Advertising
Advertising

Published on September 26, 2019

How to Help Your Child with Behavior Problems

How to Help Your Child with Behavior Problems

Before I talk about ways to help with child behavior problems, I want to share a story with you…

Little Suzy recently started Kindergarten. Within the first several days of school, the teacher noticed that Suzy was quite defiant when asked to follow instructions in the classroom. The teacher would ask the students to gather on the rug for circle time and Suzy would say no, and refuse to stop playing with toys in the corner of the classroom.

Suzy has been erupting at school and yelling at other children. The school contacted Suzy’s parents because a situation escalated at school this week and Suzy hit a classmate over the head with a Lacrosse stick while they were playing outside. The bystanders said it wasn’t an accident and that Suzy hit their classmate hard on the head several times with the stick because the classmate wouldn’t give Suzy the ball.

Her parents are at a loss. They don’t know what to do. They don’t know why Suzy is acting this way. They have difficulty at home getting her to follow directions. She seemed to not respect authority when they take her to church or anywhere where she is being supervised by other adults, the feedback that they receive is that Suzy doesn’t listen and refuses to follow instructions. She seemed to hear what they would say, but her response is always “no, I am not doing it.” Situations often escalate into Suzy having a temper tantrum.

It was also noted by her parents that Suzy has not made any friends during the first month of school. She was doing things to annoy and even bully other children. Instigating arguments and always trying to be right seemed to be her pattern of behavior. She lacked empathy toward her classmates and even blamed them for things that she did. For example, she wrote curse words on the blackboard and blamed another student. She fails to take responsibility for her negative behaviors.

The school referred Suzy to a child psychologist the second month of school based on the her behaviors at school including refusing to follow instructions from her teacher, yelling, bullying, not making any friends, and beating a classmate with a Lacrosse stick. The parents are hopeful that the psychologist can understand why Suzy is acting like this and that they can get her the help that she needs.

After the psychologist met with Suzy, her parents, and the teacher had some answers. The psychologist asked if the parents had ever heard of the term “Oppositional Defiant Disorder.” The parents said that they had not. The psychologist went on to explain that this disorder, abbreviated as ODD is defined by the presence of at least four of the following behaviors for at least 6 months and these behaviors are noticeably more severe than their peers’ behaviors:

  • Argues with adults
  • Often defies adult authority and rules
  • Deliberately annoys others
  • Blames others for their mistakes or behavior
  • Often loses their temper
  • Often exhibits anger, irritability, and/or hostility
  • Often bothered by others
  • Acts vindictive

The parents agreed with the psychologist that Suzy had more than four of these behaviors present. They said that the behaviors were present while in preschool as well and that they could see these problems increasing over the past year. They had hoped that a different teacher would be able to better reign in Suzy’s behavior. They felt that it was perhaps the preschool teacher that was too soft on Suzy. Now they realize that they have a real problem, since the behaviors have persisted for over a year and under the direction of a new teacher and school.

They commit to a plan to help Suzy. The psychologist refers the parents to a clinician who has parent training classes that will help them learn skills to handle the ODD. The child is entered into a therapy program that includes bio-feedback methods that teach the child emotional self-regulation.

One year later, the family is happy to report that Suzy is like a different child. She knows how to control her emotions. Her parents also know how to implement structure and discipline in their household which helps reinforce Suzy’s good behaviors. Suzy is now thriving in school and has friends. The early intervention for Suzy helped with this positive outcome, along with parents who were committed to working alongside their daughter to make the consistent changes they all needed to make to this happen.

Suzy’s case is just one example of a childhood behavioral disorder. There are several major behavioral and emotional disorders that can show up in childhood. It is important that parents have a general knowledge of these disorders and their symptoms, so they know when they need to seek professional help.

When in doubt, seek out the help of a mental health professional who specializes in childhood disorders, as they can assist in properly assessing your child. If after seeking out professional help you find that your child does not qualify for a diagnosis, the mental health professional can help provide referrals to help with the issues that your child is having. For example, your child may have issues with controlling their temper, but they don’t qualify for an ODD diagnosis. Parents can still be provided with information on parenting groups or trainings that can assist with learning how to handle this issue with their child. Their child could also be referred to play therapy, or another mode of therapy that can help the child learn to control their temper and process their emotions.

In this article, you will understand more about child behavior problems and what you can do to help children with behavioral disorders.

What are Some Behavioral Disorders?

The DSM is a diagnosing manual used by mental health professionals to assess behavioral and emotional disorders. The most common major behavioral and emotional disorders that can occur during childhood, which are defined and categorized by the DSM include:

  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Anxiety Disorder
  • Depression
  • Bipolar Bisorder

Below you find a brief description of each of these disorders. Having a general understanding of these disorders can help parents assess whether there is something wrong with their own child’s behavior.

Advertising

Symptoms of a Behavioral Disorder and Diagnosing

Diagnosing of a behavioral disorder requires a professional who is educated on the DSM. The DSM is the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders”. This manual provides mental health professionals with guidelines and diagnosing criterion for every mental health disorder.

If you think that your child may be suffering from a behavioral disorder, please talk to their primary care doctor and ask for a referral to see a psychologist. A psychologist who specializes in diagnosing behavioral disorders will be most helpful in providing you with answers and directions for specific treatment methods.

If you can’t get a referral from your child’s doctor, don’t stop. You are your child’s best advocate. If you think that they have a legitimate issue, then be their advocate and find the help that they need from professionals. See a different doctor, or contact a psychologist directly and explain your situation.

There is help available, you have to be the advocate for your child and it begins by getting them appointments to see professionals who can best help your child.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Let me share another story with you… Dillon is a healthy boy with lots of energy, a cheerful attitude, and seems to be smart. He is now in the third grade and has started to have major issues at school. Increasingly, he is having problems focusing in class. He is always fidgeting with items from inside his desk. Pulling out pens to click continuously, to the annoyance of his teacher.

