What Can I do About my Out of Control Kids?
I am a single mom and my girls are 4, 7 and 9 years old. Their behavior is out of control. They fight and argue about everything, such as what to watch on TV or who gets to play with a toy first. My 9-year-old tries to be the boss by telling the younger girls what to do. The 7-year-old hits and throws tantrums. The 4-year-old is learning bad behavior from her sisters. I feel like the house is in constant chaos and no one listens to me. What should I do?
Well first, let just acknowledge, that being a single parent of three kids is hard work. You’re well out-numbered and it’s going to take some hard work to regain control of the household. However, it’s important that you do so as soon as possible.
The kids are communicating with their behavior that they are feeling like things are out control as well. When there is a lot of chaos, kids often feel anxious. It may be why your 9-year-old is trying to step in and boss the younger kids around. Believe it or not, kids like rules and limits. It helps them feel safe.
When deciding what can help, consider the 10 questions to ask yourself when your discipline strategies aren’t working. You don’t mention what types of discipline or consequences you are using. However, it sounds like the kids need more structure and clear consequences.
Establish household rules to reduce the chaos. Increase the structure in your home by making a schedule and getting the kids in a routine. For example, set aside time each day for the kids to do their homework and chores. Give them specific tasks to do while you are busy so you can cook dinner and do the household chores.
Create rules that will decrease the sibling rivalry. Assign specific times for each of them to choose what to watch on TV to help them take turns. Post the rules and a schedule in a prominent location and refer to it often.
Follow Through with Consequences
It’s important to follow through with negative consequences each time someone breaks a rule, especially if it involves aggressive behavior. Consistency is key to managing behavior problems. Once your girls see that every time they hit or don’t follow the rules there will be a consequence, their behavior will improve.
Make sure you have a discipline toolbox filled with effective discipline tools. Perhaps time out will work best to deal with aggression, while taking away privileges may be the best way to deal with non-compliance. Develop a plan to deal with misbehavior so you can be well prepared to respond when consequences are necessary.
Don’t be discouraged if at first, their behavior seems to get a little worse before it gets better. When you start giving them consequences, they may really try to test the limits to see if you are serious. After they see you are serious about following through with consequences, their behavior will likely calm down.
Motivate them to Behave
Make sure that each child is getting enough of positive attention from you. This can be a little tricky since there are three of them and only one of you. However, giving each of them 15 minutes of your undivided attention each day can go a long way in reducing behavior problems and motivating them to behave.
Praise motivates kids to behave. When you catch them being good, point it out. When one out of the three is behaving well, focus your attention on the one who is behaving. If two of them are arguing while you’re eating dinner, turn to the third and say, “I really like the way you are sitting there so quietly while eating your dinner.” It can help the other two kids to follow suit in hopes of gaining praise.
Create a reward system that will provide them with an extra incentive to behave. A token economy system may be a great way to help motivate all three of them to earn rewards. Allow each of them to choose rewards that they want to earn and assign each reward a point value. They can each be working toward earning different rewards and certainly, rewards don’t have to cost money.
Seek Professional Help
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. If any of your children have any specific behaviors that make you concerned, talk to the pediatrician. If you would like to seek support for yourself, a parenting group for single parents may be helpful. A counselor also could help enhance your parenting skills or refer you to any programs that may be available to you. Some places offer in-home services where trained professionals can come to your house and assist you with parenting.