Your Child's Behaviour

By  on March 22, 2007

Your Child's Behaviour
Learning how to manage children's behaviour is one of the hardest tasks for parents.

Remember that its okay if you don't know how to handle every situation. Every parent feels that way sometimes. You have to learn how to be a parent.

Remember: nobody's perfect.

Teaching Good Behaviour
First, be realistic. Your child isn't going to get it right the first time you teach him (or her) something.

What Can I Expect From My Child?
Children behave differently as they get older. For example, children under three are too young to follow most rules.

From Birth To one Year:
Babies can't understand or follow any rules. They only know what they feel.

One To Two Years:
Children at this age start to understand some words and simple directions. For example, if you ask your toddler to help you put toys in a box, he can follow what you're doing. He may not want to follow you, however, because a toddlers favourite word is No!

Be patient. You will probably have to tell and show your child the same thing over and over.

Two To Three Years:
Toddlers at this age are better at talking and listening. They can understand some of what you say, but they still need a lot of help following directions. For example, you can say it's time to get dressed now. Lets put on your socks.

Your child will need help putting socks on, but he can help pull them up. Children are too young at this age to share or play fair without your help.

At about 2-1/2 years, it's normal for children to become bossy and moody. At this age, they often find it hard to fit into a group and may not be able to co-operate with other children.

Three To Five Years:
Children's behaviour changes a lot in these years. They may be calm and co-operate with you sometimes and, other times, they may not want to do what you want.

Your child is getting close to school age and may be able to follow simple rules. For example, when you say We're leaving now. Its time to get your coat, your child will be able to bring the coat to you.

Children start to care about people's feelings at this age. They need you to tell them what is right and wrong.

When your child does something wrong, tell him it was wrong and why. Be patient. Try to help them think of a better way to do things.

For example, if your daughter starts hitting her brother, explain hitting Michael hurts him. Then ask her to tell her brother why she is angry. This teaches children to use words instead of their fists when they are angry.

Here Are Some Ways You Can Help Your Child Behave:

  • Don't expect too much.
  • Praise your child. Notice the good things, not just the bad.
  • Ignore irritating (annoying) behaviour, such as whining or interrupting.
  • Be a good example.
  • Make rules, and try to stick with them.
  • Let your children live with the results of breaking the rules.

Give your children attention when they behave well. For example, if your child waits quietly until you finish a phone call, thank him for waiting.

When children are very young, make it easier for them to behave well.

If they do something you don't like, give them something else to do. If they do something that isn't wrong but is in the wrong place, change the place or the things.

For example, if your child wants to draw or colour with crayons and tries to do it on the wall, move him to a table with paper to draw on. Explain why it is okay to draw on paper but not on the walls.

Limiting where certain things can be done helps small children behave.

If you go somewhere with your children and they start to misbehave, it may be because they are bored. You could give them something to play with or a picture book to look at to keep them busy.

Ignore Irritating (Annoying) Behaviour
Sometimes children want your attention no matter what, even if it's negative attention.

Behaviours such as whining or interrupting are annoying. It's normal to want to tell your children to stop doing these things.

When you tell them to stop, your children learn that they can get your attention by continuing the annoying behaviour.

Instead, try to ignore the annoying behaviour. At first, the behaviour may get worse. But if you keep ignoring it, children learn that they cant get your attention this way.

Praise Your Child
Your children need to be encouraged when they do something right, such as when they remember rules you have taught them.

If you give your children attention when they are doing what you want, they will learn to get attention for being good.

If you only pay attention to your children when they do something wrong, they will learn to misbehave to get your attention.

Making Rules
Children feel safe when they know there are limits and rules.

You should make rules for your children only if they are old enough to understand them.

Remember, children under three may be too young to follow rules.

Make Some Rules, But Don't Make Too Many

  • Explain your rules clearly and repeat them often.
  • Explain what your child can do and can't do.
  • Explain why.
  • Stick to your rules. If you change your rules all the time, your children will become confused, and learn that what you say doesn't really count.
  • If other adults care for your children, make sure they know the rules you have made.

When Rules Are Broken
Your children need to learn that when they don't follow your rules and misbehave, they have to live with the results.

For example, if your child wants to walk instead of staying in the stroller, and then tries to go on the street even though you have said no, put him back into the stroller or bring him home right away.