Dillon is always losing his assignments, bus pass, and backpack. His thoughts seemed to be scattered in lots of directions and when it comes time to focus on a particular activity in the classroom, he has an inability to focus in general. His actions and inattentiveness are affecting the other students in the classroom. It is also affecting his ability to learn.

Previously, he was getting solid high marks in school. Currently, his grades are slipping and he is at the bottom of his class. His grades are more of a reflection of his lack of focus, losing assignments, and problems following directions. His inability to focus, problems with listening, and his fidgety behavior are greatly interfering with his classroom attentiveness and subsequently negatively affecting his grades.

His parents describe his behavior for the past year as hyperactive and inattentive. Dillon is a classic case of ADHD.

Healthline explains that there are three types of ADHD: Inattentive, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.[1]

Behaviors associated with Inattentive ADHD include missing details, getting bored easily, difficulty focusing on a single task, loses personal items often, difficulty organizing thoughts, problems listening, moves slow or appears to daydream often, processes things more slowly than their peers, and trouble following directions.

Some of the behaviors associated with a predominately hyperactive-impulsive ADHD diagnosis include squirming, difficulty sitting still, talking incessantly, playing with small objects with their hands often even when it is not appropriate, act out of turn (not waiting), blurting out answers, difficulty participating in quiet activities, constantly on the go, and impatient.

Most people experience a combination of systems and are not exclusively hyperactive, inattentive, or impulsive. There is not a single test alone that determine an ADHD diagnosis. Instead, it is an assessment of patterns of behavior. The behaviors must also be determined to be disruptive to the individual’s ability to function on a daily basis. A psychologist or a psychiatrist can assess whether a child has ADHD. A psychiatrist is able to prescribe medicine for a child with ADHD.

Ultimately, it is up to the parent whether they want their child to take a medication for this disorder. There are many children who learn to manage their symptoms of ADHD through regular therapy.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

The symptoms of this disorder and the criterion for diagnosing were discussed earlier in this article. The treatment for ODD often includes therapy and training for parents and the child. Treating the child alone is not typically effective. The parents play a huge role in the life of their child, so their ability to parent them in a manner that works to correct the ODD behaviors and symptoms is imperative.

A conduct disorder can develop if a child with ODD does not receive proper treatment. Conduct disorder is another DSM diagnosis, but this one is more often seen in teens who previously were diagnosed or showed signs of ODD. Conduct disorder is like taking the ODD to another level.

Advertising

Empowering Parents explains the difference between ODD and conduct disorder:[2]

A key difference between ODD and conduct disorder lies in the role of control. Kids who are oppositional or defiant will fight against being controlled. Kids who have begun to move—or have already moved—into conduct disorder will fight not only against being controlled, but will attempt to control others as well. This may be reflected by “conning” or manipulating others to do what they want, taking things that don’t belong to them simply because “I want it,” or using aggression or physical intimidation to control a situation.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Another girl, Kate, began to show signs of developmental delays around 12 months of age. She was not speaking any words yet, and her social interactions seemed to be different than other children her age. She would not make eye contact with people in general, including her parents. She rarely smiles and doesn’t show interest in interactions from others. By the age of 2, her parents describe her to be withdrawn and in her own world. At this age, she is only saying one word responses and her vocabulary is limited to only a handful of words.

While at play, she is very focused on one object. Currently, she is fixated on a toy drum and has no desire to play with or even hold another toy. She carries the drum everywhere and is fixated on this object.

Kate can often be found rocking from side to side for no explicable reason. She has been doing this behavior increasingly, especially if her daily routine is altered in any way. Having her nap time an hour later or not going to daycare on a regular weekday will upset her and cause a meltdown. Then, she will rock for hours. The effects of the meltdown last for hours, whereas most children recover after five minutes.

She is detached from human interaction, which is why her parents sought assessment for autism at age two. She is a child who has ASD. Her parents were wise in getting her assessed at a young age, as they are able to provide her with therapies and interventions very early in her development.

There is a great variation or spectrum of behaviors and severity of symptoms associated with ASD. It is called spectrum for a reason. Because some children can have a mild case of ASD, being considered high functioning. Whereas other children with an ASD diagnosis can have more severe symptoms such as mutism and sensory meltdowns on a regular basis and subsequently would be considered low functioning.

The Mayo Clinic explains that other disorders, such as Asperger’s syndrome, which used to be a separate diagnosis, are now grouped under ASD.[3]

Autism spectrum disorder includes conditions that were previously considered separate — autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder and an unspecified form of pervasive developmental disorder. Some people still use the term “Asperger’s syndrome,” which is generally thought to be at the mild end of autism spectrum disorder.

When a child has autism, the symptoms usually appear at a young age and are especially noticeable as they become ages 2-3.

Autism Speaks is an organization that helps to research and provide solutions for people diagnosed with autism. They provide a wealth of information for parents and caregiver on their website, to keep people informed. Here is some pertinent information from Autism Speaks:

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication. According to the Centers for Disease Control, autism affects an estimated 1 in 59 children in the United States today.[4] We know that there is not one autism but many subtypes, most influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Because autism is a spectrum disorder, each person with autism has a distinct set of strengths and challenges. The ways in which people with autism learn, think and problem-solve can range from highly skilled to severely challenged. Some people with ASD may require significant support in their daily lives, while others may need less support and, in some cases, live entirely independently.

Diagnosis and treatment for autism is not a one size fits all. There is no single test that can be given to diagnose this disorder. It is an evaluation process and an overall assessment of the individual’s behaviors and development. The treatment can include a variety of modalities including occupational therapy, play therapy, speech therapy, and more. Treatment is dependent on the identified developmental issues and problematic behaviors that the child is experiencing.

To read more about autism, check out this LifeHack article about the signs of autism.

Advertising

Anxiety Disorder

Let’s take a look at another case. Sam has been increasingly agitated and anxious over the past year. He is now ten years old and has begun to have difficulties sleeping. He is anxious about his school work, and he discontinued soccer because it caused him such high levels of anxiety.

