Every parent reaches their wits end when dealing with children’s misbehavior. Just remember that your child isn’t “out to get you”, there are often very explainable and preventable reasons for misbehavior.
The most common reasons for misbehavior are:
1. Your child’s basic needs aren’t being met, he is tired, cranky or hungry which makes all his emotions magnified and little problems difficult to handle.
- What you can do: make sure your child is fed and rested before venturing out. Make sure you don’t skip a meal or your child’s nap time. It can take some compromise on your part as a parent to make sure you’re child finds a place to take his nap while you’re out but it will make both of you happy in the long term.
2. Seeking attention, your child may be trying to get your attention and learned that getting attention through misbehavior is easier and more effective.
- What you can do: Try to ignore unwanted attention seeking behavior as long as your child isn’t harming himself or others. Make sure you praise positive behavior so your child realizes there is an alternative way to get your attention. With repetition your child will learn he can do positive things instead of misbehaving to get your attention.
3. Displaying inadequacy,children who feel inadequate will refuse to try new things and give up easily.
- What you can do: Offer your child encouragement when approaching a task. Use encouraging words and phrases like “you can do it!”. Try to offer your child toys or activities that are within your child’s developmental abilities with a bit of challenge to help in learn but not cause frustration. Remember to give him the space and independence to do it on his own but be close by in case he asks for help.
4. Controlling, children who want to be in control refuse to follow direct requests, lash out when reprimanded and refuse to do what their parents request.
- What you can do: Don’t get yourself into a power struggle, simply state expectations and consequences in advance. If your child does not follow through (cleaning up) then follow with the consequence (can’t go out to play). With repetition and time your child will learn to avoid consequences with minimal conflict. As a parent make sure you do not insist on everything as well. It’s best to keep firm rules down to a few that mainly have to do with safety like crossing the street or not touching the oven. This gives you room to compromise and revisit other rules as your child grows and has different developmental needs and capabilities.
5. Revenge seeking behavior is when your child shows mean behavior like saying “i don’t love you” or breaking another child’s toy. This behavior reflects that your child feels he has no value or little worth.
- What you can do: There is usually an underlying reason why children lash out with hurtful words and phrases. Sometimes a simple incident like leaving a birthday before seeing the clown can seem like the end of the world for your child with such intense emotions. The best way to handle this is to avoid consequences that might be viewed as retaliation, instead help him make amends like fixing the friend’s toy or make sure to explain why you had to leave the birthday at that time and acknowledge your child’s feelings. Most importantly remind your child that you LOVE him even when he is misbehaving. This can be hard but will help him stop acting out for revenge.
Photo from Mariam El Mofty
Here is a list of fun ideas you can do with your baby with materials that are around the house or are easily accessible
This fun activity from The Imagination Tree is great for your baby’s fine motor skills, eye-hand coordination and sensory skills.Check out more Baby Play ideas on their site.
Also featured on The Imagination Tree. Playing with mirrors is great for exploring the self, textures and environment. Different mirror materials can be used, like toy mirrors, story box mirrors and other safe reflective surfaces.
Your baby can usually start rolling a ball between 8 – 18 months. Most children are capable of this when they are around a year old. It’s a great activity for developing eye-hand coordination, which is a skill needed later for drawing, writing and eating. Ball rolling is also great for physical gross and fine motor development. You can use small or big balls to keep your baby entertained and depending on her ability and age. Remember don’t force your baby into the activity, just giving her the opportunity is enough, she’ll participate when she’s ready.
Listening to music has been associated with increased spatial reasoning. Music and dance can have numerous positive effects on your baby; putting her in a good mood, helping her relax and just plain having fun. Dancing is an activity that can foster physical development as well as emotional and cognitive abilities. I’ve had experience with babies as young as 6 months moving their feet to the beat! Don’t be shy to give your baby some shakers or instruments to help her express herself and how she feels with the music.
Babies usually love water! Although they might find it stressful to take a bath in the first few weeks, most babies grow to love it and start crying when you take them out of the bath! Let your baby have some extra bath time and surround him with some rubber duckies and other safe play material. Some areas also offer swimming time for parents and their infants in groups. If you have access to a garden or beach, give your little one the chance to experience the wet mud and sand. It might be a hassle to clean up but you’re giving him a great experience in feeling textures and exploration which is great for his brain development. Remember never leave a baby in water unsupervised as it is extremely dangerous since babies can easily drown in a few inches of water.
Of course the most irreplaceable source of joy is you! Mom and Dad! You can provide your baby with all the stimulation and interaction he needs. Talking and singing helps his language, emotion, social and cognitive development. Your face is an endless screen of expressions that teaches him how social interaction works. Your actions are a perfect model to how baby should act and behave. Most of all you know your baby more than anyone and can give him what he needs at the right time 🙂
Check out more great activities to do with your newborn and baby on the Imagination Tree’s site and The Bub Hub
Cover Photo by Mariam El Mofty
My second article in the Positive Parenting series I am writing for SuperMama. You can find it on their website in English and Arabic
As part of taking a positive approach towards parenting we previously discussed understanding your toddlers’ temperament. In this article, we follow the same approach and why try to understand our toddler’s impulse control; in other words, why toddlers can’t seem to stop themselves.
What is impulse control?
