5 Tips For Repeated Problems With Your Children

m4svKD1435295332When there is a problem (or multiple problems) with our child, we have tried everything we know how to do and it is just not working out, it is easy to feel like we have failed in some way. It might be their behaviour, their sleep, picky eating or a hundred other things.

Feeling uncertain about what to do is a common part of parenting and it is always worth reminding ourselves of a couple of things.

Firstly, our children are people in the same way we are and they learn in the same way we do; by coming up against problems, making mistakes and learning from them. Some of that learning happens quickly and some of it doesn’t.

Secondly, it is also worth challenging that feeling of being a failure in ourselves by asking what success is as a parent?

It can feel like success is never having problems, but this is just impossible. Success is not the absence of challenges but rather it is the ability to work with what we have and persevere. There is no parent that has all the answers and no perfect child. Children are unique individuals as are we. They gain growth and insight through overcoming things in the same way we do.

There is no parent that has all the answers and no perfect child Click To Tweet

So what to do when there are repeated problems with your children. Well unfortunately there is no magic cure all (as we all know) but there are useful ways to approach the issues. These are my top 5 tips.

1 – Consider the underlying emotions for your child and also yourself

There is not one approach to dealing with a particular problem because (for recurring issues) it is the emotion or a need behind it that needs to be addressed, which varies from person-to-person.

Of course, there are issues that are just pretty straight forward and work on a practical level. A child wetting the bed could just be drinking too much at night so reducing the fluid intake will solve it. But these are not the things that we get stuck on. We get stuck when a child wets the bed because they can’t face bedtime without a comforting drink or because they are wetting the bed through worry. Each requires a different intervention.

A child might be getting into trouble because he feels a lack of attention and actually ten minutes of one-to-one time would help that feeling or it may be because he feels frustrated with too much or to little is being asked of him.

Here are some useful questions to ask.

What might be going on for your child?

Is there something behind their behaviour?

What feelings or needs do they have right now?

Once you have identified this then it is easier to think about some way you could help them.

The other important part in the equation is us. We bring as much to the relationship as our children do. Asking ourselves ‘Is this creating fears in me that is more about me than my child?’ is very important.

Sometimes we see problems where there is not one. We fear for our child but that fear is ours, not theirs. A good example is the quiet child who always sits on the sidelines at a party until she is ready to join in and play. We might be thinking it is a problem. It may provoke a fear that our child is not socially equipped or that she is being rude. It may remind us of ourselves and feeling left out when we were young. However, our daughter could be perfectly happy watching, taking stock of everything that is going on knowing that when she feels like it she will join in.

When we identify how much of the dilemma is our own fears, it helps enormously.

2 – Try one thing at a time

There is no point flipping from one approach to another. You won’t know what is working and your child likewise will not know what is going on. Particularly when we are attempting to fill an emotional need we must acknowledge that it takes time. A resentful child who keeps being aggressive to his sibling is unlikely to stop that in two days no matter what approach you take. However, in two weeks it could be a different story as he starts to learn that he has time when he is in charge, for example.

3 – Trust our children

All children are on a learning curve, as are we, they just have more to learn about the way the world works. They have the ability to handle life with support and direction. Sometimes you might just need to support them through a situation maybe explaining their emotions as they go so they get to understand what is going on.

We need to trust that our children have the ability to learn Click To Tweet

Sometimes we just have to trust (particularly as they get older) that they have the ability to learn. Stepping in is not always the best approach. Even when it is in our power to solve a problem it is not always in their interests that we do so. Removing a child from a difficult situation is, in many situations, completely appropriate but sometimes not.

4 – Be okay with not always knowing

Trusting that we have the ability to cope with something, even if we don’t have the knowledge at the moment, is very important. In our society knowledge is highly respected. Often it is portrayed that people who don’t know must be ignorant. But we can’t know everything, even The Dali Lama says he doesn’t know. Life is about constant learning. There are times when we just have to go with the flow, trusting in ourselves that we will get to the bottom of it, or it will just naturally change.

5 – Keep searching

It can take time to get through the issues children present us with. When we keep ourselves open to the possibilities and searching then we often find the answer, or part of it, comes from unexpected areas.


I hope these tips are helpful. If you find your child has a certain emotion causing issues over and over again, like worry or anger, then I can happily recommend a series of books some of which I have used. It is great to have something structured to work through slowly with a child.

