Another great technique is mutual storytelling. When your son is calm and you are able to spend some one-on-one time with him, tell him that you would like his help with something. Explain to him that your friend has a five-year-old daughter who is having a hard time listening to her mommy. Give him some examples of the behavioral acts that he does at home with you, and remember to tell him that your daughter’s friend does the same things with her mommy and siblings. Tell him how smart he is and that you hope that he can help you help your friend. Then ask him why he thinks your friend’s daughter is acting this way, and what he thinks your friend can do to make things better. The hope is that your son will tell you why he is acting in this manner and what you can do to help him behave better.
Most young children are egocentric. The technique I’ve outlined has proven to be very successful with children ages 3-5, as it allows them to express their feelings through your story and help you solve the dilemma. Try to incorporate your son’s thoughts into your relationship with him. This may help the situation.
Finally, try to talk to all of your children in the manner that you want them to speak to you. When they ask you to do something, say, “I’ll do it with pleasure.” This will inaugurate a good habit, for they will emulate your manner of speech. You should discuss with them your desire to institute more derech eretz in the home by teaching them certain phrases to say. By using these phrases yourself, you will encourage them to also utter them.
As you noted, now is the time to work on these issues before they get out of hand. Be positive whenever possible and remember that when a child feels good about himself or herself, the child is more likely to behave. Most children misbehave because they are not feeling good about something; thus punishing them will only create more negativity. There is always a time and place for consequences but try to make them infrequent and fair – so they are effective.
If these strategies are unsuccessful, I recommend that you seek professional help for your son and yourself. A competent therapist will help you and your husband better parent your child while working with your son to behave differently. Hatzlachah!
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