One of the main challenges you may encounter as a parent is managing your child’s behavior problems, and this can be quite difficult if you don’t have an effective way to deal with defiant behaviors.
To effectively respond to behavior problems, you ideally should know the causes of such behaviors.
Causes of child behavior problems
There are many factors that can affect a child’s behavior, and here are some of them:
- Seeking attention: Your child may be acting up to gain your attention, especially if, from experience, such actions get you to respond fast. This is normal, and you play a hugely important role in Your Child’s life. So, take such attention seeking behavior seriously and adjust things in your schedule to meet Your Child’s needs. Ideally, you should be spending enough quality time with your little one to not trigger this behavior. When children get enough attention, they can usually relax and play or be by themselves.
- Life changes: Children tend to find certain big life events — such as moving to a new home, starting school, the birth of a new baby, and a change of nanny — difficult to handle. Given that they don’t often know the reasons behind such a change, it’s just natural that it makes them insecure and stressed.
- Family problems: Children easily notice when the family is passing through a difficulty, probably from your facial expressions or because they no longer get the kind of attention they’re used to.
- Not knowing what is expected: If you don’t clearly tell children what is going to happen next, they may get confused and can misbehave. A strict daily routine is therefore a great way to bring the best behavior out of children. With that, children will always know what’s next and can relax and focus on what they usually want: play, interacting with those they love and learning new things.
- Transitioning from an activity without warning: It can be difficult for kids to switch from an activity that they are enjoying, to something else without a prior warning. In such situations, they are more likely to be defiant.
Some common behavior problems
Whether you are raising an energetic son or a strong-willed daughter, there are certain behavior problems that are common among children at any age, and these are some of them:
- Disrespectful behavior
- Impulsive behavior
- Temper tantrums
- Aggressive behavior (hitting and kicking)
- Bedtime problems
- Food problems
- Too much screen time
- Telling lies
Tips for dealing with child behavior problems
The way you manage these behavior problems will play a major role in the way your child will react in similar situations in the future. Here are some tips on how to deal with childhood behavioral problems and bolster good behavior:
- Understand the situation: Try to understand what is causing the behavior problem and tackle it.
- Give clear instructions: A child is more likely to behave better if you make clear your expectations.
- Adjust the environment: Make your environment conducive for the child. If your child always wants to watch something, remove all screens and phones.
- Reduce screen time: It has been proven that excessive screen time can trigger the release of dopamine. When the TV or tablet is taken away, the production of dopamine also stops, and can result in behavioral problems. So shorten,strictly schedule or eliminate screen time and keep the child occupied with other activities instead.
- Invest time early: It’s often better to invest 15 minutes of your undivided attention to Your Child and then go back to your work, instead of being disrupted every 2-3 minutes for the next three hours. Giving Your Child 15 short minutes of quality time will greatly reduce behavioral problems.
- Prepare a child for transitions: It is better to tell kids what you want them to do some minutes before the time you scheduled for it so that they will have time to round up their current activity and transition to the new one.
- Give the child a choice: As the kids come of age, encourage them to be self-regulating by giving them structured options. For example, “do you want to eat before or after a shower?” or “do you want to wear a t-shirt or sweater?”
- Lead by example: Children learn from what you do, not from what you say, so they need to see you doing the right thing. They say 80% of the language children understand is body language, and 20% is verbal.
- Be consistent: Do what you think is right for each situation and be consistent with that. If you react differently to similar situations, the children will get confused about the right way to behave in that situation.
- Don’t overreact: Although it may be difficult sometimes, try not to overreact or yell at your child. If children hit others, it’s usually not that they want to be mean; it’s just that they don’t know how to communicate their feelings at this point.
- Talk to the child: You need to explain to the kids why you want them to do or not to do something, and if they are old enough to speak, encourage them to explain why they do what they do.
- Reward good behavior: When Your Child behaves well, reward Your Child with a smile, a hug, a kiss, and occasionally, even ice cream. A compliment will also positively reinforce your little one to behave well. Don’t compliment or offer children a gift before they do what you ask them to do — that’s a bribe — and bribes encourage corruption.
- Do not hit your kid: While it may get you an immediate response, the effects don’t last. In fact, we know from multiple studies and years of solid research that children who get hit are more likely to misbehave again.
Ketsupa Jirakarn (Mental health specialist) (31 March 2021)