Book Recommendations

What to do when…. series by Dawn Huebner

These are some of the topics covered

What to do when…

you Grumble too much
worry too much
you dread your bed
bad habits take hold
your temper flares
your brain gets stuck
its not fair

Click on the images below to take a closer look.

I have used the worry and temper book. Both have been really useful. They are ideally suited to children 6 to 12. Depending on your child’s concentration ability I would recommend pre reading them and pulling out the key points beforehand if they are 7 or under. These are best worked through one chapter at a time

For younger children who worry a lot there is also a great book called ‘The Huge Bag of Worries’ by Virginia Ironside and ‘TA for Tots’ by Alvyn M Freed, which takes a look at emotions and helping give younger kids a way to talk about what is happening for them.

Thanks for reading. I would love to know your thoughts, experiences and feelings about the challenges children pose. I reply to every comment.

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84 thoughts on “5 Tips For Repeated Problems With Your Children

  1. Great post! We are going through a period of smacking at the moment and I must admit do feel helpless and flip from one method to another. I think some of the tips you give may be really helpful. I’m not really sure and it may be something she grows out of after some time. We are trying to stay calm and ignore it or gently tell her no! The books may help when she is older xx #binkylinky
    Sarah Howe (@RunJumpScrap) recently posted…10 Things I Will Do Differently at BritMums LiveMy Profile

    1. Hi Sarah, Smacking is a tough one and we have all been there. We see children hitting others and it is easy to ‘My child wont do that’ but of course at a certain age they do. They are testing it out and seeing if it works. Over time they discover that it doesn’t. It is important to remember that all children try most things at some time, it is just about helping them decide what to carry on with and what not to. She will get there. Both my boys did it and it passes. Keep reinforcing that you don’t like it. Sometimes if it is through anger finding something else they can hit transfers it to a better place. ‘Hit the sofa if you are mad’. Thanks for commenting. Remember you are no different from any other parent and she is in the process of learning.

    1. Hi Chantelle. Yes patience is something we need in bucket loads with children. I am glad you found it useful. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Very helpful tips! My mummy felt like a failure last night trying to get me to go to sleep. She tried everything and just gave up. It was horrible. Going to take these pointers on board. Thanks for sharing xx #PoCoLo
    Baby Isabella recently posted…I can’t sleep!My Profile

  3. These are really helpful tips. As human beings we are not perfect and neither can we always have the answers to knowing what is best to do. Opening into knowing and accepting this is key. Lets have a be kind to and give ourselves a break week!

    1. Hi Sandra. That sounds good to me. We would all benefit from more self kindness. Great to have you return to The Guilt Free Guide. Thanks for commenting.

  4. I’m finding the hardest thing to deal with my child hitting out. We try and reason with her, and forget you she is to young to understand her emotions yet. Need another tact to try and break the cycle, hoping a lack of attention to the bad behaviour will help
    Zena’s Suitcase recently posted…Jamie’s Italian NottinghamMy Profile

    1. Hi Zena. This is always a tough stage to go through but we do all go through it. You are not alone. It seems like you have a new plan (the ignore approach). Hang in there and see how it goes. If that doesn’t work something else will. she wont carry on indefinitely, not if she has parents who keep exploring what to do. One of my sons had to be redirected to hit something else first before he could move onto no hitting. Good luck and thanks for commenting.

    1. Hi Trista, I do think that is the problem with a lot of parenting advice. It focuses on a way to do something rather than the experience of the parent and child. thanks for commenting and hosting.

    1. I so agree, parenting is tricky. It is worth really thinking about what is going on for your boys. What are they feeling? What motivates them or doesn’t motivate them? There are no easy answers. Best of luck with them. You do have the skills and some day you will look back and know that you sorted the problem. Thanks for commenting. It is much appreciated.

    1. Perspective is important although not always easy to maintain when challenged. Thank you for your kind words and leaving a comment. It is much appreciated.

