will be fewer occasions when you might otherwise feel embarrassed.