His parents decided to take him to see a psychologist because he no longer wants to go to school. His parents have to prod, encourage, and threaten him in order to get him to school each morning. His anxiety levels seem to be increasing over the past year. His extreme levels of worry are affecting every area of his life. He is no longer enjoying life because everything in his life seems to cause him anxiety.

His parents learn from the psychologist that Sam is likely suffering from GAD, but it is treatable and Sam will be able to resume activities in the near future with improved coping skills to better handle the stress of life.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a condition that children can have if they exhibit extreme worry and angst about their family relationships, friendships, school work, and/or extra curricular activities. With individuals diagnosed with GAD, their daily life is affected by their anxiety and it can negatively affect their sleep, relationships, schoolwork, and ability to participate in social activities. Some other symptoms of GAD include irritability, easy to upset, headaches, stomachaches, feeling overwhelmed with worry, and avoidance of school or social activities that cause the anxiety.

There are other types of anxiety disorders that can be experienced in childhood. These can include panic disorder, separation anxiety disorder, and phobias. Anxiety disorders are diagnosed by assessment from a mental health professional who will utilize the DSM for diagnosing criterion.

Therapy is the first course of action for children with anxiety disorders. Many children with anxiety disorders benefit from medication (typically short term 6 months to a year). Each child is different, as is their treatment plan. If a child has an anxiety disorder, the parents should work with the child’s doctor and a mental health professional to properly diagnose the child and create a treatment plan that is customized for this child’s situation.

For many children who are properly treated for their anxiety, they are able to overcome the anxiety entirely. Each child is different, but professional help can increase the probability that the child will overcome their anxiety and be able to resume normal activities. A reasonable time period for treatment outcomes, and to see dramatic positive results, is approximately six months to one year. This means that the child has weekly counseling sessions with a mental health professional that specializes in treating anxiety disorders in children in order for these kinds of results to be seen.

Depression

Here is another case study. Sally is a 9 year old who is having a hard time following the death of her brother. He was killed in a bike accident when he was hit by a car over a year ago. Sally seems to have lost all joy in her normal activities. She once enjoyed artwork and gymnastics. Now she has no interest in participating in these activities. When asked why she doesn’t want to do them anymore, her response is “what is the point?”

She is very irritable toward her parents. When they try to help her “get happy” by taking her ice-skating and to the county fair, she is crabby, irritable, and moody the entire time. Her parents express to a psychologist that they just can’t seem to make her happy. They also inform the psychologist that Sally doesn’t play with her friends anymore, she has trouble sleeping at night, and has a dramatic loss of appetite.

Sally is suffering from depression. She had not attended any counseling following her brother’s death. His death caused her to fall into an emotional depression. With counseling, she can overcome the depression and learn to cope with loss in the future.

Childhood depression is characterized by feelings of loneliness, sadness, and/or hopelessness. Childhood depression often presents very similar as adult depression. However, one major difference is that the sadness in children is often projected as irritability. Depression affects the whole child including their behavior, social interactions, thoughts, physical health, and mental well being. For a complete listing of symptoms associated with depression in children, see my other article on the signs of depression in children.

Depression in children is best diagnosed with a mental health professional. They will be able to assess the child according to the DSM diagnosing criterion to determine whether the child is clinically depressed. The treatment plan involves therapy when a child is depressed. In some cases, medications are recommended as well.

Each child is different, so they should be assessed on their individual behaviors and presenting issues for a customized treatment plan. Many children who are provided with proper treatment for their childhood depression are able to overcome their depression and go on to lead normal, healthy lives.

Bipolar Disorder

Another story I want to share with you is about Linda. Linda is a 13 year old girl who has just entered puberty. Her parents have noticed that over the past year, Linda’s behavior is either depressed or manic for stretches of days and/or weeks. They describe her moods to be cycles. For example, they say for the past week she has been high energy, with no need for sleep, hyper focused on a science fair project, and is easily irritated with everyone around her. They said that the previous two weeks before this high energy phase, she appeared very sad and depressed. They said that these cycles have been going on for more than a year and are disruptive to Linda’s school, social, and family life on a daily basis.

After further assessment by a psychologist, it is determined that Linda has bipolar disorder. Her parents elect to treat her with weekly therapy and medication.

Advertising

Bipolar disorder in children will typically emerge around adolescence, however, there are instances of children being diagnosed younger. Children with this disorder will exhibit cycles of manic behavior and then cycles of depression. The signs of bipolar disorder are similar in children and adults, however, as WebMD explains, there is one major difference between childhood and adult bipolar disorder:[5]

One of the most notable differences is that bipolar disorder in children cycles much more quickly. While manic and depressive periods may be separated by weeks, months, or years in adults, they can happen within a single day in children.

When a child is in the depressed phase of their bipolar disorder, they will exhibit the signs of depression, as explained previously. When they are in a manic phase, they exhibit behaviors such as irritability, decreased need for sleep, mind racing, extremely talkative, and easily distracted. They also can become hyper focused on a particular activity.

Many of these same behaviors are exhibited with children who have ADHD. This is why a professional assessment is needed for diagnosing. They can help determine whether there are cycles of depression and mania present that fit the diagnosing criterion for bipolar disorder.

Treatment can include therapy and often includes medication combined with consistent therapy. There is no cure for bipolar disorder, but with help, the symptoms can be managed.

What Causes a Child to Have Behavioral Problems?

A combination of genetics and environmental factors cause behavioral problems in children.

For example, a child who has parents going through a divorce and is already predisposed to bouts of anxiety, may develop GAD because of these circumstances and the predisposition. It depends on the child, their ability to cope in the situation, and their genetic makeup.

It is not a debate over nature versus nature. Most clinicians believe that both play a role in the development of behavioral disorders in children.

How Do I Fix My Child’s Behavioral Problems?

Professional help is imperative when a child has serious behavioral problems. If you are uncertain, then the best policy is to talk to your child’s primary care doctor. They can provide you with insight and referral if needed.