Your children need to understand they have to live with the results (consequences) when they don't follow your rules.

Make sure you follow through with consequences when your child disobeys your rules. If you dont stick to your rules, your child learns that you're not really serious about consequences.

What Do I Do When My Child Misbehaves?
No matter how well you teach your child, he will sometimes misbehave. It is normal, and it's also one of the hardest things for parents to deal with.

Children Misbehave For Many Reasons:

  • They are too young to know better.
  • They are tired, lonely, bored, over-excited, sick or frustrated.
  • They are trying to understand what is okay for them to do and what isn't.
  • They are just being children.

Staying calm and reasonable is important when children mis-behave.

If you get angry because of your children's behaviour, try to direct your anger at the behaviour, not at your children.

Make sure your children understand that you still love them you just don't like what they did.

If you lose your temper, tell your children you are sorry. Your children need you to admit when you are wrong. They need you to show you're sorry if you have hurt their feelings.

Solving Problems
Try to think of your child's misbehaviour as a problem you have to solve.

Here Are Four Questions You Can Ask Yourself To Help Figure Out What To Do

  • What's happening here? My child has made a mess in the kitchen.
  • Why is it happening? Maybe my child wants my attention.
  • What can I do to stop it from happening? Take five minutes away from what you're doing to talk and play with your child. Then, go back to what you were doing.
  • What if it doesn't work? Explain that you have to make dinner now, and ask your child to colour a picture while you cook.

If you learn to ask yourself these questions when your children misbehave, it will help you figure out why your children are acting this way and what you can do about it.

Saying NO!
From about 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 years of age, children start to develop a sense of independence. At this stage, children want to decide what to eat and what to wear, and they want things their way. Saying no all the time makes children feel independent.

What Can You Do About Your Child's NO's?

  • If your child says no all the time, try to ask questions that don't need a yes or no answer.

For example, don't say Do you want to eat supper now? Instead, say We're eating supper now. Do you want orange juice or milk?

This will make your child feel like he is making his own choices. Your child is learning to think independently. This is a good thing. Be patient and your child will grow tired of saying no.

Comfort Habits
Some children suck their thumbs or carry a special blanket or toy to comfort themselves. These comforting habits don't usually mean there is a problem, if the child is generally happy.

It is normal for children to use a comfort habit when they are tired, upset or sick.

Comfort habits are only a problem if your child uses them all the time, or if he doesn't want to do anything else.

What Can You Do About These Habits?

  • Try not to talk to your child about the habit in front of other people. This is embarrassing for your child.
  • Don't punish your children by tying their hands or making them wear mittens to get them to stop thumb-sucking or nail-biting. This is humiliating.
  • If your child uses a comfort habit all the time, make sure you're giving him lots of love and attention. If this doesn't help, talk to your doctor or public health nurse about what to do.
Whining
Whining is irritating. Children whine when they are tired or hungry, or when they are worried or insecure. They also know it can get your attention.

One thing you can do is to ask yourself if your children are getting enough rest and sleep.

What Can You Do About Whining?

  • When your children whine, try to ignore it. Then, when they stop, give them attention. This teaches your children that whining is not the way to get your attention.
  • Tell your children that you can understand better when they talk in a grown-up voice.
  • If this doesn't work, keep trying. The whining may get worse before it gets better.
  • Remember, children need to hear things over and over before they learn.

Tantrums
Sometimes toddlers go through a stage where they have tantrums when they dont get their way

Tantrums happen more often when children are tired or feeling rushed, and when they are angry or frustrated.

A tantrum is a way to work off anger. Tantrums usually start when children are about two years old.

What Can You Do About Tantrums?

  • Try to stay calm. Stay near your child and stay quiet. Pay as little attention as you can. Don't give in to what your child wants, and don't try to reason with him.
  • If a tantrum happens in a public place, take your child to a quiet place to calm down.
  • If your child has a lot of tantrums, think about the way you usually react. You may be giving your child too much attention when he has a tantrum.
  • If you are worried about your child, talk to other parents or to a public health nurse for some other suggestions.

Fighting
It takes time for children to learn how to share and take turns when they are playing with other children. No child gets along well with friends all the time.

What Can You Do About Fighting?