  5. Very interesting post and great advice. My daughter is entering toddlerhood at the moment so it’s hard thinking of her as a child and no longer a baby. I found distraction to be the best method to get her to stop being naughty. It was actually very clear that the more I told her off the naughtier she became whereas when I lead her away and engaged her in a different activity she stopped being naughty altogether. 🙂 #bigfatlinky
    Emma’s Mamma recently posted…Because I say soMy Profile

    1. Hi Emma, You have already got to emotion behind the behaviour which is great, she wants attention. Well done. Looking at the emotion behind a behaviour is valuable and for much more than toddlers. Thank you for your kind words and commenting. Have a great weekend.

    1. That is a very good way of wording it Jen. Looking from the outside in is what we need to do with repeated issues to see what is underneath. We are all complex creatures at heart. thank you for commenting and visiting The Guilt Free Guide

    1. Hi Victoria. I am glad you singled that one out. It is so easy to feel like we have to fix things for our children but they are on a learning curve just as we are and they will learn. I so agree, trusting them is very important. It can stop us undermining them or giving them the idea that they cant manage/are getting things wrong. Thanks for your insightful comment.

  6. I am going through a really tricksy time with my little girl at the moment so this was a really comforting read thanks Kirsten! #sundaystars

    1. Glad it helped. Hang in there Talya. It is not easy bit one thing guaranteed is change. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Hi Jeremy, You are so right. The same issue can have many emotions fuelling them and so would need to be treated differently. It is a challenge however to decipher what lies behind the issues. Thanks for commenting.

  7. Really helpful tips Kirsten, will definitely be thinking of them throughout our days. We have a huge problem with listening. It’s an issue in school too. Hopefully we combat it over the summer and have a fresh start come September!!
    Kellie Kearney recently posted…Clara Lara FunparkMy Profile

    1. Good luck Kellie. We need to look at our children’s temperament as a whole and appreciate their challenging sides are often the flip side of their strengths. Finding ways that help is not always easy. Maybe listening games to make it fun and not personal. Glad you found it useful.

    1. Thank you very much Debbie. Treating the cause as you so rightly put it is generally better in all walks of life. Have a great week.

  8. Great tips. I can definitely relate to feeling like I’ve failed when nothing seems to work! I agree that if you think about your child and what might be going on it can make a real difference to how you approach things. #mummy&us
    Little Treasures recently posted…1 year of bloggingMy Profile

    1. It is tough to be okay with ourselves in those times. We want what is best for our children but cant work out what to do to help them. Holding steady, trusting them and being kind to ourselves is pretty important. We have all been there. Thanks so much for your comment. It is much appreciated.

    1. You make a really good point. As we get frustrated it is tough to keep cool, especially when it hurts. I don’t think there is any point in kids seeing that something they have done has caused us pain. Very young children bite because they are experimenting. It was a shock when I first got bitten but I could see there was no malice in it just testing it out at an age when everything goes in the mouth. Older children who know it is not good bite do it for other reasons. Best of luck with it. You will get there and it will become a distant memory at some point. Thanks for commenting.

    1. Hi Mackenzie. That is a wonderful comment to click into. Thank you and it has come on a day when I really need it too. Your support is really appreciated.

  9. Thank you for the point about parents’ fears and the role they play in perceived “bad behaviour”, and also looking for the underlying cause. It’s harder to put into practice but a great concept to keep in mind! #twinklytuesday
    Jen recently posted…Not waiting on pinkMy Profile

    1. Hi Jen, It is a difficult concept to put over so I am glad it made sense to you. We all have our fears and we are better for acknowledging them so we can parent our children from a more balanced place. you are so right, none of it is easy to put into practice. It is a constant learning process for all of us. Thanks very much for commenting.

    1. Hi Joe. We are all complex and so searching for answers is important. I think the movies and tv programmes can give us the idea that there is one solution out there but the reality is that it often comes in parts like a jigsaw puzzle. Thanks for commenting and visiting The Guilt Free Guide

  10. Fab post hun, we are going through a throwing stage here at the moment (Zach not us!). Sometimes I see the issue behind it and know how to address it but other times, he literally does it for the sake of doing it. I sense frustration/attention so am trying to work on that. It’s hard too when he spends his days with different people but I’m trying to get them all to deal with it in the same way. Thanks for sharing your insight and Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday
    Lisa (mummascribbles) recently posted…Twinkly Tuesday 30/06/2015My Profile

    1. Hi Lisa. It is never easy as human beings are complex. Making sure that everyone is taking the same approach is a great thing to do. It means that he will get a clear message. As I said in the post things that are driven by an underlying feeling don’t go away over night. It is great that you can identify frustration and attention as key feelings. All children search for attention and we can just attempt to channel it. I sounds like the frustration might be key here. When you work with the underlying feeling, like frustration, you are helping him in so many ways more than just the behaviour of throwing things. Best of luck with it. Thanks for commenting.