Don’t be afraid to take your child to get evaluated because you don’t want them to be labeled. Labels don’t have to be permanent. However, behaviors and problems that are left untreated can become more permanent than any label. For example, a child with ODD that goes untreated can develop into a teen and young adult with a conduct disorder that lands them in prison. All of which can be avoidable if treatment is sought during childhood.

The purpose of a diagnosis is so that professionals know how to develop a treatment plan. For example, they know that children with ODD respond well to biofeedback methods and cognitive behavioral therapy methods. Following a diagnosis, the psychologist or psychiatrist treating your child can refer you to professionals that provide these treatment modalities.

Professionals also know that parental training is especially helpful in ODD cases. Parents can be taught ways to minimize the symptoms and behaviors associated with ODD. However, if the child doesn’t get a diagnosis for their problem, their likelihood of getting treatment for their specific problem is diminished greatly.

Final Thoughts

If you know that your child has problematic behaviors, please get them assessed by a professional, preferably a psychologist or a psychiatrist who specializes in diagnosing children. They can help direct you to the counseling and resources for your child’s specific problem.

Leaving a condition untreated is liking giving permission to the disorder to flourish and thrive. It will likely not change or improve through hope alone. Professional help is best for children who have serious behavioral problems. Don’t take on your child’s problems alone. There are professionals who want to help you, your child, and your family go from surviving to thriving.

If you don’t know where to even begin finding the right kind of help for your child, then start with contacting your child’s primary care doctor. Make an appointment to discuss the issues and problems that your child is experiencing.

Treatment is not a one size fits all. Finding professional help will best assist your child in getting the treatment plan that best fits their situation.

Featured photo credit: Caroline Hernandez via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault

How to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome and Be Happy Again How to Raise a Boy Right (Backed by Psychology) How to Help Your Child with Behavior Problems How to Be a Good Parent and Raise Successful Kids 15 Ways to Practice Positive Self-Talk for Success

Trending in Parenting

1 How to Raise a Boy Right (Backed by Psychology) 2 How to Help Your Child with Behavior Problems 3 14 Helpful Tips for Single Parents: How to Stay Sane While Doing it All 4 How to Be a Good Parent and Raise Successful Kids 5 15 Tips for an Overwhelmed Working Mom to Feel Better

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Published on November 15, 2019

How to Raise a Boy Right (Backed by Psychology)

How to Raise a Boy Right (Backed by Psychology)

An old proverb says,

“Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Teach your son the right way to live life when he is young, so that when he is older, he will know the right way to live and conduct himself, as he was taught consistently throughout childhood.

Raising sons is not easy. It is hard to know exactly the “right way” to do things, as our children didn’t come with a manual. I am concerned about this myself, being a mom of twin boys and a daughter. I do know that psychological and behavioral research can provide us with some great direction on how to raise a boy right.

We may not always get things “right” as parents, but we can keep trying every day to do what what is best for them based on what we know and learn.

1. Know Your Good Values

Your values impact how you raise your son. Think of your values as the overarching umbrella, under which all parenting practices are dispensed.

Our values impact our parenting in every area. Knowing our values is therefore highly important. For example, if you value treating others as you would also want to be treated, then this will impact how you teach your child to treat others. However, if you place value on self first and everyone else is secondary, then this will also affect how you teach your child to treat others.

A child who is taught to treat others as they would treat themselves will be more willing to share their toys with their siblings, because they understand that they would want to have the toys shared with them in such a situation. A child who is taught to think of self first will be less likely to share because they have learned that wanting the toy is more important than sharing the toy, since they are more important than others.

Know your values and your heart, because that is what you are essentially teaching to your child. The following tips are only useful if you are teaching your child to be a good and decent human being with good values. A good values system and sense of morality will guide their behavior. This is the foundation upon which all other skills are built.

2. Be Present

Children want to be with their parents. They desire quality time and quantity time with both mom and dad.

There are situations where this is not feasible, especially considering the increasing rates of single motherhood. Research has shown that boys being raised by single mothers do well if they have a positive male role model in their life. If the father cannot be in the picture, then the next best thing is a good man, who can be a positive influence in the boy’s life. If you are a single mom and your son doesn’t have a strong positive male role model, then one place to find help is the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. This is a mentor-based program where children are paired with an individual who wants to be a mentor and is willing to dedicate time spent with the child long term. They are not parental replacements. However, they can be a good influence, role model, mentor, and emotional support to your child. This is especially important for boys.

The rate of single motherhood in the United States is approximately 40% according to The National Economics Editorial.[1] As cited in the research, children of single mothers statistically have lower cognitive test scores and are more aggressive compared to children from traditional homes where the children are being raised by both a mother and father.

All hope is not lost though for boys of single mothers. Research discussed by Our Everyday Life showed that having a father or father-like figure in a boy’s life can help the child perform better in school.[2] They become less likely to become incarcerated, less likely to develop substance abuse, and will be more likely to develop confidence and a positive self-esteem. These are huge benefits to young men. They should not be taken lightly. Our sons need strong male role models, a father in their life if possible, to help them develop to be as successful as they can possibly become.

If a father is not in the picture, then a grandfather, uncle, or close friend of the family can fill that gap. Positive role models are imperative because they model how life should be conducted. Boys need a father, or a positive male role model, to spend time with them, for the purpose of modeling, mentoring, and teaching them to become good men.

3. Encourage Dreams

Children need to have dreams. A life without dreams is a life without hope. Don’t squelch their dreams by defeating them before they even begin pursing them.

For example, your child may want to be a professional football player as an adult. That is their hope and dream. They are 14 years old and this is their current life ambition. Many parents chose to squelch such dreams because they aren’t realistic. The odds of become a pro athlete such as a football player, may be slim, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t try. They will discover in time, through their own participation in the sport whether they are actually good enough to make the cut to the next level.,

That is why it is important to help your child be well-rounded. They shouldn’t put all of their eggs in one basket, as the old saying goes. Instead, they should be taught the importance of other interests and to try hard in school because you never know when an injury can take you out from a sport permanently.

