How to tackle bad habits of your child

Expert session Questions and Answers

This could be a case of breakdown in communication. Can you make a list (privately, don’t have to share with us) of ALL the AMAZING qualities of your 13 year old. Minimum 10 qualities have to be listed. Then notice how many times you are acknowledging these qualities and telling her that you appreciate this. And how many times are you complaining about her adamancy. Noticing the good in kids can make them grow softer towards us. When they feel respected and appreciated, then barriers break down. You might have to go on a “complaining fast” for a week! Means you are not allowed to complain about anything of hers. The only thing you can say to her is what you notice she does very well. See how the relationship changes.

Kids choose screens because

  1. Don’t think about what else to do
  2. They are stressed & avoiding their feelings- a.k.a. this is a distraction
  3. Not enough “alive” food in diet
  4. No permission to play downstairs or meet friends
  5. Over-permissive parenting
  6. Over-strict parenting
  7. No good role models who do exciting things away from phones and screens

To keep them away from screens you have to one-by-one remove the above 4 reasons. So model having fun in a park, with a book, with your plants, with friends etc. Talk to them about what is stressing them out. Help them plan their school work so they are not avoiding it till last minute. Let them go downstairs to play with friends. Let them hang out with friends at home etc.

This appears to be a sign of anxiety. You will have to look into her environment at home, playground and school to see what are her sources of anxiety. She knows this is not good for her, but can’t stop. This means this is her body’s way of coping with excess anxious energy. Has anything changed in your situation? Marriage/ divorce/ death/ best friend moving away/ new sibling/ moving residence/ change of school/ change of nanny etc? These could be the reasons for her situation as well.

Does he bring it into the social life? Else this is a normal part of growing up as they explore their body. You can gently distract him with something interesting, if it upsets you. Also keep an eye on the frequency and intensity of it. Your main role is to keep the self stimulation to a minimum, in private. You can ensure this by providing many different interesting activities which provide the kind of stimulation your child enjoys- tactile, smell, sound, numerical, language- whichever is his preference.

At 12 he is ready to take up more responsibilities. But yelling is ineffective as you have discovered. You need to co-create a plan with your son. He has to come to an understanding and acceptance of the rules you have and the expectations you have. So while both of you are calm and cheerful, make a plan of all the things he is responsible for. Whether his personal chores or those of the family. Secondly, ask him if he needs reminders from you, what type and how frequently. Finally ask him what should be done if after reminder also he does not do the task. What should be the “consequence” for still not following through. Do all this calmly, cheerfully, with his full approval. This will help give him a sense of ownership and responsibility.
Meanwhile, make yourself a cup of tea and relax. No point giving yourself high blood pressure over a teen’s dirty room. This is one of those phases which will pass. Your job is to teach him to participate in the family’s chores. Whether he specifically becomes a tidy person or not, no one knows.

Give her a few books or have discussions with her about the changes that occur during teen years. She may be experiencing a bad case of hormone fluctuation and not even know it. So she is acting out the frustration/ anger. It seems that by now she KNOWS that getting angry is not helpful but she doesn’t know WHAT ELSE to do. You can introduce her to meditations and pranayamas for teens. Let her explore ways of how she can help her temper. But first, do help her feel that it is all normal by sharing lots of knowledge about teen changes.

I am glad you are aware of this habit and have even had a conversation with him. Your first task is to help him realise that this is a problem. Help him see that his problem is there itself. By smoking he is temporarily distracting himself from it. But at the end of the cigarette, the problem is still very much there. And now he has even less time to cope with it. Once he appreciates that there is a problem for which he needs solution, show him plenty of other ways of dealing with his stressors. Right from time management workshops, to handling pressure, to handling disappointments, handling failures, being unpopular and living through that etc. When you bring up these issues he might be facing he will see in you a person who GETS his problems. He will be more open to your suggestions for how to cope. Help him feel in control of his life and he won’t depend on cigarettes.

Seems like a phase. Ask him who else looks like that? You might get a window into what he really needs. Maybe some superhero’s mom looks like that and he is scared so he needs to feel like a superhero. So you have to play your part. Do strike a conversation around who else looks like this

Is she on social media? Is she looking at social media messages? Because social media addiction is very powerful. You can help her by showing her the research that social media addiction is similar to heroine addiction. Same circuits in the brain are triggered. And a 14 year old brain is definitely not ready for this. We have made a huge mistake in letting our little kids come on to social media. One Like, One comment becomes like a crucial matter for them. Their self esteem comes from it. If they don’t get enough likes, they feel left out. There is a FOLO phenomenon- meaning fear of losing out. These are already known phenomena and we need to make our kids aware of it. We need to guide them how to come out of this trap of brain chemicals. Also, make sure she gets PLENTY of time with real friends, to hang out, go for long walks etc. Start a sports class for her. This triggers some “feel good” hormones that can compensate for the ones she got online.

Sounds like communication breakdown along with anger issues.

