University of Illinois Extension

Preventing Problem Behavior

Cheri Burcham, family life educator

Raising grandchildren can be a roller coaster ride, with each age and stage of the child presenting its own unique challenges.

As children become teens, their risk-taking and quest for independence are at an all time high. What can you do? Experts offer these suggestions:

  • Have open communication to build a strong foundation with your grandchildren. Talking about and answering questions on sex and reminding them that you disapprove of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs give you a chance to influence their behavior.
  • Be involved in their activities. Having the kids participate in adult-supervised activities, especially after school, can prevent them from having too much time on their hands and possibly getting involved with the wrong crowd. Grandparents who personally get involved in children's activities not only help deter delinquency, but also strengthen family ties.
  • Make your grandkids aware of the expectations you have of them and set rules or limits. Expectations or rules should be very clear to avoid any misunderstandings. Setting rules about who they can or cannot be around, what they can or cannot do, when they need to be home, and where they can or cannot go will help you be more involved and detect problems early on. Also discuss consequences of problem behaviors and broken rules.
  • Be firm and follow through with consequences. Ideal consequences are those that have already been discussed, that have significant meaning, and match the severity of the violation. Remember to administer discipline with consistency and love.

The old African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child," continues to apply today. Enlist the help of your neighbors if they will commit to enforcing your limits. This forms a powerful monitoring network and helps teens feel valued by family and community.

If a child is engaging in serious behaviors such as violent crimes, sexual promiscuity, running away, drug addiction and/or dealing, and chronic absenteeism from school, get professional help right away. And remember, with love and support, the great majority of children with problem behaviors still grow up to be good citizens and valued family members and friends.