Parents are always wondering why their kids are misbehaving. “My child is so bad, I can’t take him anywhere!” “My son is so lazy, he never makes it to school on time!” “My daughter is so mean to her sister!”
Parents want to discipline their kids and improve their kid’s behavior. We want them to be the best that they can be. Here are some ideas that can help.
1. Know it is normal
We are often horrified by our children’s behavior. But kids are kids. They haven’t learned social niceties yet. They don't know how to cope yet with frustration, hunger, fatigue, anger, jealousy or change.
When kids behave badly, we are witnessing their base reactions to the vicissitudes of life. It is often not pretty. Kids are growing and learning to live in society and we are their teachers.
Kids will be mean when they are frustrated because they don't have the words to tell us, “I’m jealous because my sister got a new bike and I didn’t!”
They will tantrum when they have to face change because they don't have the words to tell us, “I don’t want to move to a new school, I am scared!”
Kids will whine when they are hungry, because they don't even recognize that their uncomfortable feelings stem from hunger.
They will yell when they are angry because they have not learned any better ways to manage, like taking a break, a shower or a walk.
As adults we also have trouble coping at times even though we have developed strategies to help us through our day. We try to make sure we have some healthy snacks in our car if we get hungry, splash cold water on our face when we are angry, or focus on being grateful when we are feeling jealous of our friends new car.
2. Role modeling
The best way to teach your children anything is not by lecturing but by role modeling. So you need to strive to be the person you would like them to be. (No pressure, kids will forgive your imperfections if you forgive them theirs).
We need to model appropriate behavior so that our kids have a good idea on how to behave appropriately.
It starts with how we talk to our spouses, how we deal with anger and how we manage the ups and downs of life.
Kids do what we do, not what we say. That’s why, in the words of Wendy Mogel, “Some of the least glamorous yet most valuable character traits, such as patience, tenacity, foresight, courage, self-control, and acceptance are won in the trenches of parenthood.”
3. Be Consistent About Rules and Limits
Kids need to know that you will stick to the rules and limits that you set. It is confusing for kids if one day you let them have one more TV show, go to sleep a half hour, have that chocolate bar before dinner, and then the next day you forbid it. It also makes them more frustrated and argumentative.
4. Focus on the positive:
If you want to change a child’s behavior, point out the times that they are complying. It does not help children to hear that they are wild, mean or lazy. What does help is to point out the times that they actually act appropriately.
“You came to dinner right when I called you and you sat at the table and ate with us. Thanks for sharing with us what you did in school today.”
“When you were done with the computer, you called to Sara and told her that it was her turn. That was considerate of you.”
“I appreciate your help carrying in the groceries. I know you didn't want to stop playing basketball to come help.”
Focusing on our child’s positive behavior works because it creates good feelings in us and in our kids. And we will hopefully look at our kids in a more positive light. “Hey, maybe they are not so bad after all.”
Disciplining kids can be tough, but if we know that their behavior is normal, role model good behavior, act consistently with our rules and focus on the positive qualities in our children, it can definitely be a lot easier.