Feels like kid is under a lot of pressure. She may be just blowing steam off. One idea is to let her sit with the frustration. Be with her. Don’t let her distract herself. Let her talk about all these feelings for as long as she needs. You just sit with her, be with her, don’t rush in to tell her that it is not true. Be with her to say, yes, I am sure you feel this way, acknowledge and validate her feelings. Once she has vented long enough, hours or days, finally ask her that since this is the way things are right now, how does she wish to handle this pressure? because ULTIMATELY, it is all about teaching her HOW TO HANDLE PRESSURE. That is all it is. And this skill will be needed by her lifelong. So it is your duty to help her learn to HOLD pressure and deal with this uncomfortable feeling.

To break a habit we have to always find what NEED is it meeting. Then we have to fulfil that need in HEALTHIER ways. So she must work on finding what needs the child is meeting through this- it could be a need to feel close to the father, to feel grown up, to feel pleasure, to avoid boredom or loneliness etc.

Why do you need her to sit for longer? Moving around is very healthy. Well, you are not responsible for her entertainment. If you like, ask her to draw up a list of all the things she loves to do. Then let her make a big chart of it or make an appointment diary, in which she marks when she will do what. Kids love to feel grown up doing such things. Then talk about things in terms of her next “appointment”. “When is your snack and milk appointment? Do remind me, so I will not make you late for your next appointment” is the sort of thing you can say to her. Make it fun. Let her remind herself about what to do, when.

Yes, a very delicate age. Do share good books with her around peer pressure. Also share your own stories (whether real or make-believe) of how you had so much peer pressure to do so and so… and you gave in for some time… and then you realised that that wasn’t you- that you only did it to feel attractive, to feel like you are “in”, to be in a group. But when you were older you realised that your real friends don’t need you to change. Your real friends were the ones you loved you for being YOU. They never made you jump hoops to PROVE that you belong. Do this long enough and she will start maturing too. Be patient.

Does he take a nap in the afternoon? Does he get enough outdoor time in nature/ park? Does he have enough physical activity during the day? Does he get lots of time with you on weekday nights or weekends? Let him know that when grown ups don’t get enough sleep they get cranky. Then Mummy/ Daddy are not nice, or patient all through the day. And let him choose a few things he can do alone if he can’t sleep. Also creating a SLEEP ROUTINE is really helpful at this stage. So have an hour long sleep routine that you both know and follow. It can include changing clothes, warm water bath, putting things away, some pleasant smells, lighting a lamp, cleaning the bedsheets, turning down the lights, few games, few stories etc. At the end of which is time for all of you to sleep.

In the beginning he will keep asking for a little more time, be patient. In a week or so he should start getting used to the new routine. When he does let you sleep, be sure to point out the next day HOW WONDERFUL you feel because you slept nicely. Be cheerful! Let him see the difference.

Being soft is not an issue. Being gentle, compassionate and kind are qualities we want to see in EVERY child, irrespective of gender. But he needs to tap into his inner strength. One which LIFE gives him. To protect itself. First, give him confidence in himself, that he is great just the way he is- soft, kind. Show him that BULLIES ARE WRONG. Right now it feels like you blame him (the victim) for getting bullied. Please don’t do that. Blame the bully, fairly & squarely. Then show him how even a bird / butterfly flies away if we disturb it. Every life has a right to protect itself, and its peace of mind. So show him how to walk away, take help from seniors or teachers. If needed, please go to his school and meet the teachers. No child should be bullied. It is the school’s responsibility to ensure a bullying-free environment so that kids can learn without fear.

Lying is a developmental milestone. Kids start lying at around 2 and get good at it by 7 years of age. If you could give an example of a small thing for the child lying maybe I can be more helpful in my suggestions. But that doesn’t sound like the problematic kinds. Is he experiencing any other behavioural disorder like breaking school property/ getting into trouble at school/ beating friends etc? If not then this is not conduct disorder. This is simply his way of trying to have more control in his life. By communicating better about various things- what he can and cannot have etc, you can reduce this need. Also, let him exert control on his life by making most choices himself. What to wear, when to sleep and wake up, which party to go to and which to skip, etc. Sometimes you can give a range of options, like for sleep time, between 9:45 to 10:45 he can choose when to call it a day etc. Let him feel in control of his life and his need for using lying to control you should reduce. 

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Garima Gupta – How To Tackle Bad Habits Of Your Child

She is a psychologist and happiness coach by profession. She has been coaching clients for 12 years based on holistic techniques including mindfulness, Tapping technique, Presence oriented Psychotherapy, Shadow- to- gold, etc. About Garima Gupta
Garima Gupta holds special expertise in psychology related to kids and teens as well as the role of mind and physical health.

Garima Gupta is the award-winning author of several books, one of them being the 2019 International Book Award in Health.

She is a Parenting Expert on Momspresso- India’s largest parenting portal. Garima Gupta is a permanent member of Indian psychiatric society as well as New Zealand Association of Positive Psychology. She has received the 2018 Orange Flower Award Finalist by Women’s Web and the 2018 Readers’ Favourite 5 star among others.
The Session
Garima Gupta – How To Tackle Bad Habits Of Your Child will be the topic where she will be taking the session at 5To15 event.