Is Your Son A Handful? Ten Quick Techniques That Work

14/09/2016 11:53 | Updated 16 September 2016

Being a parent or guardian is wonderful but that doesn't mean it isn't a challenge or that you don't find times when you are at your wit's end. Some tantrums (yours and theirs!) can be avoided with just a bit of planning or by knowing what you will do in a certain situation. With this in mind, what you will find below are tips we have tried and tested over a number of years working with boys and their parents. It is based on our Boys Development Programme and was designed by us with parents themselves. This is a rough guide, don't forget that all boys are different, mix and match to suit your son's needs. Most importantly don't forget the need for patience and perseverance.

1. Touch and Talk
If you want his attention, touch your son on the arm. Even if he looks away, his ears will open. This is not a grip or a tug, just a touch.
2. Low and Slow
If you want him to listen to what you say, you will need to slow down your speech, and your voice will deepen slightly. This is just low and slow, not passive aggressive or angry.
3. Fewer words
Whatever you want him to do, strip it down to as few words as possible without commentary. If you go from 'I've asked you ten times to put those toys away, you're doing my head in,' to 'TOYS AWAY PLEASE.' then you can drop all of the 'can you', 'would you'. Be clear, be direct.
4. Right words
Boys take words literally. If you say 'in a minute' he will think you mean 'in a minute'. If you say 'you can walk on ahead' without saying 'near enough so you can hear me if I call,' he will go further than you want. This will only increase, so get used to it now.
5. Know the rules
Boys need to be told the rules; they rarely ask what they are. Assume he doesn't know how to behave in a supermarket, so tell him 'here we walk,' 'the trolley is pushed slowly,' 'we put in the basket what is on the list.' Boys often see the world as a playground, so if there are rules they need to be told them, and often more than once.
6. Eyes and Mouth
When we deepen our tone, our sons will look at us to make sure that our eyes and mouth match our words. If you are speaking firmly, but having trouble not laughing, or feeling bad because you are telling him off, your eyes will give that away. Make sure that your words, eyes and mouth are all saying the same thing.
7. Look over here
If he is becoming too focused on something that is likely to lead to him getting upset, then draw his attention onto something else, such as another toy; something funny; someone else; or another activity.
8. This or That
Boys will often react to what you ask them to do. If you give him a choice then he will engage with the choice. So rather than saying 'eat your sweetcorn' ask him if he is going to eat his rice or his sweetcorn first.
9. Say no
Especially if you tend to give him a lot of explanations and certainly if he knows he should not be doing it, a very firm NO will do the trick. If he is about to throw something at someone, say NO firmly, but not aggressively or threateningly. An explanation can follow later, but he needs to know there is no negotiation. Some parenting schools of thought think that saying "no" too much can cause longer term resentment in a child so it is important that you use it sparingly and not as the word of choice for every misdemeanor.
10. Nip in the bud
Some parents say they ask their sons to do something ten times and then shout. Sometimes this is about timing. If you use the techniques above when you can see that something WILL become a problem, then both of you are more relaxed. Sort it out before it becomes a drama.

Shane Ryan is the CEO of Working With men and Founder of the Fathers Development Foundation
Working with men is a multi-award winning charity with more than 20 years' experience of working with boys and young men through issues of behaviour, attainment, identity and self-efficacy and mental healt


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