    1. That is great Rebecca. I am really glad you do that. It is very important that our children know that it is the behaviour we don’t like. From quite early they can tell the difference between ‘That’s naughty’ and ‘You’re naughty’. What a difference that can make to how a child feels about themselves. Thanks for adding to this conversation. It is much appreciated.

  11. These are great tips, my son is only just coming up 1 but from the very start you doubt yourself and fear you’re doing it wrong. My son has been a very challenging baby and I’ve cried so much but now I try to step back and see the problem rationally which really helps xx #PoCoLo

    1. Hi Hannah. It is tough when our babies cry a lot. It undermines our confidence in our ability as a mother. When we have babies who we can soothe it is easy to build up confidence. But actually by being their for our distressed baby we are doing a great job anyway. I am glad you have found a strategy that works for you. Thanks very much for commenting.

  12. Loved this read. I can resonate with number 3. My eldest has just left primary school and often my husband will tell me to ‘have faith in her’ – rather than worry about her having a slightly introvert personality. Then when a situation occurs, I remember to put my faith in her and she almost always comes out of the situation smiling. #MMWBH

    1. Hi Karen. For older children this is really key and it is the most important one for me and my eldest son too. They really pick up on how we feel about them. When we worry and problem solve they can get the impression that we don’t believe they can cope. It is hard to step back particularly when they have challenges but sometimes it is the best thing to do. They discover their own resources and grow in confidence. Best of luck with your eldest moving onto the next school. Thanks for commenting.

  13. This is a fab post of tips. My little boy is almost 4 and his underlying problem is not being able to go to bed and stay in bed all night. This causes him to be tired and quite often impatient a lot during the day. He’s been so tired tonight since 6pm and now at 7.35pm is still fighting it so much. I just don’t know why he won’t accept that he needs to go to sleep?! 🙂
    Michelle (@AFamilyChatter) recently posted…Baking and Crafting with Mini-Beasts..My Profile

    1. Hi Michelle. Sleep issues are so difficult and of course there can be a whole host of reasons behind them. Some children don’t need a lot of sleep, for others it becomes a game of getting more attention and others might find it tough for different reasons. Can you identify what is going on for him emotionally? From what you have said it is more than a child who doesn’t need a lot otherwise he would not be so tired. My heart goes out to you. We have been there with one son and it is not easy.

  14. Great tips … Agent M is going though a weird phase where he’s not listening to anything hes told and out and out does what he likes. Its so frustrating but i can only keep trying and fingers crossed he comes out of this phase before too long 🙁
    Sarah-Jane K recently posted…#31Days Challenge – Day 1My Profile

    1. Hi Sarah-Jane, Thanks for your comment. It is tough when they are not listening. It makes me wonder if he is in need of something or annoyed at something. Often when they are old enough it is worth talking to them about it at a time when they are not being difficult and you are not annoyed. All children try out different behaviours to see if it works of course.I wish you best of luck with it and and glad the tips were useful.

  15. Thanks for the tips. I will try and use them. My oldest has finally learned to apologize for the bad behaviour but hasn´t yet understood that after saying sorry he needs to stop, not keep doing it and keep saying sorry. It drives me up the wall. I always feel amazed at the moms that can analyze how to deal with the kids, Im usually just trying to pass the minutes without too much stress. You are an inspiration.thank you. #MMWBH

    1. Thank you Orana for your kind words. Don’t forget that some things are just a learning process. Little ones need to have things repeated over and over until they get it.Their learning doesn’t always happen in the logical order that we might expect. It is really frustrating and anyone with a young child has been there. Be kind to your self and hang in there. It will change, that is certain. Thanks for commenting.

  16. Very interesting suggestions you have shared. I don’t know whioch is my favorite because I find them quite helpful.
    Trying out what what for each indidvidual child is true. No one child acts the same or have the same needs as the other. Individuality is wisdom.
    Thank you for the post Kristen.
    Ifeoma Samuel recently posted…Finding RestMy Profile

    1. Hi Ifeoma. You are so right. Each child is different and needs to be respected as such. It has amazed me how different my children are and therefore how differently they respond. There is no one size fits all is there?

