The key for parents is to be willing to calmly follow through with consequences consistently. Down deep, children want guidance from parents because it communicates love. They can become discouraged and overly concerned with power if their parents don't provide loving guidelines for living and model them consistently.
It is a disservice to children to protect them from some of the more uncomfortable consequences of their inappropriate behavior. It delays their life's lessons and makes the inevitable ones harder to experience.
As parents, we often want to protect our children from embarrassment and hurts. Many times we try to avoid conflict in our relationships, but this is not life. It is not our role to teach children to avoid life's lessons. Instead, let them experience the lessons and be there to help guide them through it so they can learn something from it.
When dealing with demanding behavior in your child remember the following points:
1. Children and parents have rights and can assert these rights in respectful ways.
2. Parents are doing a disservice to themselves and to their child by giving in to demands to avoid a scene. Even if unintentional, this teaches the child that if his behavior gets severe enough he will get what he wants.
3. Always make sure you are modeling the kind of respectful communication you want your child to use; don't keep a double standard. Acknowledge your child and show appreciation when he/she states something in a respectful way.
4. When your child does say something in a demanding tone of voice, reflect his/her feelings ("I understand you feel...") before stating your expectation about how it should be said ("...but I expect you to tell me in a calm, polite way.")
5. If parents allow the natural consequences of a situation to occur, the parent is not the one exerting the control, nature is. The parent can now face the situation calmly and from a detached position of presenting the child with his choices and then letting him experience the consequences of his choice.
6. Try to stick with choices within limits unless the behavior becomes even more unacceptable. When this happens, parents can shift the focus from the original issue to the behavior. The parent can present the child with a new set of choices. For example "You can calm down or we'll leave." Remember to focus on the behavior and not attack the child's character.
7. Parents should be prepared to disengage and remove themselves or the child if the behavior escalates. Parents must be willing to leave a situation and trust that others will understand and respect their need to attend to the situation. Most people are supportive of a parent disciplining a child in a respectful way.
Although some people would think this action would violate the parent's right to enjoy an outing, one needs to remember that parental responsibilities do not end whenever it's inconvenient for the parent to uphold them. The parent needs to remember the rights of others to exist in a peaceful environment and the child needs to learn that unacceptable behavior is unacceptable in all situations.
8. There are times when it is best to walk away from the situation and refuse to interact until the child's behavior improves. A power struggle cannot occur with one person. Walking away is not giving in. Usually the child wants something from the parent, either some service or attention. Walking away will give the child nothing and will give him a chance to calm down and rethink his choice in the matter.
If the child has become destructive in the past, the parent can plan ahead by arranging a safe place for the child to go and discussing appropriate ways for the child to release angry energy away from others. Remember to tell the child specifically what behavior is acceptable rather than wording your statements in terms of "don't".