Why Children Misbehave and How to Deal with It

Why children misbehave and how to deal with it.

Why Children Misbehave and How to Deal with it. 

Children misbehave for a multitude of reasons. Whatever the reason may be, parents are often left feeling frustrated, hopeless, and downright angry. No one can push the limits of a parent better than their sweet, beautiful three year old son or daughter. One second the innocent child is playing calmly with a toy, the next they are screaming bloody-murder over not being able to watch tv. Be reassured, your child is not unusual, they are not doomed to a lifetime of tantrums, bad behavior and screaming the word “no” over and over again. It all falls well within the normal realm of a healthy, developing child.

Why do children misbehave?

Parents often question why is their child behaving this way? Here are just a few examples:

Limited Communication Skills:

Young children lack the ability to take their emotions and translate them into a coherent sentence.  Instead of a child calmly announcing “I am feeling frustrated that kid grabbed the toy from my hand,” they instead may scream, hit or even bite. Even some adults struggle with this seemingly simple concept!

Attention Seekers:

Does your child often misbehave the second you decide to cook dinner or fold a basket of laundry? Well, there is a good chance they are struggling with sharing your attention. In a young human’s brain, they can perceive this as being left out and don’t know how to handle those feelings.

Toddlers Don’t Want Your Help:

Sometimes, it boils down to a toddler wanting to be independent and do things on their own.  However, this can be maddening when you are trying to rush out the door and they insist on putting their own shoes and socks on. When you offer advice or try to help them, they are known to throw a tantrum or even hurl their shoe across the room. This is the conflicting age that one second they are demanding your attention, but the next they are yearning for independence.

They Lack Certain Skills: 

Children are just that – children. They are not fully developed, nor have they been shown all the ins and outs and dos and don’ts. They may simply not know how to deal with situations because no one has ever shown them the right way. For example, a child physically lashes out because someone took their toy instead of properly expressing their feelings using words etc... Instead of just punishing them, make sure to teach them the right way to deal with situations as they arise. 

Misbehaving is Effective: 

It is simple. When children know the quickest way to get attention is by yelling, or the easiest way to get what they want is to throw a tantrum, they resort to these tactics time and time again. By giving in, parents are teaching their children to misbehave next time. 

They are copying others: 

Monkey see monkey do. Children learn to behave by watching others and their minds are like a sponge. Whether it is TV, video games, or family troubles, make sure to limit their exposure to negative stimuli that can influence how they act. Make sure to take the time to be a role model in their life that demonstrates the proper way to act, react, and handle situations. 

They are testing limits: 

Humans are curious creatures, and human children even more so. When you set rules, children want to know if your serious or if you will fold - they’ll break rules just to find out what the consequences are. This means that, as a parent, you should maintain consistency and set clear limits and explain the consequences beforehand. If they break a rule it is your duty to provide the punishment; otherwise, they’ll know what the real limit is despite idle threats.

HOW TO IMPROVE A CHILD'S BEHAVIOR?

Luckily, since your child isn’t the only one in these shoes, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has studied this intensely. As a society, we have long been informed of the negative effects that strategies such as child shaming and corporal punishment have on children.  Not only have these methods proven to be ineffective, they also have lasting consequences on the child’s mental health.

So what does work? We have picked some of our favorite key points from the AAP to share.

Being In Tune: Understanding the source of your child’s misbehavior is key.  As difficult as it sometimes can be, having empathy towards your child’s misbehavior and putting yourself in their shoes may actually help in the long run.  As mentioned above, children want your attention, but they also want to feel understood. Using positive and empathetic statements with them such as “I know you are feeling very sad about this” allows them to be heard. The goal is for them to calm down with these types of statements, then you can direct the conversation to a behavior correcting tone. When a child is crying and throwing a tantrum, they are not in the frame of mind to take any form of critique.

Child Controlled Time-Out: The traditional time out for children works well and should definitely be explored by the parent.  Removing the child from whatever situation is causing them to misbehave, and putting a set time limit on the time out, is a great way to calm a child down before having a more serious conversation. However, the AAP also recommends giving the child control in the length of this time out by telling them they can return to the original environment when they have calmed down on their own. The AAP suggests saying "go to time out and come back when you feel ready and in control." This works particularly well for older children, but it is never too early to begin educating your child on self-management.

Be Consistent: No matter what consequence you decide to give your child, you must be consistent every time they perform the undesired behavior.  Kids are smart, and will pick up on any weaknesses you have.  If they observe a wishy-washy parent who doesn’t follow through with their “threats”, kids will take advantage of that and continue performing the undesired behavior.

Child Controlled Time-Out: The traditional time out for children works well and should definitely be explored by the parent.  Removing the child from whatever situation is causing them to misbehave, and putting a set time limit on the time out, is a great way to calm a child down before having a more serious conversation. However, the AAP also recommends giving the child control in the length of this time out by telling them they can return to the original environment when they have calmed down on their own. The AAP suggests saying "go to time out and come back when you feel ready and in control." This works particularly well for older children, but it is never too early to begin educating your child on self-management.

Be Consistent: No matter what consequence you decide to give your child, you must be consistent every time they perform the undesired behavior.  Kids are smart, and will pick up on any weaknesses you have.  If they observe a wishy-washy parent who doesn’t follow through with their “threats”, kids will take advantage of that and continue performing the undesired behavior.

Ignoring Can Be Best: This discipline method involves understanding your child’s current mindset. Kids crave attention, even if bad attention.  If you are certain they are performing a behavior to get a rise out of you, and they are not doing anything dangerous, try completely ignoring them.  You can even inform them beforehand “if you continue this behavior, I am going to stop talking to you.” Then follow through with that commitment until their behavior improves.

Get them outside: A recent study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine suggests in school settings, children who misbehave actually benefit from more recess time as opposed to having recess taken away. This highly translates to the need for children to be outside running and playing.

Additionally, according to The Child Mind Institute, being outside reduces stress and fatigue in a child. Fence in your yard if able and add an amazing playset or trampoline. Make it a place your child can escape to and I bet you will notice a great improvement in behavior.

If your toddler is acting out, a simple change in environment with fresh air could do wonders. Even though it may seem like you are rewarding them for their negative behavior, it is also teaching them ways to manage their emotions and direct them towards a more positive solution.  Mention to them when they are feeling frustrated or upset, instead of crying or screaming, they can leave the room. The boundaries of this need to be determined by the parents, but they can go to their room for quiet time, the basement playroom or a parent can accompany them outside.

 

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