How to Stop Bad Behavior Before it Starts
Coping with a child's bad behavior, perhaps more than any other aspect of parenting, can cause stress, family disfunction, and a general loss of harmony in your home. Over time, negative behavior cycles can become ingrained in a family's way of interacting with each other
This approach belies the fact that we parents usually have decades more life experience than our children, we have had more education, and we are more mature (hopefully). In short, we should be the ones in charge. Contrary to what children might say, they in fact, want us to be in charge. They know better than anyone what their limitations are, and if they are given too much responsibility, it scares them. Imagine how you would feel if you were suddenly put in charge of a small country in a foreign land. You might feel powerful, but I dare say, you wouldn't feel secure. It's like being the captain of a sailboat and not knowing how to sail. Eventually you would run aground.
Research has shown that in order to raise well-adjusted kids, parents need to be authoritative. Authoritative parents were described as people whose motto is, "I love and respect you, but since I am the parent, you have to do what I say regardless of whether you agree with me." Taking this type of approach with your child ensures that they know they are loved, and that they will be saved from making bad choices because they have a parent looking out for them. Setting limits for your kids makes the world more manageable for them. They feel safer knowing what the boundaries are, and in knowing that they have your help to stay within them.
2. Consistency is Key
A psychologist I know stated that the surest way to have kids who misbehave is to be inconsistent. By having limits that are fluid and that change depending on circumstances, kids spend most of their time with you testing those limits. They know that sooner or later, they'll wear you out, and they'll get what they want. So, if you want to be worn out day after day, then the secret is to be wishy-washy about rules. If you don't want to battle day after day with your kids, then set good rules and stick to them!
3. Know Your Child
Your child might have similar issues with transitions, or she may act up when tired or hungry. Your child might feel uncomfortable in crowds, be afraid of loud noises, or become easily overwhelmed in stores. By knowing your child's triggers for bad behavior, you'll know what to avoid. For those things you can't avoid, you'll at least be able to develop helpful strategies for coping with problems.
4. Know Yourself
5. Pay Attention
Katie Basson is a parent, teacher, and creator of The BITs Kit Better Behavior Kit for Kids?. Katie teaches seminars on behavior modification techniques, and assists parents through challenging behavioral and educational issues. She serves on the Board of Directors of the YWCA and is an educational advisor to Zoesis, Inc., a children's software company. Katie's expert advice has been sought for articles in The Boston Globe and Parents Magazine. Sign up for her biweekly Parenting Solutions newsletter at www.bitskit.com.
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