When a child goes after their dreams, even if it seems like a one in a million shot, they are learning valuable life lessons. They are learning to work hard and they are finding out what it takes to be the best at whatever they are dreaming of becoming.

Addicted 2 Success[3] outlines 16 benefits of dreaming, including the development of courage. Chasing your dreams will develop your courage. Courage is your fuel to achieve amazing success in life, follow your dreams and exercise courage. In sure enough time, you will be unstoppable.

Nothing good in life comes easy. If it is their dream, then let them pursue it (within reason- don’t sell your home so that you can fund their rocket building project). Let them earn the money to make the rocket. That way they can see what it takes to get there.

Advertising

If they don’t reach their end goal, that is okay too. The lessons that they learned along the way are important. For example, as a football player, they learned about team work, physical fitness, strategy, and commitment. It was not all for nothing. They may never become a pro football player, but they can discover the reality of the situation over time.

A parent doesn’t need to shatter dreams with reality. Allow children to hope and dream, because it is what will make them try the hardest and put their best effort into whatever it is they are doing.

The lessons of trying hard, along with failing, are good life lessons to learn. Don’t stop them from going after a dream because you fear for their own failure. Failure, and being able to pick themselves up after a loss is part of making them into strong men.

4. Teach Recovery After Failure by Praising Effort

Failure is a part of life. How a man handles failure will impact his ability to be successful in the long run. If a man acts defeated after a failure and is unable to pick himself up and try again, then he will never become truly successful. Men learn how to recover from failure when they are taught in childhood to pick themselves up and try again.

Teaching your son to try again following failure is a valuable lesson. You can do this by emphasizing the effort and not the outcome.

For example, if you are teaching your son to ride a bike, they are going to likely fall many times before they master the skill. You encourage them to get up and try again and again. Don’t emphasize the outcome, which is riding on a two-wheel bike on their own. Instead, praise them for trying hard and for getting up after falling and trying again. Eventually, after enough trying, they will learn to ride the bike successfully. You can obviously praise them when they master the skill, but once again, be sure that you are emphasizing their hard work and perseverance because that is what got them to the successful outcome.

It takes time, effort, and grit to succeed. Praising effort over the outcome is the best way to help your son develop an attitude that breeds success.

If they are focused on the outcome, such as winning a game, then they will feel defeated when they have a loss.

If they can walk away from the game and recognize their hard work and the good effort they put into it, then they are more willing to look at where they could possibly improve. It will help them to get back up and try again, because they don’t feel like a complete failure. They will see the value in the good effort they put into the game, with a mindset that is willing to try again while also being open to improvements.

The book Grit (a New York Times bestseller) by Angela Duckworth details her research on what makes individuals successful. Her results showed that grit, which is the combination of passion and perseverance, is a better predictor of success than talent or IQ. This means that teaching our sons to follow their passions and persevere through failure by praising their effort over results is imperative in their path to success.

5. Teach Him to Be a Good Sport

Being a good sport is an important skill to develop. We can’t always win in life. Everyone loses eventually. This is harder for some to handle. Parents should teach this skill to their children from a young age.

For example, when they play a board game and their brother wins, they need to congratulate their brother, rather than sulk. Have them verbally say “congratulations, good game” after they have lost. It is a good practice to start young. It will make it easier for them to be a good sport as a teen or adult if they have practiced the skill of congratulating other winners along the way. Stanford Children’s Health defined good sportsmanship as the following:[4]

Good sportsmanship may seem hard to define, but its hallmarks include being able to win without gloating, respecting one’s opponents, and being able to lose gracefully.

One way that I try to teach this to my own children is by asking them, “how do you feel when people congratulate you after you win something?” They always answer that it feels good. Then I ask “how would you feel if nobody congratulated you?” They always answer that it wouldn’t feel very good at all. I then remind them that if they want others to congratulate them when they win, then they better congratulate others when the others win.

6. Teach Appropriate Affection by Example

Boys need affection just as girls do. Affection comes in the form of praise and also physical affection. Our boys need to be hugged.

There are some that think that hugging or affection can make a boy weak. This is simply not true. Teaching them to hug and to say “I love you” are behaviors that will make them good boyfriends, husbands, fathers, and role models as adults. It also provides them with great benefits including physical wellness, reduced fears, better communication with others, increased happiness, and reduced stress according to Health Line.[5] The research article by Health Line cited that although some therapist recommend at least 12 hugs a day for growth, other studies recommend as many hugs as we can get and give on a daily basis for best results.

The research applies to boys and girls. Everyone needs physical affection and touch. Hugging is a primary way that we provide that physical affection to our children in a healthy, positive manner on a daily basis. The more hugs you can give your son daily, the better, according Health Line.

Our sons will learn to become affectionate based on their home life experiences. If they grow up in a household where no hugs are ever given, then they will likely find hugging as adults to be awkward. Make it a practice to hug your son often and tell him “I love you.” Teach him that hugging is good and let him reap the benefits of those hugs everyday. You will find the benefits apply to you as well.

7. Instill a Good Work Ethic

Don’t do it all for them! Teach your boys to have a good work ethic by having them work. They won’t learn to make their bed if mom is making it for them everyday. They learn responsibility and a good work ethic by doing chores on a daily basis.

This should start at an early age. By the age of three, a child can help with simple household chores such as putting away garbage, picking up toys, feeding pets, and putting away dirty laundry. They may not do the best job when they first begin, but that is why you begin teaching them when they young.

Advertising

Teach them basic life and household skills through practice on a regular basis. This will help them develop a good work ethic. They will grow up learning to recognize that the garbage should be taken out when it is full because they have practiced this many years before they reach adulthood. If you are wondering what type of chores your son can be doing around the house at their age, there are chores listed by age in this infographic by Funifi.

