The one thing we now know about behavior is that your kid will act better if he or she feels better. It has been proven beyond doubt that kids thrive when they are raised in receptive environments in which parents have reasonable and clear expectations.
We also know that emotions drive behavior, and that makes perfect sense: We are the best versions of ourselves when we’re rested, calm, and confident in our parenting skills. We tend to yell more when we’re tired, angry, or are generally feeling underappreciated or undervalued. The same holds true for kids. Your kid is more likely to throw a fit when he’s tired, anxious, scared, or facing “giant emotions” he is unable to deal with.
The thing about misbehavior is that things are not always what they seem. Much too often, what we so easily define as misbehavior conceals underlying issues, though these issues are rarely visible at first glance. When our son started giving us a hard time staying in bed, it was long before we figured out that his behavior was driven by a fear of death after losing both his grandparents years earlier. The tricky thing about behavior is that your kid will not necessarily have an immediate reaction to a difficult event. His reaction can come weeks, months, or years later, and when it comes it can be furious.
The long and the short of it is that “misbehavior” is rarely what it seems. Although there are many different divergent schools of thought on what misbehavior looks like, understanding what drives it can help change your entire approach to your kid’s behavior. Here are three things you need to know about your kid’s misbehavior.
1) You can only become part of the solution when you acknowledge that you are part of the problem
A story is told about a fisherman who would always fish at a specific spot because he always, always, always caught there. But soon the fish were onto his game and decided that, tempted as they were, they would stop taking his bait. Unable to catch any fish anymore, the fisherman decided to leave that spot in search of greener pastures.
This story is a perfect example for both parents and kids. How you react to your kid’s behavior ultimately has an impact on how she behaves. This doesn’t mean ignoring situations where your kid might harm himself or others. It simply means understanding that kids will be kids. It means being willing to let some things go because, the truth is, our kids bait us all the time. It means understanding that you don’t have to take the bait each and every time.
Old ways won’t open new doors. It’s time to change your strategy if your kid’s misbehavior hasn’t changed or has gotten worse over time. Being part of the solution also means acknowledging that your discipline strategy is not working. No discipline strategy works all of the time, nor does the same strategy work for all kids. My free discipline course can help you explore different discipline strategies to determine which one will best work for you depending on your personality and your kid’s personality.
2) Help your kid look within
Emotions really drive behavior, I can’t say it enough. Your kid’s difficult emotions are manifested both in his behavior and even in his body. Aggressiveness, tantrums, fits, meltdown, unexplained bouts of anger, tummy aches, headaches – there is an endless list of ways in which your kid’s inability to manage his emotions emerge.
The good thing is that it’s pretty easy to get your kid talking about emotions. Using games is a fun way to teach kids about different emotions and help them put words on their emotions. Talking to kids about emotions also helps them learn to recognize others’ emotions. But teaching kids about emotions isn’t a magic cure. Tantrums will not disappear overnight when you start helping your kid develop his emotional intelligence, but they will lessen over time. Remember that ultimately, helping your kid become emotionally intelligent means giving him resources to learn to identify emotions, understand where those emotions come from and find effective ways to deal with those emotions in a socially appropriate way.
3) “Kids don’t need perfect parents. They need real parents who acknowledge their shortcomings and are willing to change” Arnaud Deroo
Positive parenting is great, but it has also put unprecedented stress on parents. The perfect parent is a myth, don’t set yourself up for failure. Instead, acknowledge your shortcomings and work on them. Find tips to help you yell less. Be willing to apologize when you’re wrong. Get help if you’re feeling overwhelmed. The truth is, you’ll not always be able to manage your kid’s behavior by yourself. Seeking professional help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Some self-paced resources such as The Mindful Discipline Email Course can also help get you on track.