The Institute for the study of Antisocial behaviour in Youth

I.A.Y.

Advice to Parents

"Advice to Parents" is a new addition to the IAY website and is aimed at providing parents with valued information about parenting based on research findings. This column is prepared by Dr. Jalal Shamsie, Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto and will be updated every few months.

Does your child have a "difficult temperament"?

Every child or adult for that matter has their own unique temperament. This term refers to their individual style of behaviour; it typically involves traits such as activity level, mood, intensity, adaptability and persistence. There is a great deal of variability amongst children. About 10 to 20% of children have what would be called "difficult" temperament (Webster-Stratton 1992). Difficult means necessitating special attunement to these traits for success. Children who are highly active, impulsive, short in attention span, fearless, seek novelty, moody, have difficulty coping with new situations — these are not deliberate intentional ways to drive you up the wall, merely traits with which your child came into the world.

We know that difficult temperament can interact with parenting styles and stressors to increase the child’s aggressive tendencies and of course add to the family conflict.

 

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In one study, when boys in particular were extremely active and their caregivers were lax or used physical punishment, threats or even violence as discipline, aggression in the child increased (Olweus, D.J. 1980 "Familial and temperamental determinants of aggressive behaviour in adolescent boys : A casual analysis" Developmental Psychology no. 16 (1980) pp. 644-660.

Infants with difficult temperaments can be intense, irritable, highly active, colicky, and can act out rather than withdraw from stress. Another study showed that as they age, these infants tend to show more difficult behaviour (less cooperativeness, more aggressivity, and poorer school skills and performance). Thus families with these children require resources so that the family interactions have less coercion and control that reinforces the aggressive behaviour. P81 (Sanson, A.; Smart, D.; Prior, M.; and Oberklaid, F. "Precursors of hyperactivity and aggression." Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, no. 32 (1993), pp. 1207-1216.

The take home message is this:

  1. Don’t blame yourself for your child’s personality/temperament. These things are under a fair amount of biological/genetic control.

  2. If you feel you have such a child, you need extra support, help, and resources to help you cope and succeed with such a child.

  3. In particular, try to get some sound advice on ways to parent (such as rewards, consequences, time out) that take you out of the power struggle. This will require ongoing perseverance, but hopefully will be rewarding as you see your child respond.




 

Instalment 1 - Disciplining Children (Summer, 1999)

  • It is important that children obey their parents
    It has been shown that children who do not obey their parents are more likely to get into trouble in adolescent years (Forehand & Wierson, 1993)

  • To teach children to obey, most parents have to use some way of disciplining them. It has been shown that children who are frequently spanked as a way to discipline them tend to become aggressive adolescents.
    (Herrenkohl, Egolf, & Herrenkohl,1997)

  • There are other safe and effective ways of disciplining children, such as time out, taking away privileges, or grounding. Most of these methods work, however, they only work if they are applied consistently.

  • A child should experience the same consequence for the same behavior every time. That helps the child to learn faster.

References

Forehand, R., & Wierson, M. (1993) The role of developmental factors in planning interventions for children: Disruptive behavior as an example. Behavior Therapy, 24, 117-141.

Herrenkohl, R.C., Egolf, B.P., & Herrenkohl, E.C. (1997). Preschool antecedents of adolescent assaultive behavior: A longitudinal study. Americal Journal of Psychiatry, 67, 422-432.

Next instalment: "Why 'Time Out' works."

If have any questions about the information provided in this instalment please e-mail Dr. Shamsie at jshamsie@sympatico.ca




  • There are other safe and effective ways of disciplining children, such as time out, taking away privileges, or grounding. Most of these methods work, however, they only work if they are applied consistently.

  • A child should experience the same consequence for the same behavior every time. That helps the child to learn faster.

References

Forehand, R., & Wierson, M. (1993) The role of developmental factors in planning interventions for children: Disruptive behavior as an example. Behavior Therapy, 24, 117-141.

Herrenkohl, R.C., Egolf, B.P., & Herrenkohl, E.C. (1997). Preschool antecedents of adolescent assaultive behavior: A longitudinal study. Americal Journal of Psychiatry, 67, 422-432.

Next instalment: "Why 'Time Out' works."

If have any questions about the information provided in this instalment please e-mail Dr. Shamsie at jshamsie@sympatico.ca





Are you worried about your child's misbehaviour?

