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Parenting difficult children can often leave us feeling overwhelmed and out of control. We end up feeling powerless, scared, and often angry at these children that seem to make life so tough. While understanding that certain things as parents, are in fact, out of our control, we can also know that there are ways to feel more in control in our homes. Cottle

Here are five steps to feeling more in control:

1. Take one thing at a time

Often with our children, we are reacting, responding to our feelings. We create a backlog of all of their awful behaviors and it seems to pile up to a height that is too high and a weight too heavy to lift. Make a list of all of the behaviors of your child that are disrupting your home. Then choose the top three behaviors that are causing you the most stress. In particular, the behaviors that are safety concerns should be addressed. Out of those top three, then pick one that you can start working on.

2. Create a plan

Decide on how you want to deal with this one behavior and communicate your expectations in a clear, kind way with your child. Describe what you want to see happen, not what you don’t want to happen. For example, instead of saying, “Don’t come home late,” you could say, “Come home by your curfew, by 11 p.m.” Describe this behavior with specific, action words. And then, come up with a plan for how you are going to respond when (he or she doesn’t) meet those laid out expectations. Make sure these consequences are something that you will be able to implement consistently.

3. Less talking

Often, we think that somehow we can just convince our kids to do what we want them to do by communicating effectively and passionately. But the best way to reach our kids and change this behavior is to talk less. Lecturing and speeches, in particular, are ineffective for children. We need to let the consequences do the talking, and focus less on sharing our wisdom. It is also important to understand that simple gestures can often be much more powerful than our words. Fifty percent of brain processing is visual, so our children are generally watching us much more than they are listening.

4. Patience

This feeling of being out of control with our child doesn’t usually happen overnight; nor will our ability to regain control. Change, true change, requires patience. Make a conscious effort to start with a fresh slate each day and to seek out the positive. Take time to forgive your child and yourself for your faults from the previous day.

5. Find support

As parents dealing with a difficult child, we need support. Parents can find this in all different ways, whether it’s through an organized group, a professional resource such as a therapist, or just a really good friend/family member. We need to find someone who we feel like can understand what we’re going through, and won’t judge us or our children for our faults.

Being a parent can be exhausting and frustrating, but often, there are ways that we limit these frustrations. They can be uncomfortable changes to start, but in the end they can help us have a more controlled, peaceful home.

Lexie Ainge Cottle, M.A., LPCI, is a Lake Oswego resident who grew up in Lake Oswego and now has a private practice in professional counseling as part of the Compassionate Counseling Center in Tigard. She can be reached at 503-400-1512 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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