Do not get hedged into the view that some household duties are for boys and some are for girls. Teach both boys and girls all the skills by assigning them as chores. Sons need to be taught to cook, clean, and do laundry. If they leave your home and go off to college or their first job, who is going to do it for them? They need to learn these skills so that they can do them for themselves.

It also makes them a better, more desirable boyfriend and potential husband. No woman wants to marry a man who is completely incapable of doing household work. They can blame their parents for not teaching them, but it won’t help them get a great spouse if they don’t know how to contribute to household duties.

Being a good roommate, boyfriend, and spouse entails the ability to do chores such as cleaning, doing the dishes. laundry, cooking, and everything involved in running a household. Expecting others to do it for them because their mom did if for them growing up is not a good way to prepare them for living on their own or preparing them to partner into any relationship in the future.

If they ever want to live on their own, outside of your home, then teach them to have a good work ethic, this starts with household chores and duties.

8. Teach Good Communication Skills

Communication skills are important for any boy to become successful in their relationships and career. Communication skills are the foundation for human interaction. If they have difficulty communicating, it is going to make the pursuit of relationships and career ambitions more challenging. Livestrong.com explains that technology is a major reason why many teens grow into adulthood lacking good communication skills.[6] In an era when texting and instant message are prevalent, their face to face interactions suffer. Too much time spent in front of the screen is time away from meaningful face-to-face interactions.

The first step toward teaching good communications skills is limiting access to technology and spending time interacting with your child. Talking with your child daily and making conversation is helpful to modeling good communication skills.

If you have a teen who is already having difficulty developing good communication skills. it is not too late. They can still learn these skills, as we can all develop better communication skills throughout our lifetime. One way to teach teens better communication skills is through games. Livestrong has suggestions for games that you can play that help your teen develop better communication skills.

For those of us with younger boys, good communication skills can be taught through conversation, modeling these skills, and asking open ended questions. I Mom has some great tips on teaching children how to communicate and make friends. They have a free printable on their website that outlines this teachable process. To explain their teaching simply, it includes smiling, complimenting, asking questions, and responding positively. This pattern of verbal and non-verbal communication is a great skill to teach children and it can help them develop friendships now and into the future.

9. Consistently Engage in Lessons about Politeness and Manners

Teaching your son good manners is not a one time lesson. It is an ongoing lesson throughout childhood. Make a practice to use and enforce good manners and politeness every day in your home. This is how you will help your son develop into a polite well mannered man. This means that you teach them from the time they begin sitting at a dinner table how to eat politely.

They should learn at your dinner table to chew with their mouth closed, use the correct silverware, no elbows on the table, and to use please and thank you. If they aren’t learning to put these skills into practice at home, then they are not going to develop the skills through osmosis.

Manners are not only important in relationships, but also on the job front. Study.com explains that having good manners can set you up for job promotions and letters of recommendation.[7] For example, if you teach your son that he should be polite and well-mannered to others, even when they are not especially nice to him, this can help him learn how to navigate working with difficult colleagues in the future. Your son will always have difficult people in his life. Learning to handle them with good manners is important to his success in life.

10. Help Him Develop a Kind Heart and Desire to Help Others

Kindness is something we should all want for our sons. Their kindness toward others can affect the world around them. Not only the relationship with their future spouse, but their future children, their co-workers, and their friends.

Teaching our sons to be kind is helping to make the world a better place. There are some practical ways to teach your son to be kind:

  • Model kindness
  • Teach the philosophy that you treat others as you would want to be treated
  • Get them involved in volunteering and serving others (with a good attitude and kind spirit)
  • Teach them to speak words of praise and genuine compliments to others
  • Teach them to never be a bully and to set the example of kindness in their peer group through their words and actions
  • Teach them to use words of politeness in all situations, such as please, thank you, and excuse me
  • Teach them to be kind to others because it is not only the right way to act, but it feels good
  • Model gratitude
  • Teach them to be grateful for their life and circumstances, as this will help them to feel compassion for those who have less

The Greater Good Science Center UC Barkley examined a research based book on helping our children become less self-centered and more empathetic toward others.[8] It was cited in the book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Borba that helping our children develop empathy toward others along with the development of a moral identity will make them more successful in our changing world. Borba stated the following in her book:

To respond empathically, kids must see themselves as people who care and value others’ thoughts and feeling

Fostering a strong sense of empathy, compassion, moral foundation and belief system in your son from a young age will help him to develop into a good, kind man in adulthood. This is as much about training his heart as it is about training his mind.

11. Instill Peer Resistant Decision Making Skills

Peer pressure is a real thing. It starts when they are young and it doesn’t end in adulthood. We need to teach our sons to make good decisions and to stand up for those decisions even if their peers are trying to pressure them into other decisions.

Skills You Need outlines some ways that we can teach peer resistance in our children.[9] This includes teaching them to first identify the right decision in these peer pressure situations, teaching them to stand up for their decisions and views by valuing their decisions, and finally teaching them how to state their position assertively.

You can role play scenarios with your child to help them practice standing up for themselves and their decisions. For example, you can role play a scenario where your child is offered drugs from friends. Have them practice by first telling you why they make the decision to say no to drugs, as they must believe in the basis for the decision. Then help them find conviction in their belief, so that they have a firm foundation for the reasoning behind their decision.

Advertising

If their only reason is because they don’t think you would want them to do it, then that reason may not be enough when it is their best friend promising them with the greatest thing they will ever experience. Help them understand their own convictions and reasons for saying no to drugs, or whatever the scenario you are role playing may be.

Then teach them how to say no in a firm manner. For example, in this instance, it could be that they practice ways to say it in their own words that are comfortable, yet firm, such as “No, I don’t do drugs because I will not risk my ability to get into college by failing a drug test or getting caught doing drugs.” Another example could be “No, I will not ever try drugs of any kind, I have an uncle who has struggled with drug addiction his entire life and I don’t want that life for me.”

