Breaking bad (habits): How to deal with difficult children


Breaking bad (habits): How to deal with difficult children

A new book will give some insights on how parents can fix problems with their kids' troublesome behaviour

Mark Potterton

Katherine Reynolds Lewis argues in The Good News About Bad Behaviour that childhood and parenting have radically changed in the past few decades and this means that children today struggle to manage their behaviour. Lewis argues that “we face a crisis of self-regulation” and that parents and teachers struggle daily with difficult behaviour.
Lewis goes on to highlight that in the US context about half of the current generation of children will develop a mood or behavioural disorder or a substance addiction by the age of 18. Scary indeed. Contemporary kids need to learn independence and responsibility, yet our old ideas of punishment and reward prevent this from happening.
Lewis is a journalist, a certified parent educator and mother of three who set out to investigate over five years why so many children have trouble managing their behaviour and emotions.The book grew out of her July 2015 article for Mother Jones magazine about school discipline. Within days of appearing on, the article became the site’s most-read story ever, racking up more than four million views, 790,000 Facebook shares, 6,000 tweets and 980 comments.
Parents and teachers around the world wrote in to say how the piece changed their approach to children. It made its way into conference sessions and university curricula, and attracted interest in Sweden and Germany. Clearly, millions of people were facing the same fears, confronting the same problems, and looking for solutions.
In her book Lewis articulates what she calls “The Apprenticeship Model”, a new theory of discipline that centres on learning the art of self-control. Blending new scientific research and powerful individual stories of change, Lewis shows that, if we trust our children to face consequences, they will learn to adapt and moderate their  behaviour. She argues that chaotic homes can become peaceful, that bewildered teachers can see progress, and she has seen her own family grow and evolve in light of these new ideas.
Lewis has identified three factors that have contributed mightily to this crisis:

Where, how and how much kids are allowed to play has changed.
Their access to technology and social media has exploded.
Children today are too “unemployed”. She doesn't simply mean the occasional job for a high school teen. She refers to household jobs that can help younger children build confidence and a sense of community.

“They’re not asked to do anything to contribute to a neighbourhood or family or community,” Lewis told a reporter.Katherine Lewis has written an important book that will give hope and support to mothers, fathers and teachers who want both understanding and answers. With a parent’s compassion and a journalist’s rigour, she offers advice from the trenches while providing a realistic road map towards a better family life. Blending solid science and highly readable storytelling, The Good News About Bad Behaviour is sure to become a parent must-read. Some chapter headings will give you a clue about the solutions: connection, communication, developing capabilities, limits and routines...

This article is reserved for Sunday Times Daily subscribers.
A subscription gives you full digital access to all Sunday Times Daily content.

Sunday Times Daily

Already subscribed? Simply sign in below.

Questions or problems?
Email or call 0860 52 52 00.

Next Article

Previous Article