Family Life

Michelle Duggar on Dealing with Difficult Children

posted: 08/02/13
by: Michelle Duggar


Photo: DCL

Question from a "19 Kids and Counting" fan: How do you help your children learn to be well-behaved and not influenced by the bad behavior of other children?

We are around a lot of families, and a lot of children with different personalities. My older ones have learned and are able to graciously stand alone around external influences. But those younger ones so often can be sucked into bad behavior, bad words, and bad attitudes. Long before we ever get to that point, we talk about it together. I let the kids know where we're going, what we'll be doing going and that very likely there will be other little ones running around playing. I want them to know that if there's something that they know mommy and daddy have said to them, we don't do that, or we don't say that, or that's not appropriate for our family, the right response for them is to not participate. It's also important that they know in their heart it's not just what they do -- it's the attitude of the heart while they're doing it. If there's selfishness, hatefulness, hitting, kicking, all those kinds of things, those behaviors start with the attitude of the heart. So we talk to them about that and suggest that when they see a friend with one of those attitudes, they can gently encourage that friend, and say, "Let's not do that, that's not nice. That hurts somebody." That's what our kids do with each other at home.

If it continues, then they remove themselves from the situation and go play somewhere else. But if that's not possible, if the other child doesn't hear or they don't understand, I want our child to come quickly to mommy and daddy or an older sibling. For birthday parties, or other group activities, I always have an older one go with a younger one. If I'm not there, there's always that older sibling and they know there's a safe place they can run to.

They can tell mommy or big sister privately whatever is going on. If I need to speak up to that parent, I can, but they know they've got a safe quick place to come for refuge. And then I can always whisper and talk into their ear, or take them to a place where I can explain things to them. If they're wondering, "Well, why did he punch his brother and knock him off the swing?" I can explain that we're learning and so are they. And believe me, we have not arrived there yet either! The important thing is to always allow it to be a teaching moment.

I try to teach them to lovingly play with other children, and befriend them and to try to speak gently to them because you might be the very one that can encourage them to be nice. It's not about judging them and saying: well, I would never do that, because we could quickly go back to a few days ago, when the very same thing came out of their mouth!

But when it's too heavy for them and they're not able to handle it, they've always got that safe place of refuge to run to. We won't put them in a situation where they're not able to stand alone when they're not ready.

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