Teach your son to resist peer pressure by validating their good decisions. If you know that some of his friends were bullying a disabled child on the playground, but he stood up for that child, then praise your son! Let him know that him doing the right thing and not doing what his friends were doing is great decision making.

In order to be peer resistant, they need to know where they stand on serious issues. This is why the next tip is very important.

12. Teach Them the Importance of Good Life Choices

Your child can’t make good life choices unless they know right from wrong. This teaching starts in the home. If you want your son to become successful, then teach him to make good life choices including saying no to drugs, smoking, underage drinking, and pornography, as all are identified as highly addictive and counteractive to healthy development. These are not the only types of vices parents should be aware of to prevent addiction.

Paradigm Malibu is an adolescent treatment facility that handles addictions.[10] They explain that although drugs and alcohol are the most commonly recognized teen addictions, there are other addictions that cause teens problems such as video gaming, gambling, sex, shopping, and the internet. Anything that is done to excess that interferes with their ability to function normally on a daily basis should be addressed.

There are ways to prevent some of these things, for example, to prevent gaming addiction, do not allow unlimited game time for your sons. Have set time limits on daily game playing and access to technology. Get your son involved in activities outside of gaming so that he isn’t solely focused on his game time each day. He needs interests and hobbies outside of gaming, so help him find those other activities.

Talk to your child about life choices and how decisions that they make now can affect their future. For example, a teen may think that it is no big deal to smoke pot on occasion. They may not be aware that the University that they want to attend has a zero tolerance drug policy, including pot. They may also not be aware of the risks and dangers associated with teens smoking pot. Talk about the big issues and the smaller ones too. Have the tough conversations before they make bad life choices.

A Fine Parent outlines some helpful ways that parents can help their children make good decisions.[11]
One way includes making a clear connection between choice and consequences. Help them to see that their decisions, even little ones, have consequences. For example, your child does not finish their science project. The day of the science fair they are the only child who does not have an exhibit. They chose not to ask for your help. They also chose to procrastinate until the day before it was due to even mention to you that they had a project that needed to be made. Their decisions have consequences and parents need to allow for consequences so that their children learn that their decisions and choices will impact them personally.

If mom feels bad for her son not getting his science project done, so she whips something up for him while he sleeps the night before it is due, then the son is learning that his mom will bail him out when times get tough. He won’t get to experience the disappointment of not having a project to turn in and not being able to participate in the science fair. He won’t have a bad grade because mom fixed things.

This doesn’t help him in the long run. He needs to experience these failures, so that he knows his actions and decisions have consequences. Failure to complete a project results in a failing grade, because he made the decision not do the project in the allotted time period.

13. Instill Honesty

Adult men who lie and deceive are of poor character. If you want your son to become a man of integrity, then they need to learn at a young age that honesty is of utmost importance. Below are some ways that you can teach your child to be honest. You can find even more suggestions in this article from Children’s Center,[12] which has practical tips in greater detail for raising your son to be honest.

  • Model honesty.
  • Don’t tell white lies because children often can’t differentiate between white lies and big lies, so don’t lie at all since you are their primary role model for truth telling.
  • Encourage truthfulness: If they think they are going to be punished for telling the truth, then they will avoid telling you.
  • Give your son the opportunity to tell the truth without forcing him.
  • Do not make a practice of lying to children so that life is easier for you. For example, telling them that the park is closed so you can’t go there today makes you a liar. Don’t lie to your child to make your life easier or to make them more compliant. Be honest. For example, if you don’t have time to take them to the park, then explain that you can’t go to the park because of your appointments today, but two days from now you will take them there and then take them as you promised.
  • Be good on your word. If you promise something, then follow through. If you don’t follow through, that makes you a liar.
  • When you want your child to tell the truth about a situation, then don’t be accusatory. For example, if the lamp in your living room is broken and you suspect your son, then don’t go to him yelling “I know that you broke the lamp, you better tell me what you did right now or else…” You can ask about the lamp without accusing and yelling. Forcing an honest answer out of duress does not teach him to be honest. It only teaches him to get better at hiding the truth when the truth will get him in trouble.
  • If they have admitted to lying, then talk about the people involved and how their lies have hurt relationships and people. Help them to see that lying is harmful to relationships.
  • Praise your son for telling the truth, especially in situations where it may be difficult to tell the truth.

14. Help Him Discover His Passions and Talents

It is hard to be successful if you aren’t passionate about what you are doing. This is the same for our sons. If we want our sons to be successful, then we need to discover what they are passionate about in life.

Finding what they are good at, their talents, and where their passions overlap is the best path for life success and happiness in their activities. Child Development Info explains that many children don’t recognize where they have talent.[13] Parents need to be on the look-out to identify where their sons may have talent and natural abilities. Then, if it is something that your son enjoys doing, give them the opportunity to explore that talent and develop it though an activity. For example, if you see that your son has great hand and eye coordination with a ball and they enjoy kicking the ball around the backyard with you each night, then you can perhaps enroll him in a soccer season. If he develops that skill and enjoys the sport it can develop into a passion.

Learning how to hone a skill through passionate dedication is a great skill to possess and will help them to be more successful in life. If they are never passionate about anything, it is hard to get excited about working hard. Where they find passion, they will find their ability to dig deep and try hard. This will help them develop a good work ethic in the long run. It will also make them happier as adults.

If you can help your son to identify things and activities that make him passionate in life at a young age, then you as a parent can help find avenues and ways for them to develop the skills to make them successful in harnessing this passion for a purpose.

15. Teach Good Grooming Habits

Men with poor grooming habits can have relationship problems and job issues. If they show up to a job interview with a wrinkled outfit, bad breath, and body odor, they are communicating to the interviewer that the job is not important enough to make the effort to look and smell good.

The importance of dressing nice and neat is a skill that should be taught to all boys. They should learn how to use an iron and how to match clothing properly. Boys should also learn from a young age what is involved in good hygiene and grooming habits.

