What parent doesn’t go through behavior issues at some point in his or her life? The truth is, sometimes it can feel like your kid is out to get you. Behavior issues are not necessarily behavioral disorders. They can be elements in your child’s behavior that wear you down. “Harmless” things you would like to change. These harmless behavior issues could look something like this:
– Your child refuses to follow instructions
– Your son won’t listen
– Your daughter talks back all the time
– Your son is disrespectful to you or his siblings
– Your child never does what is expected of him then blames you
– Your child always avoids doing what she’s expected to do then says “she forgot”
– Your child’s response to everything is “later”
– Your son is extremely clingy
– Your son refuses to share his toys
– Your daughter is “mean” with her friends and her siblings
Many kids go through the phases listed above and while the behavior displayed may be frustrating, it is rarely considered to be “problem behavior”. Problem behavior is generally more overwhelming, more frustrating, more despairing. It could look like:
– Frequent and uncontrollable tantrums
– Harmful behavior
– Overwhelming disrespect
Problem behavior often leaves you feeling like you’re on a wild roller coaster ride with exceptional highs and just as many exceptional lows.
Irrespective of the kind of behavior displayed by your child, the first step in effectively managing that behavior is differentiating between what is misbehavior and what isn’t. Some of the things you stress about are not worth losing sleep over.
Here are the first four things you need to know before you can change your child’s behavior:
1) Know what “good” and “bad” behavior means to YOU
Irrespective of whether or not you are conscious about it, “something” always drives your discipline philosophy. In other words, your discipline approach may be guided by your social or cultural background or may even be related to your childhood memories.
You may choose to privilege certain behavior because that is what your parents privileged or expect your child to act in a certain way because “everyone” acts in that particular way. Social pressure is one of the greatest determinants of the discipline philosophies parents choose. The need to conform often wins. Problem is, you cannot base your discipline approach on what “others” frown upon for the simple reason that you and your child are both unique. If your objective is to raise an outspoken adult, your discipline approach cannot be the same as a parent who believes that children should be “seen and not heard”.
To adopt an effective discipline approach, you must thus begin by determining the type of child YOU want to raise and the values upon which YOU want to base your approach. That’s the easy part. The hard part standing firm and avoiding being swayed by the very many opinions about what “good” and “bad” behavior should look like.
2) Do not forget that “bad” behavior doesn’t mean bad kids
The reason why it is often said that emotions rule your child’s behavior is because it’s true. Childhood is a frustrating period because your child neither automatically understands all the new and different emotions he’s experiencing, nor does he know how to react to them. That’s why your daughter’s anxiety may be reflected through clinginess, and your son’s frustration through procrastination. What this means is that you cannot effectively address what you perceive as “problem” behavior if you do not know what drives that behavior. There is no longer need for proof – helping your child navigate emotions goes a long way in reducing “problem behavior.”
3) Your child’s behavior is rarely a sign of bad parenting
Dealing with behavior issues can be tough and can leave you close to tears. What you need to know is that children behave in certain ways which have absolutely nothing to do with you. Although behavior is simply a means through which they communicate, what they are saying is not always easy to decipher.
An inability to deal with your child’s behavior is often a sign that you’re not on the same wavelength. This may mean having unclear expectations, inconsistent consequences, an undemocratic parenting style, sending mixed messages, adopting an ineffective discipline strategy that neither respects your child’s temperament nor you own, and so on.
4) Do not overlook the power of strong relationships
You get along better with people who appreciate you, just as you are more open to people you appreciate. Everyone appreciates being in a warm relationship in which they feel their voice will be heard and respected. Your child is no different. You will always get better results if your child feels safe, appreciated and heard. Parenting is about building strong relationships. Remember that how you treat your child speaks volumes about your relationship and ultimately has an impact on his behavior.
5) Arm yourself with patience – you’ll need it
Changing behavior is neither an easy fit to accomplish, nor does it occur overnight. However, by adopting the appropriate strategy for you and your child, and by being firm, receptive, and consistent, you can often see changes relatively soon. Adequately preparing how you will address your child’s behavior issue, even mentally, can go a long way in ensuring the success of your discipline strategy. Remember that sometimes you’ll succeed, sometimes you won’t, and that’s okay. If one strategy fails, dust yourself off and try again. You’ll do better next time.
If you need help dealing with your child’s behavior issues, the Mindful Discipline Email Course can walk you through the steps you can take to adopt proven discipline strategies to help change your child’s behavior.