• This past weekend my family and I attended a Relationship Workshop, in Santa Barbara, California with some friends from our church.  The theme for the retreat was Family Dynamics, so everyone was encouraged to bring their children.  It was quite a fiasco at first but eventually the kids and parents settled into their groups and it was quite inspirational.  That is all except for one family, who really stuck out and depicted the word dysfunctional.  The kids were loud, disruptive and their appearance was disheveled. They were even inciting other kids to partake in their mischief.  To top it off, their parents were no where to be found to correct them.  It was a “hands-off,” style of parenting providing no intervention whatsoever.  They joked that we shouldn’t worry because it would all work out once they put their children in military boarding school.  But they weren’t joking at all.  It was obvious to everyone, except for them, that they were overwhelmed and had simply given up parenting.  It was odd because both parents had a higher education, were financially successful, and you would think that they would know better.  None the less, their three children were totally out-of-control.

    I respect that there are different types of parenting styles and a lot is open to interpretation. What you do with your child(ren) is generally up to you.  However, there are things that are right and wrong.  For instance, abuse and neglect are pretty black and white.  But I’m talking about the gray areas pertaining to how much attention you give them, the encouragement, and teaching them healthy habits, which are all important.  Of course, some children are easier than others and you may only have one difficult child who needs a little more attention than the rest.  We are sometimes tempted to raise our hands and just give up in order to focus our efforts on the “good” children.  However, when your kids act out, they’re trying to get your attention to let you know that something is wrong.  You can choose to ignore it, blame others or put the responsibility on someone else to fix them.  However, the bottom line is that the onus is on you!

    So, what do you do once you realize that your child is out of line and that you’ve lost the ability to influence their behavior?  Though you may feel overwhelmed and have no clue of where to start, don’t give up!  If you do, your children will pick up on it and in turn, give up on themselves.  The answer is relatively simple.  Start now!  There may be psychological factors involved affecting their behavior and I’m sure that there’s some history behind it, but that’s not something that you can change right now.  You can address that, on a professional level, at a later time.  However, right now, you can start making changes with yourself.  Make a commitment, then sit down and write out the rules of how you want your family to function.  If you need assistance, ask a friend or professional to help you put it together.  Then, get cracking! Have a family meeting first, to make sure that everyone is on the same page.  Then give it a fresh start by following, enforcing and sticking to the guidelines yourself.  It all starts from the top.  If they see that you’re consistent, optimistic that it will improve and make it a priority then you will start to see behavioral improvements.