Parents should teach their boys how to properly do their hair, how to clip their fingernails, to wear deodorant, brush their teeth, wear clean clothing, and to shower or bathe on a regular basis. There are many boys who go through phases of resisting good hygiene and care for their body. This is exactly when parents need to intervene and set clear guidelines for hygiene. For example, if your son refuses to shower and your rule is that they must shower every other day and it has now been a week, then they should have consequences, such as losing all social privileges and technology until they shower. If they don’t see their hygiene as important or of value to those closest to them in life, then the likelihood of them practicing good hygiene habits as an adult is not likely.

They learn how to care for their bodies by their parents teaching them. The habits of good hygiene should be a practice that begins as early as they are able to brush their own teeth. They don’t know how to do these things through osmosis. They must be taught and instructed on what good hygiene and personal care looks like.

Advertising

Stinky feet, body order, and greasy hair are all problems that can be fixed and in many instances prevented. Teaching sons how to have habits of cleanliness and good hygiene is imperative to raising good men.

16. Instill a Desire for the Pursuit of Knowledge and Learning

Whether your son wants to be a mechanic, a hairdresser, or a neurosurgeon, they need to have an education. Knowledge is power. The day we decide that we no longer need to learn anything else is the day we stop growing. This is why we must instill in our children that we are never finished with learning and education, as it is a lifelong pursuit.

Create a passion and love for knowledge and learning by reading to your son often. Help him to discover that books can assist him in whatever he may want to pursue.

For example, he may want to take up the sport of Lacrosse. He knows nothing about the sport, but watched a game once and wants to try it out and perhaps join a team. If he is willing to learn about the sport, he can prepare himself.

The practice of the sport is very important, but it is also helpful to know the rules, how to properly use the equipment, and what exercises will make him a better player. Checking out a book at the library about Lacrosse can help him learn about the sport before he ever steps onto the field. He needs to have a willingness to learn about the sport in order to be any good at it.

However, learning doesn’t need to come from school and books alone. It comes from life experience and mentoring too. Having a desire to become good at something can only go so far. There must also be a willingness to learn and grow through gained knowledge and experience combined.

17. Teach Respect and Boundaries

Boys will be boys is never a good excuse for bad behavior. The expectation for good behavior starts at home. Boys must be taught to respect others, this especially includes elders and females. If they are taught at home that females are inferior, they will carry this belief with them into their marriages, workplace, and life as adults. Boys learn to respect women when they are taught that females are equal to men.

Does this mean that they have the same abilities? No. Men are still unable to give birth to babies. However, having different abilities does not make us unequal, it just makes us different. Teach men as boys to value the attributes and qualities of women so that they can be respectful to girls and women. It will also teach them to be a better friend, boyfriend, or spouse in the future because they will develop an appreciation for the opposite sex. If they are taught that women are less than men or that women don’t need to be respected, then those thoughts will likely be spoken and acted upon. Our thoughts and beliefs become the driving force of our behaviors. Our behaviors become our life.

Domestic violence and sexual assault are real and prevalent problems in our society. By far, the number of offenders being males far outweighs female offenders. Domestic Shelters is an organization that provides education about domestic violence. They cite that 85% of domestic violence victims are females.[14] Men need to be taught from childhood that violence, especially against women, is never acceptable. They also need to be taught that “no” means “no”. When a woman or girl says no to physical advances, then they must stop.

Violence against women will stop when boys are taught to respect women from a young age and it is taken to heart. Therefore, talking about how to treat women should not be a one time conversation, it should be an ongoing conversation throughout childhood and their teen years.

Having positive models of behavior and relationships is also important. If a husband abuses his wife, this pattern of abuse is being taught and learned by sons who are watching. Don’t tell your sons to never hit a woman, yet you strike his mother in a fit of rage. Your actions will speak louder than your words.

18. Let Them Get Physical Activity Daily

Raising boys is not easy. They can be rough and tumble with lots of energy from the time they are toddlers. I know this personally, as my twins have more daily energy than I know how to contain or control. I realize they need lots of space and opportunity for physical play and exertion, because this is the way that most boys are physiologically. Trying to suppress their energy while expecting them to perform well academically is like starving a child and expecting them to gain weight.

Inc.com provides a great article and research about boys and their need for physical play and exercise, and the article cited that significantly limiting physical play time hurts boys academically.[15]

The research discussed in the article acknowledges that the results from the study did not apply to girls. This is not because it was a sexist study. It is because the results showed that boys require more physical activity to be successful in school. The time periods for playtime at school during recess is not enough. The research indicated that boys need more physical activity than is being provided at recess time. This means running outside, playing sports, and getting their energy out before and after school is crucial. They weren’t made to sit at desks for long periods of time, yet they are expected to do so at school all day. The solution is to get them active after school and before school if they must sit at a desk for long periods of time.

My boys (and daughter) have outdoor playtime before and after school. They ride their bikes and scooters before heading off to school each morning. I have come to realize that this makes a difference in my boys’ ability to sit and focus during school. If they go off to school and have all sorts of pent up energy that they are waiting to expel, they are likely to fidget and not focus during lesson time. I also realized that when they don’t get this energy out, they have anxiousness and tension that builds up and it comes out on the drive to school, making my morning less than stellar.

The research from the Inc.com study shows that my boys are normal. Boys need physical activity and in providing that physical outlet every day, and in good quantities of time, they are better able to focus and perform academically. Not allowing them time to exert their physical energy leads to problems such as lack of focus, lower academic performance, reading difficulties, stress, anxiety, and anger.

Boys need to be allowed to get their physical energy out every day, many times a day.

Final Thoughts

Raising boys isn’t a walk in the park. If you want your son to develop into a good man, then it is going to take time, energy, effort, and lots of love and patience. They don’t come with a manual, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of well-researched resources online and books on the market about raising boys.

Keep pursing knowledge and resources on how to raise your son in the world today, because we all need as much help as we can get. Keep learning, keep trying, and keep loving him daily.

Featured photo credit: Japheth Mast via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next