Children display an array of misbehaviors for a variety of reasons - but there is always a reason. When parents take time to look closely at a misbehavior, and the surrounding situation, they can often determine the cause or trigger.
Children display an array of misbehaviors for a variety of reasons - but there is always a reason. When parents take time to look closely at a misbehavior, and the surrounding situation, they can often determine the cause or trigger. However, that can require great restraint from a parent who is frustrated or angry, and impulsively reacts with punishment, yelling or spanking. Neither yelling nor spanking eliminates challenging behavior or teaches a new, desired behavior. It is difficult to change a child’s behavior if our response is ineffective. Once the cause is identified, parents can better understand, address and remediate the behavior.
Behavior problems have many different biological and environmental causes. Some biological and/or medical causes for misbehavior include ADHD, autism, developmental disabilities, inadequate sleep or allergies, to name a few. Environmental situations can also cause challenging behaviors. Verbal, emotional or physical abuse and neglect will always result in negative, attention-seeking behaviors. Children learn what they live, so if they are exposed to traumatic events, such as divorce or domestic violence, without corrective supports, their behavior will show their distress.
Common attention-seeking, challenging behaviors that indicate the need to remediate include physical aggression, biting, lying, stealing, bullying, teasing others, name calling, being disrespectful to others, refusing to follow directions, destroying property or using inappropriate language — on a regular basis.
Children misbehave for attention, power, revenge and inadequacy. They display unacceptable behaviors as a means of receiving attention; to force their parent to pay attention. You may believe that you pay attention to your child all day long, but it may not be the type of attention that your child needs. If children are not recognized often for their positive and appropriate attempts and achievements, they will find another, negative alternative to receive that attention. They misbehave for power and control, especially when they are in public and have learned that their parent may not follow through in front of others.
Set your child up for success by providing your expectations in two sentences or less, and if your child refuses to listen or comply in public, “remove to remediate.” Remove your child and eliminate the audience. As you remove to remediate, “Say less and do more,” which means don’t explain or give second chances, just pick up your child and remove him to a quiet place where he can self-regulate. Children can misbehave out of revenge, showing defiance if they have been threatened, even with a simple statement, such as “If you don’t finish your homework, you can’t watch TV.” Threats lead to defensive actions, and do not encourage a child to do what he is told. Positive statements, using the words “when” and “then,” help a child hear what is expected, and motivate him to comply. “When you finish your homework, then you may watch TV” indicates you have an expectation that he will finish his work, and when he does, he may have a privilege. We all respond better when we are offered a reward or recognition for our accomplishments. Help your child with his attempts, by nurturing and encouraging, until he achieves with success.
Page 2 of 2 - Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator. Find additional parenting resources at her website, www.yourperfectchild.com.