  • If children are arguing with each other, but not hitting, leave them alone. Children need to learn to work out their differences themselves.
  • If children are hitting each other, break them apart. Have them sit apart quietly to calm down.
  • After they have calmed down, bring them back together and help them solve their problems.
  • We all know that when we are angry, its hard to think clearly. Remember that the same is true for your children. They may be so upset they cant think clearly about what youre saying.
Lying
Most children make up stories sometimes. They may not mean to lie. Children have great imaginations, and they can become convinced that they saw a lion in the backyard, for example.

Children may also lie about their bad behaviour if they're afraid of what might happen to them.

What Can You Do About Lying?

  • If your children make up stories, listen to them. Show that you enjoyed the story. Then ask What really happened?
  • Make it easy for your children to tell you the truth. When your child tells you when they did something wrong try not to get angry. First, praise your child for telling you the truth. Then, talk about what he did.
  • If your child tells stories all the time, try to explain the difference between something that is real and something that isn't.
  • If you are very worried about your child's stories, talk to your doctor or a public health nurse about what to do.

Stealing
It can be upsetting to find out that your child has taken things that don't belong to him.

It takes time for children to learn right from wrong. When they are very young, children don't understand that people own things. They also don't understand what is important and what isn't.

You might not mind if your child takes a pencil from your purse, but you would probably mind if it is money. To your child, there is no difference.

What Can You Do About Stealing?

  • If you discover that your child has taken something, stay calm. The first time it happens, act like its a mistake. Then teach your child that he shouldn't take things from other people without asking.
  • Then make your child return the item to its owner. Don't make excuses for your child or act as if its funny that he took something.

Spanking
No matter how angry you feel, its never okay to spank your child.

Spanking doesn't teach children how to behave. It teaches children that its okay to hit someone who does something they dont like.

Spanking also teaches your children that its okay for someone big to hit someone little.

If your children are afraid you'll spank them, they may do what you want only because they are afraid you will punish them, not because they understand why they shouldn't do something. This doesn't teach them right from wrong.

Spanking your children may make them fear you and dislike you. It may also make your children afraid of all adults.

Taking a break (time out)
When your child is losing control of his emotions or having a tantrum, take a short break from each other. Call a time out.

Time out means your child has to sit alone, quietly, to calm down. It also gives you a chance to calm down. Time out works best for children over three. Dont expect it to work with younger children.

Reasons To Call Time Out:

  • To stop problem behaviour: For example, if your children are fighting, call a time out. They can sit away from each other quietly until they feel ready to play together without fighting.
  • To help children calm down or to change a child's mood: If your children are getting very angry, rough or excited, call a time out. They can sit quietly until they are calm. A toddler may need to sit on your lap to feel safe and loved during the time out.

When your child has calmed down, suggest something else to do, such as listening to you read a story.

Time Out Is For Parents, Too
You can call time out if you feel like you can't deal with whats happening without yelling or being physical.

  • Parents are human. They get angry sometimes, just like everybody else.
  • If you feel yourself getting very angry, or if you feel you might say or do something you know is wrong, call a time out for yourself. Spend a few minutes alone until you feel calmer.
  • If you get angry because of your children's behaviour, try to direct your anger at the behaviour, not at the children.
  • Make sure your children understand that you don't like what they did, not that you don't like them.
  • If you lose your temper, tell your children you are sorry. They need you to admit when you are wrong. They need you to show you're sorry if you have hurt their feelings.

Be A Good Example
Your children watch everything you do. They look up to you and want to be like you. That means they copy what you do and how you behave.

If you want to teach your children to be courteous and polite, make sure they hear you saying please and thank you to them and to other people.

If your children see you sharing with other people, they will learn to share too.

Dangerous Or Hurtful Behaviour
If your child is hurting someone or doing something dangerous, such as playing with the burners on the stove, say no and put a stop to it right away. After you have stopped the behaviour, move your child away from the dangerous area, and explain why what your child was doing was wrong.

You Can Be a Good Parent
Nobody is a perfect parent. It takes thinking and hard work to be a good parent. You and your child will learn together by trying and doing.

Learn to trust your own judgment and feelings. You have what it takes to be a good parent. EY

Our Magazines

Our Partners

Save

Save

Read ParentsCanada Digital Magazine For Free

© 2018 ParentsCanada. All rights reserved

 2018