Patience is Key When Changing Problem Behavior

I recently read a post in which a mother expressed concern about her son's problem behavior in kindergarten, which included getting in trouble with the teacher and being aggressive toward other children.

She had tried everything to correct the problem. She tried time-outs, punishments, reasoning, rewards for good behavior and, in desperation, had even resorted to spanking. Nothing seemed to work. She had run the gamut of responses, and the situation appeared hopeless. She was an alert parent, expressing justifiable concern. She asked, "What should I do?"

It seemed as though many of the approaches this mother tried should have been effective. I didn't believe she needed to try something new. Rather, I thought she needed to settle upon a single approach, or a combination, that seemed most likely to be effective, then give it a chance to work -- and be patient.

This mother felt the way many parents feel when we see problems that adversely affect our children. We want to fix things right away. This mom operated on the belief that strong and immediate intervention would quickly correct her son's problems. Unfortunately, it usually doesn't work that way.

Some behaviors just don't change quickly. Children need repeat experiences with the same problem, and perhaps repeatedly to feel the same negative consequences of their behavior, before they "get it." They may also need to be rewarded for good behavior many times before they are ready to make important changes.


If we jump from one strategy to another to another, we never establish a solid, consistent program. In fact we can further complicate problems, because our children have no idea what to expect next. Also, the more rushed we feel, the more pressured our children feel, and the more likely they will be to resist our efforts.

In selecting an approach, we can be flexible and experiment. But the bottom line is that we must finally take a stand -- pick an approach and stick with it long enough to see if it works. If we are patient and allow sufficient time but still don't seem to be making any progress, then we can make adjustments.

Most of all, we must be patient with our children. They usually don't make changes as quickly as we'd like. Remember, they are not applying adult logic to their problems. They are children, who are still thinking like children. No matter how much we want things to get better right away, sometimes we have to take the slow and steady approach. It's kind of like watering a plant, giving it sunshine and then waiting for the bud to bloom. Spring will come!


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