    1. Hi Melinda. I am really pleased to hear that. I thing that trusting our kids is very important. In that way we don’t undermine them and we learn to respect their journey through life. when we trust our kids they learn to trust themselves which is a great gift. Thanks for commenting and giving your continued support.

  17. I absolutely love your posts Kirsten, they are so thorough and always what every parent is concerned or interest in in some way or another. I’m certainly going to look up your book recommendation for my step-daughter, and I’m also going to chill out a bit! I think part of the issues with my son (picky-eating) is my ego! I place a lot of value on cooking a healthy meal every day, it’s also part of my wind down and I guess the way I like to show my family I love them. So the fact my son won’t eat it kinda hurts! But that’s my issue as overall I know his diet is actually fine… he’ll get there in the end 🙂

    Thanks for linking up to #TheList xx
    Hannah Mums’ Days recently posted…Accountability and the #MDFitClub Buddy!My Profile

    1. Hi Hannah. Firstly thank you for your lovely and supportive comments. You have really made my day.

      Secondly I am so pleased that you have those insights into the situation with your son. Kids pick up on the emotion of a situation. Changing that can help them change. I had a slightly different scenario but it was problems with my son at meal times. Once I twigged that there was stress around meal times I started countering it by playing games and doing songs etc. It slowly altered the situation until dinner was transformed. All the issues didn’t go but most did and it all calmed down. What a relief. Hang in there. See what a change of tack from you brings about. Thanks for commenting.

  18. This has some really great points and it can be really difficult. My youngest is three (4 in October) and he seems to be growing out of the lashing out stage but he does stamp his feet and become really frustrated and upset – to the point he breaks down and cries. I’m working with him to help him cope and he’s getting there. It is hard but there is light at the end of the tunnel! Thanks for sharing! Janet

    1. Hi Janet. Anger is so overwhelming at that age. It is also tough for them to cope with being angry at us but then needing us to help them be okay. It sounds like you are doing a great job at seeing his emotions underneath the behaviour. It is tough. At this age things have to be gone over and over and this is a big thing for 3 to 4 year olds. Best of luck. It will pass. You are clearly a supportive mother and it will help in the long run. Thanks for commenting

  19. Tell me the truth now… you’ve been spying on me and KNEW I needed this post. We are having such challenging times with my almost 4-year-old. She screams (like really screams at everyone including her sister). I can cope with a lot but that scream is enough to send me into a spiralling funk.

    It feels like we’ve exhausted every possible solution but this has given me the encouragement to observe and reflect on the situation a little better.

    Thanks for sharing (and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop).

    Wishing you a lovely weekend.
    Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom recently posted…How to Build a Trusting Relationship with Your ChildMy Profile

    1. I am so glad that it has been of use to you. It is genuinely very tough to deal with these repeated issues. It is so hard to know what goes on in their minds and at that age they don’t have the words to tell us. I think observing and reflecting is a great idea. Watch and wonder what is happening for her to react in such a powerful way. What does she feel is not being heard? Best of luck Jennifer. Thanks for commenting. A great weekend to you too.

    1. Hi Meredith. It is genuinely hard to sit with things that are difficult and trust. We all want to fix things straight away. But sometimes it is what we need to do. Glad you found it useful. thanks for your kind words and commenting.

    1. Hi Emily. I hope you had a great holiday. It is great to get away and have a change of scene. Thanks for commenting.

    1. This is a great realisation. Be kind to yourself with this knowledge. Many of us have difficulties with asking for help. We are taught to be independent and it is highly prized in our society.Of course no one is a failure in asking fro help. Parenting is not a role that we can do alone. We cant do and be everything for our children. I sounds like you have a way forward in being able to seek other input. You don’t have to take it but even when we don’t agree sometimes that adds clarity too.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

    1. Thanks Debs for your comment and hosting. It is a great thing to remember. no one has all the answers and some things cant be fixed as they are part of the learning process of life.

    1. I am glad this was of use Miep. It is good to have reminder of the things we already know. thanks for commenting and your continued support of the Guilt Free Guide. It is much appreciated.

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