How to Help a Child Who Is in a Behavioral Rut


When a child is stuck in a negative pattern of behavior for a long time, adults often give up, thinking that this behavior is who the child really is. But that can’t be the case since every child, regardless of personality and biology, is capable of being kind, responsible, and caring. Positive character traits are available to all of humanity. Nobody is excluded from the ability to get there.

If the difficult behavior is one that is not moral, such as being unkind towards others or rejecting healthy loving limits, you can be sure that the child is capable of acting differently. Logically, it doesn’t make sense to believe that being able to follow certain rules or society norms, like having basic respect towards people around you or accepting authority, are only limited to those who haven’t struggled in the past. Since the child wasn’t born thinking that they are incapable of being kind, how do we get the child back to their state of realizing how capable they really are, after being in a negative pattern for many years?

Relationship Reset

This is where I teach “The Relationship Reset Strategy.” It is a deep thorough cleanse that uproots the child’s unhelpful thinking that got the child into this mess in the first place. If a child is on the path of being hurtful towards others or of not accepting authority for a long time, chances are that the behavior of someone on that path defines who the child believes that he or she really is.

The “The Relationship Reset” is a healing conversation. This is how it works: A parent schedules a calm and quiet time outside the home to speak with the child. The goal is to come across calm, relaxed, confident, and sincere. The conversation goes as follows:

“I’ve been giving it some thought, and I realize that I have been mistakenly thinking that when you were struggling with ‘xyz’ behavior, that that behavior is who you actually are…as if there is such a thing as some children not being able to be kind or cooperative. And that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Since children are very influenced by their parents’ thinking, it would make sense that you would believe that about yourself as a result of my mistake, and that belief would make it very hard for you to be your regular kind self.

I am so sorry and I am planning to move ahead very differently. It’s as if I put a sticky label on you that says, ‘I am a child who is unkind, disrespectful, etc.’ We will peel this label off together. As I start thinking the truths about you, which is that the real you, of course, wants to be kind and cooperative, it will be easier for you to see that as well. I might make mistakes sometimes but you will see that I will be interacting with you very differently.”

Soul Search

Then moving ahead the parent has to commit to relating to the child differently and not to interact with the misbehaviors, but to interact with the soul beneath the misbehaviors. As parents, we can feel insecure when children misbehave, thinking that perhaps this behavior indicates that this is who they are. Their misbehaviors are not them! At worst, they are their poor choices. See past the label through to the soul and that will free your child up to be their best self.

This strategy is not necessarily to be used alone. If your child needs support or services or something to help him or her acclimate better to society, of course as parents we need to be responsible and make sure that the child receives that.

If your child has been in a behavioral rut, no matter how old he or she is, never give up on resetting. Every moment is the gift of a new beginning, so interact with your child as if there is no history, giving them a chance to start fresh. Then let go of the results, and you might see amazing things happen!