Banishing Bad Behaviour

Banishing Bad Behaviour

Children misbehave for a number of different reasons. In some instances, there may be an underlying behavioural disorder at play. In other instances, the child may be acting out because he or she has not been taught otherwise. Although all parents can expect to deal with a few tantrums during their parenting journey, is it possible to prevent poor behaviour from becoming part of a child’s regular routine?


Many parenting experts agree that, yes, it is possible to banish bad behaviour in children. It all comes down to knowing the best discipline strategies to resolve these behaviours before they become bigger problems.

Shaping Children’s Behaviour

Parenting expert Dr. Sears offers several approaches to help parents handle poor behaviour in children in a gentle and non-threatening way. All strategies can be incorporated into your daily routine to help squash poor behaviour.

1. Practice praise, not criticism
Rather than focus on the poor behaviour, focus on the positive behaviour. Dr. Sears also suggests that you praise the behaviour, not the person.

Praise, however, is different to reward. Praise is a simple acknowledgment or a compliment so your child sees that you are paying attention.

Dr. Sears recommends keeping track of how many times you praise your child versus how many times you criticise your child in a 24-hour period. If the criticism is higher than the praise, then you may be shaping your child in the wrong direction.

2. Choose to ignore
Pick your battles, Dr. Sears suggests. Otherwise you will end up driving yourself crazy. Dr. Sears admits that in his household he ignores “smallies” which are behaviours that are annoying but do not cause harm to humans, animals or property.

When a child’s poor behaviour is ignored, Dr. Sears believes that the child learns that this behaviour does not gain attention and eventually he will stop it on his own.

3. Check your own behaviour
Children learn by example. So lead by example. You cannot expect your child to watch you behave poorly (and get positive results) and not expect to do the same.

4. Consider a behaviour chart
Similar to a chore chart, a behaviour chart tracks the behaviour of everyone in the family. Good behaviour gets a sticker. Poor behaviour does not.

5. Teach consequence
A child needs to understand that poor behaviour will lead to a poor result. This is an invaluable lesson in childhood and adulthood.

For example, teach your child that if he doesn’t do something, then he loses out. If he doesn’t pick up his toys, don’t do it for him. Bin them (or hide them until he learns that this isn’t how things work).

6. Negotiate smart
While negotiating with your child may seem like you are letting them win, this isn’t the case, Dr. Sears explains.

“Bargaining with your child doesn’t compromise your authority; it strengthens it. Children respect parents who are willing to listen to them. Children must accept your authority— that’s not negotiable; but that doesn’t mean you can’t listen to their side of things.”

Negotiating means having a two-way conversation with your child. Rather than it being “my way or the highway” (which works in some instances), children need to feel that their opinions matter and that they are respected too.

7. Withdraw privileges
Sometimes communication works. Other times, the only way to get your child to learn from his poor behaviour is to withdraw privileges. You swear, no iPad. You hit your sister, no scooter.

These rules need to be established and understood before you can put them into action (see below). And they need to be followed through on, which means you cannot weaken, no matter what.

8. Hold regular family meetings
Family meetings allow you to set up house rules. Make family meetings part of your regular routine where you look at different problems as a team and come up with solutions on how to prevent poor behaviours together.


Understanding Bad Behaviour

Bad behaviour one: Lying

Children often tell tales to gain attention. In other instances, they may tell a lie to avoid getting into trouble. Lying can easily turn into a bad habit for your child, especially if he is not taught that lying is not acceptable.
Even if there is no malice behind the lie, it is important that you respond to an ‘over-exaggeration’ calmly and directly. Talk to your child one on one (and never in front of a crowd which could cause embarrassment) about why lying is wrong and why we don’t lie.

Discipline methods to consider:
• Praise (when he tells the truth)
• Teach consequence (what harm can lying cause?)
• Withdraw privileges
• Communication during family meetings

Bad behaviour two: Defiance

When a toddler mutters, “no” for the first time, it’s cute. But after hearing your child say, “no” for the 8 gazillionth time, it loses its cuteness and becomes a problem. Defiance refers to when a child purposely refuses to follow your instructions or rules. It puts you in an uncomfortable position as it tests your limits and your authority. It can also be embarrassing when the defiance occurs in public.

All children are going to push the boundaries but it is important that parents put a stop to defiance as quickly as possible. At the end of the day, you are the boss.

Discipline methods to consider:
• Praise (when direction is followed)
• Negotiation
• Chore charts
• Withdraw privileges
• Communication during family meetings

Bad behaviour three: Swearing

Children often pick up a potty mouth from the people around them. Yes, parents swear. And yes, parents should be allowed to swear because we are adults. But kids don’t always understand this. The best way to stop swearing and potty mouth problems? Make sure the entire household stops.

Discipline methods to consider
• Chore charts (or swear jars)
• Lead by example
• Withdraw privileges
• Communication during family meetings

Bad behaviour four: Aggression

Violence and aggression is a hard one to handle because often the reason for this behaviour comes down to emotions, something that can be difficult for children to control.
However, aggression needs to be stopped before it becomes a bigger problem.

Discipline methods to consider
• Lead by example
• Teach consequence
• Withdraw privileges
• Communication during family meetings
• If the aggression continues, seek professional assistance

Bad behaviour five: Tantrums

Tantrums are common in toddlers and pre-schoolers and are usually due to a child not being able to communicate what he or she wants. Sometimes children have tantrums to get attention or to try and get what they want.
As a child gets older tantrums may not be as obvious. Rather than kicking, screaming and lying on the floor at Coles, older children may sulk, stomp their feet or slam doors.

Discipline methods to consider:
• Negotiate
• Choose to ignore
• Withdraw privileges
• Communicate during family meetings

Whatever your tact, and whatever your child’s personality, dealing with bad behaviour is inevitable as parents.
Each child is different and their responses to certain discipline methods will be different too. The underlying theme and most important thing to think about when dealing with this behaviour is finding what works for you, and
being consistent.

Good luck, you may need it!


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