|Helpful Parenting Tips and Tricks
Everyone feels grumpy and irritable at times (myself included!). Adults tend to justify feeling this way
based on specific stressors and demands in their lives. However, when children/teens act irritable, it
is perceived as being disrespectful. Many kids (including the ones I evaluate) encounter large
amounts of stress each day (and, in my perception, kids nowadays seem more distressed in general
than kids were 20 years ago when I began my clinical work), and some are also dealing with
hormonal issues and various other challenges. We as adults need to empathize with children and
recognize it is human nature to feel irritable at times. It is also human nature to take some of that
stress out on family members (who are safe) instead of the people causing the stress (e.g., peers).
Before reacting to your children and adding stress (e.g., "Don't give me that look!"), think about times
you felt the same way and someone got mad at you for being irritable. I use this technique with my
own children, and it often helps to understand their experience and de-escalate situations.
Remember, children watch our every move and are very observant. If you tell your child to handle
conflict by being calm and using their words, you need to also live by this and avoid
yelling, name calling, or other negative conflict-resolution behaviors. Similarly, it is hard to expect
your child to be organized if you are chronically disorganized. Modeling positive behaviors is just as
important as teaching them. Finally, if you want your children to avoid multitasking when they drive
someday (e.g., talking on the phone), but you do this in front of
them, they are probably going to do the same thing when they start driving. My (Jason Baker)
children have commented about my needing to focus when I have talked on the phone while driving.
Keep this in mind when you are doing the same, as we are always modeling behavior for future
Be very specific with your child when giving requests. So often, parents (and even teachers) use
vague phrases that children don't understand, such as saying "Settle down!", need very concrete
details about their behavior. Tell him/her exactly what you mean in simple terms.
Don't forget to reinforce small improvements in your child's behavior. So often, parents focus on
punishing bad behavior, but then forget to reward good behavior. Watch closely for even tiny
improvements in your child's behavior and verbally praise him/her for it. If your child makes small
improvements in behavior and these aren't noticed or commented on, you can expect he/she will
return to the previous behavior pattern. Sometimes, even bad attention is rewarding to a child, so be
sure to focus your attention on the good things your child is doing.
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