We know children pay more attention to second-time than the first time. Their attention, their emotions, and their behaviour are not subject to change. Until they reach middle school, they habitually repeat behaviour from their toddler years to get negative attention or avoid discipline. And, this is NOT normal development!
As a development therapist, I want to help parents understand how and why these patterns occur. Having helped dozens of families since 1988, the number and severity of the behaviours that cause a parent’s frustration are predictable. In each case, the pattern is caused by similar or related issues. Once known, parents are unlikely to be able to change the behaviour.
Trust your instincts. When you sense a pattern is emerging, go to see your daughter or show your son the behavior, but more importantly, really pay attention to the way you feel in response. If the behavior causes you more stress than before, you have a more significant issue to handle. Conversely, if it feels like nothing you’ve tried before works, you’re on your own.
Believe it or not, children’s behavior boundaries will change. Just because a child has gotten into a hot water situation doesn’t mean he can’t get out. He may need a little help. You do the work of teaching clearer communication and problem-solving skills. The behavior will probably not change, but your relationship with your child might.
- Yelling. Screaming children get attention from their parents, but it will not get you the attention you desire for this young category. Keeping cool vents is an equally important lesson, and working together to focus on the behavior rather than the child makes it much more manageable. Believe me: Flapping arms and legs under your carriage while you’re driving makes for unwanted attention.
Children need to be taught that their words will not get them any attention. They need to understand that yelling does not get attention and that using ‘I don’t care’ comments does not answer their behavior. The atmosphere helps.
- Not paying attention. Children do need to know that they are not being ignored and that a backpedal driven behavior does not get instant attention. They don’t need to know that sometimes you can ignore them, and they pay. I ask parents to try this: What would it be like to YOUR child if your backpedals and then respond to them with such anger and overpowering energy that they beaned their child back with a consequence that makes your child feel bad?
What if your child had some incident to lose his video game privileges a while back? Again, it may make your child angry, but it does NOT turn him into someone who hit or yells or throws a tantrum when they are not getting their way. These children are just trying to stay in control.
- Operating from a place of fear. I’d know that my parents had to run from one child to another and be very careful as a parent to operate from a position of fear. Even as adults, many of us perceive that other people in authority are dishonest and untrustworthy because they say it. We accept real life and allow an occasional opportunity to reveal ourselves and our unwavering loyalty to the people in charge. Each child and situation is different, but the attitude does matter.
Our children are constantly testing us. They are doing it right in front of our faces, and often, we don’t see it. Our job is to stay calm, act as a parent, and keep the communication. If we tell them the truth and don’t expose feelings of justified anger from our side, we’ll manage the situation.
- When the child is misbehaving, listen to them because they aren’t doing it on purpose. Typically, the kick that lands hard in a kid’s ribs is because they lost an extraordinary power. Again, children act nice on purpose to get back the power that was lost. Do they do it their way? No, they act uncomfortable and often hate you as a parent because you didn’t give them enough power to get them to comply or they’ve not had a good practice, other kids, or a life-stage transition like an adult find out that they have no power.
- When you see that, change your perspective. Despite their occasional lousy behavior, children are people. They have little by little demonstrated behaviours proving that. The purpose of a parent is to help, provide, and support a child to achieve their goals. This is true in all areas of life. You don’t need to find out the hard way – only as an adult, can you?
- Don’t listen when they throw around the F-bomb. The blanket statement falling out of the F-bomb is usually some variation of “I’m tired,”