How to Deal with Children's Inappropriate Behavior

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In parenting, dealing with our child’s inappropriate behavior is one element we have to face at one or several occasions.

In parenting, dealing with our child’s inappropriate behavior is one element we have to face at one or several occasions. Often, this becomes a difficult area for mothers because of the conflict it usually involves. Some mothers leave all or most of the disciplinary actions to the fathers (if present), because it feels uncomfortable. But by doing such, women give up an important opportunity to effect behaviors they want in their children. There are parents who think that punishing children for inappropriate behavior is the most important parental function. But sometimes punishment may not work. It sometimes produces bad behaviors. If not carefully dealt with, instead of helping the child improve, it pushes them to become preoccupied with fantasies of revenge.

Here are some ways on helping your child develop good behavior:

1. Teach by example.

Our children learn by “what we do” rather than “what we say.” Honesty begets honesty Politeness begets politeness. If we want to raise kind, honest, responsible, and trustworthy children, we must be likewise to them. Never lie to children. Don’t make empty promises, empty threats, and white lies just to temporarily evade issues. While our actions with other people count, our actions with our children count for everything.

2. Explain and describe behaviors we expect from them.

Don’t expect children to be mind readers. To simplify things, we can use the Five W’s model to make ourselves clear—Who, What, When, Where, and Why. For example, “James, so that you can enjoy your weekday nights without me having to worry (why), I would like you (who) to do your homework (what) at your study area (where) before 7:30 p.m. (when).”

3. Focus on the important and positive rather than the trivial.

Sometimes it is tempting to just focus on what our children are “not doing” or on trivialities. Think about the outcome you desire in answering these questions: How important is it to the child to keep his or her room clean? Why? How important is it for the child to wear certain clothes? Why? How important is it for children, even teenagers, to join in family activities, events, and outings? Why? How important is it that the child finishes the food on his or her plate? Why? How important are these things in comparison to lying, cheating, taking drugs, stealing, running away, failing at school, or doing something dangerous to ones’ self or others? These larger problems are the ones to be concerned about.

4. Reward only the appropriate behavior.

Behavioral psychologists suggest a method called “positive reinforcement.” Simply put, it basically means rewarding appropriate behavior. This can help us get our children to behave more as we would like them to. When we praise, thank, encourage, show appreciation, and notice the right things our children do, it encourages them to pursue and continue doing what is appropriate.

Dr. Spencer Johnson, author of One-Minute Manager series, suggests that we give a “one-minute praising.” He describes this as follows:

1. I tell my children beforehand that I am going to praise them when they do well.

2. I catch my children doing something right.

3. I tell my children specifically what they did.

4. I tell them how good I feel about what they did.

5. I stop and let a few seconds of silence pass to let them feel how good I feel.

6. Then I do what genuinely matches my feelings right then. I tell them I love, them or give them a hug, or both.

7. I later encourage my children to do the same for me--to catch me doing something right and to give me a praising.

If we want good behavior to occur, we must reward it.

5. Attack the actions, not the child.

You only want to get rid of the inappropriate behavior, not the child (although you may feel like it sometimes). So, do the correction immediately as it occurs. Nip it at the bud. Focus on it by talking about what it is and why it is inappropriate. Then, either suggest a better way of behaving or ask your child for your child’s suggestion.

6. Teach the child about the consequences of inappropriate behavior.

We all make mistakes. Children, because of their inexperience and immaturity, tend to make more mistakes. You can use these inappropriate behavior or mistakes as opportunities for learning by applying the concept of consequences.

There are two options for you—the consequences can be parental displeasure or parental suggestion about the more appropriate behaviors. You may also create consequences for the child when you feel they are needed.

Marjorie Shaevitz, author of The Superwoman Syndrome book shows us a scenario. “For example, let’s say your son has just jumped on his new bike and whizzed out of the driveway without checking for oncoming vehicles. How can you use the consequences principles to handle the situation? You may call him back immediately and say:

“Jack, you just went screaming out the drive and never looked once to see if any cars were coming. I’m really upset. You could have easily been hit—really hurt or killed. [The five Ws]

“You must never do that again. From now on, I want you to walk your bike down to the bottom of the driveway, look both ways for traffic, and then if the street is clear, get on your bike and go. [The appropriate behaviors]

“This is the first time you have done this, so I’m just letting you know how dangerous it is. But if I see it happen again, I’m going to ask you not to ride your bike for a week. If it happens a third time, you won’t be able to use your bike for six months or until I can feel certain about your bike-safety behavior.” [The consequence]

Then observe how it works.


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