When our kids misbehave, it can be very frustrating for us parents. And many parents resort to fear, threats, yelling, or bribes to get children to stop misbehaving. But with these tips, you can ditch your old patterns, and instead direct your children to the path of appropriate behavior.
- Ask for what you want: If I tell you “don’t think about ice cream”, the first thing that pops in your head is probably a big bowl of ice cream. The same goes for our children–when we say “Don’t throw your toys”, what sticks in their head is “throw your toys”, so they throw their toys. More effective than telling your child what you don’t want them to do is to tell your child what you do want them to do. What that looks like is instead of saying: “Don’t throw your toys”, say “keep the toys in her hands.” or “Please show me how you can play with your toys on the floor.” Instead of “stop hitting the baby”, say “you may have gentle hands with the baby”. Instead of “No going outside to play until your chores are done”, say “When your chores are done, you can go outside to play.”
- Empathize: Children who feel listened to, listen better to you and your limits and boundaries. Take a moment to understand how your child must feel and offer your child a simple empathizing statement so that they feel understood, heard, and accepted. Ex. “Oh I can see why you want that.” Or, “Yeah, I get it. I loved to stay up late when I was younger too.” When children feel heard, understood, and accepted, they will have an easier time facing the reality of the situation, and are more willing to then cooperate with you.
- Take action: It’s time to turn off tv to leave the house, so you say “Turn off tv. It’s time to go.” Your child doesn’t listen to you so you say it louder and then again in a more firm tone. You keep repeating yourself until eventually everyone is angry or not feeling so great. Nobody wants to be left with those feelings, and it only teaches your child that they need to cooperate with you when you use a firm tone or yell. So instead ask once and then take action in a calm manner by walking over to turn off the tv yourself. By taking calm action, you are sending the message to your child that you are only willing to ask once, and your child will begin to cooperate with you when you ask them to.
- Use a calm and neutral tone: When we react to misbehavior by yelling or using a harsh tone it escalates the situation, you start reacting to each other and your child hears your tone and feels your reaction more than they hear your words. It also gives a lot of power to that behavior which only reinforces that behavior in your child. But when you use a calm and neutral tone, your child can hear your words better and they are able to focus on their problem and how to correct it and they can learn from it.
- Understand the “why” behind the misbehavior: Misbehavior is actually a form of communication, so it’s important to look underneath the misbehavior to find out why your child is misbehaving and teach to the “why”. For example, when my daughter was 1 ½ she began hitting/grabbing/pushing other kids. When I looked beyond the hitting behavior, I saw that she was wanting to engage and play with the kids but didn’t know how, so I taught her how to approach kids in a more appropriate way. Or if you have a child who you are constantly getting into power struggles with, you could help your child find appropriate ways to feel powerful. When we teach our children how to communicate their needs in an appropriate way, it lessens the need for them to misbehave.
For more tips on how to handle misbehavior, plus how to effectively discipline (when redirection doesn’t work), join the waitlist for my parenting course, Family Elements.