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They may be your literal flesh and blood, but that doesn't mean your children will embrace your values or your rules. Finding yourself challenged with a wayward child can be heart-wrenching, and often makes you second-guess not only yourself but your parenting strategies as well. If you want to get your child back, it's important not to lose hope. You can do more than you think.
Don't blame yourself
From acting up in kindergarten to sneaking out in high school, parents have a tendency to blame their children's behavior on themselves. But taking on that kind of guilt won't help your child find the right path, and nor will it help you deal healthily with the situation at hand. Not only does blaming yourself make you feel bad, but it also sends your child the message that he doesn't need to be accountable for his actions. According to Empower Parents, when a parent blames himself, "the child gets the message that he's not responsible for his own behavior and choices-his parents are. Unfortunately, this can lead to a lifetime pattern of blaming others and refusing to take responsibility. It will always be his spouse's fault, the boss's fault, the police officer's fault, or the legal system's fault."
Stick to your values
When you're a parent, you're charged with the responsibility of teaching your child morals and ethics, however you view them. But when your child becomes wayward, she will challenge these values to the very core. Whether these morals come from a religious or secular place, it's critical that you show your child consistency in what you view as acceptable and unacceptable behavior. For example, if you've taught your child that underage drinking is wrong, don't try to mitigate the risks of the behavior by allowing him to drink in your presence.
It goes without saying that parents love their children unconditionally, but when you've got a wayward child, she can definitely try those feelings. While practicing unconditional love is easier in theory than in practice, it's important if you're trying to lead a wayward child back to the family fold. According to Aha! Parenting, "unconditional love is like a muscle. It needs a daily workout. Compassion is the heavy lifting of life." If you don't feel like you're in the habit of loving your child unconditionally, don't worry, it's still possible to achieve it.
When you see your child going down an undesirable path, your first reflex might be to take control. For example, when your son begins hanging out with a less-than-reputable crowd, it might be tempting to force him into soccer or football to keep him occupied after school and help him meet new friends. Psychology Today advises:
"When we do that - that is, parent our children according to our own requirements, desires, or standards of how things 'should be' - we often deprive them of developing a solid sense of self. We stifle their innate creativity and urges. What's more, we may subconsciously deliver the message that they will only earn our love by being just like us."
Fight with them
Fighting with them doesn't mean you should go around arguing, screaming or bickering at your child. The fact of the matter is, many wayward children are facing some difficult demons, whether those are substance abuse, addictions, eating disorders, bullying or abuse. Any of those issues could be making your child feel isolated and hopeless. As parents, you'll do anything to help your child find happiness and peace, and that will likely require a fight. Your child may not have the strength to face her demons, but when you join in the fight, your whole family will be stronger for it. And it will show your child that you're in this with them, which may help bolster their hope and motivation.
Invade their space
Giving your child his space and hoping he'll make the right decisions on his own might sound enlightened in theory, but in practice, a laissez-faire parenting approach rarely works. That's why it's so important to monitor your child's behavior and correct it when it needs correcting. For example, don't allow your wayward child carte blanche access to the internet or social media when you think she's sending or receiving explicit posts. Monitoring your child's behaviorisn't an invasion of privacy. It's your duty.
If you want to become more involved in your child's life, WebSafety offers an easy-to-use app that helps you keep tabs on your children's online and cellular activity.
Kristen has a journalism degree and has experience writing in a variety of fields, including art and culture, health and fitness and financial and real estate services. Kristen has written for USA Today, SFGate and the Knot.