Why do some children misbehave? What can you do to prevent the development of unaceptable behaviour... For you to succeed it is essential that...
You do not need to worry if... Remember... When should you ask for help from outside sources?
You should worry about your child if... What steps should you take if you are worried... Where can you get help?

Why do some children misbehave?

  • Children are not born socialized, they learn to obey.
  • They learn to respect other people's rights.
  • They learn to co-operate.

This learning takes place:to top

  1. When they have a close, warm and confiding relationship with caring adults (parents, grandparents, etc.)

  2. When children know what behaviour is acceptable.

  3. When acceptable behaviour is consistently approved and rewarded

  4. When unacceptable behaviour is consistently disapproved.

  5. When children take part in educational and recreational activities.





You do not need to worry ...to top

  1. If your child occasionally refuses to comply and is defiant.

  2. If misbehaviour happens only occasionally in home or in school.

  3. If your child confides in you and does not steal, tell lies, hit other children, but on occasion, when disciplined, gets angry at you.

  4. If misbehaviour follows a traumatic event such as a death in the family, and continues for less than six months.

You should worry about your child's misbehaviour ...to top

  1. If your child is consistently defiant, and refuses to comply and you feel helpless

  2. If there are frequent complaints from the school about your child's behaviour.

  3. If your child is indulging in stealing, lying and hitting siblings and other children in spite of your efforts to stop the behaviour.

  4. If your child insists on playing with matches and has set fires.

  5. If the school indicates your child's behaviour is seriously affecting academic performance

  6. If your child spends a great deal of time with friends who exhibit unacceptable behaviours.

  7. If unacceptable behaviours continue for more than six months.


What can you do to prevent the development of unacceptable behaviour in your child?
to top

  1. Develop a close relationship with your child by encouraging your child to confide in you. Be a good listener Do not lecture. It seldom helps. Do not be too judgmental.

  2. Children are happy when they know what is acceptable and what is not. Set clear limits for your child and make sure your child understands them. Notice and praise your child when your child does the right thing.

  3. Know where your child is at all times.

  4. Know your child's friends.

  5. Expect that your child will have some difficulties adjusting to changes such as your divorce or remarriage, or the death of a pet. Be extra supportive at these times


Remember..
to top

  • Each child is unique. Children differ in temperament. Some are easy to socialize. Others require more patience and greater effort.

  • Your child's behaviour is affected by bow you feel. All changes in the family situation affect your child's behaviour.

What steps should you take if you are worried about your child's behaviour?to top

  1. Identify the behaviours that you are the most worried about. Make sure others in the family share your concern.

  2. Set up consequences for the negative behaviours in consultation with your partner. These behaviours should be disapproved when displayed The loss of some privilege, such as not allowing your child to watch a favourite television program, can be used if clear disapproval does not work.

  3. Physical punishment is not the best way to discourage undesirable behaviour, and should be avoided

  4. Notice when your child is behaving well, and let your child know you approve by praising or giving a hug.


For you to succeed, it is essential that:
to top

  1. Other adults in the family (partner, grandparents, etc.) follow the same procedure.

  2. That the same behaviour is consistently rewarded or disciplined.


When should you ask for help from outside?
to top

  1. When, in spite of your best effort, your child continues to misbehave at home and school.

  2. When the misbehaviour is getting more serious (not only lying, but also stealing; not only, stealing from home, but also stealing from the community)

  3. When your child's misbehaviour is seriously affecting family life (affecting siblings and causing arguments between parents and other adults).

  4. When the school is threatening to suspend, or has suspended, your child for misbehaviour.

  5. When your child's academic performance is seriously affected as a result of misbehaviour.


Where can you get help?
to top

  1. Consult your family practitioner, who may refer you to a paediatrician or to a local children's mental-health centre.

  2. Call the local children's mental-health centre directly. For information about children's mental- health centres, contact your local community information centre. The community information centre for Metro Toronto (416-392-0505) can give you the number of the centre nearest you.


This brochure was prepared by:

Jalal Shamsie, MB, FRCP(C)
Director, Institute for the study of Antisocial behaviour in Youth (IAY) Professor of Psychiatry, University of Toronto



For further information, please contact:

Institute for the study of Antisocial behaviour in Youth (lAY)
Syl Apps Youth Centre
475 Iroquois Shore Road
Oakville, ON L6H 1M3
Tel.: (905) 844-4110 ext 2202;
Fax: (905) 844-2996
Email: iay@kinark.on.ca

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This page was last updated on Friday, March 28, 2003 3:38 PM