Even though it may seem at times that your child doesn’t listen to a word you say, remember that your child isn’t out to get you. If you sometimes feel that your child just can’t seem to control his actions, you’re probably right but it’s for a good reason! That’s because at this young age your child is still beginning to develop impulse control, which is a person’s ability to suppress or restrain himself from doing something, like concentrating on your work while shutting out distractions. It also includes the concept of delayed gratification which is the ability to wait in order to get something you want.
Why do toddlers seem to lose control and “not listen”?
As a parent you may be thinking that your toddler has difficulty restraining himself or waiting for things and you have a point! That’s because these abilities depend on a part of the brain called the frontal lobes, which develop slower than other parts of the brain. By age two development is underway but won’t be well developed till age 7, some reports even state that it continues to it’s mature form by the age of 21.
As a toddler, your child is struggling to control his emotions and actions. Lack of impulse control is what causes your child to reach for the remote yet again even though you already said “No” several times. It’s when your child persists to want the cookie NOW! And when emotions become too hard to handle and result in tantrums. Understanding what your child is and isn’t capable of can help you have appropriate expectations and result in fewer situations of conflict between you and your child.
So why is impulse control important?
Won’t most children outgrown this phase? Yes, most children will, however the quality and their ability to regulate their emotions and actions depends largely on their experiences as young children. It’s the difference in early experiences that will result in developmental differences later in life. A classic study called the Marshmallow Test was conducted where 4-year olds were asked to stay in a room for a few minutes with a marshmallow and not eat it. They were told if they didn’t eat it by the time the observer came back, they would get the marshmallow in addition to another one. Of course, some children ended up eating the whole thing as soon as the observer left and never looked back. However, there were those who waited and got them both. The interesting part is that years later researchers caught up with the same group of children, who were now in their teens. Surprisingly, those who had controlled themselves and waited as children were more self-confident, popular among peers, able to cope better with frustration and more successful in school than those who ate the marshmallow straight away.
What You Can Do:
- Set few clear rules: The more things are off-limits the more likely your child will end up misbehaving. Constantly saying “No” decreases it’s effectiveness when you really need to use it. Try to select few clear rules that cover safety and will allow your child to play and explore at the same time.
- Provide an appropriate environment:Now that you know why your child sometimes has difficulty controlling his impulses make sure your setting is child friendly. Put objects you don’t want him to touch out of reach and bring along a story or box of crayons when going out to give your child age appropriate alternatives.
- Remind him of the rules: Don’t anticipate misbehavior but remind your child positively about what is expected of him in certain situations. For example, explaining that she can help you find the items in the supermarket but no running down the aisle. This way you positively redirect your child and give her an alternative.
- Practice turn taking: Whether it’s with you or a sibling, encourage your child to wait for his turn. This will help foster impulse control as your child eventually learns to trust the situation and that he will get his turn. Remember to always follow through or give an honest explanation if you can’t.
- Play games that take time: Doing puzzles or using building blocks can help your child learn patience as she works to reach her desired goal.
I hope this article helps you understand your child’s developmental abilities to control his impulse. Remember that when your child feels overwhelmed, sometimes comfort is more effective than correction.
Bright from the Start by Jill Stamm
The first article in the Positive Parenting series I am writing for SuperMama. Click for the English and Arabic versions of the article.
Ask any parent and they’ll tell you the joys of being a parent are priceless. Still, parenting is one of the toughest jobs out there. Understanding your child’s behavior can help make everyday situations and disciplining easier for you. The first step to that is understanding your child’s temperament.
Temperament isn’t something your child chooses or that you created. Each child is born with his own natural style of interacting with the people and environment around him. This uniqueness is evident from birth; some babies are quiet while others loudly demand attention. Children in the same family can have different temperaments as well. These temperamental differences mean that each child has different needs and parenting can’t be a “one size fits all” scenario. Temperamental traits usually stay with the child into adulthood and differs from personality.
Recognizing your child’s behavioral patterns that are influenced by temperament can help you anticipate your child’s reactions to certain situations. Additionally, it can help you decide on the best way to deal with your child’s needs.
Temperament Types & What you can do:
There are generally three different temperament types. Most children can easily fall into one of these categories while others show a combination of these patterns.
- Easy or flexible children are usually happy, calm, adaptable, have regular sleeping and eating habits, a generally positive mood and are interested in new experiences.
What you can do: You may need to make special time to talk about your child’s feelings since your child might not naturally demand that due to her easy style. Make sure you spend enough play time and talk to your baby who may be naturally quiet. She will still need all the early experiences of social interaction and communication to help her develop.
- Active or “difficult” children are often active, fussy, more likely to be irregular in feeding and sleeping habits, are more fearful of new people and situations and are easily upset by noise and commotion.
What you can do: Give your active child opportunity to work off his energy. Give choices (usually limit them to two options) to reduce conflict. For example, give a choice of wearing the blue or red sweater while getting dressed. Make sure to prepare your child if the situation will change to make transitions easier. Such as, letting him know it’s almost bedtime and giving him time to prepare for that instead of expecting him to immediately put away his toys and go to bed. Try giving your child tasks to help move from one activity for the other. Such as, brushing his teeth before going to bed. Remember to explain to your child what’s happening, this can make activities like diaper changing and getting dressed much easier once your child knows what to expect and understands his role.
- Slow to warm up or cautious children are usually inactive, they tend to withdraw or respond negatively to new experiences. However, they slowly become more positive and adjust with continuous, positive and supportive exposure.
What you can do: Your child may need more time to adjust to new situations and people. Make sure to give her enough support and time to feel comfortable enough to venture out. Change can also be difficult to handle, try to give your child enough notice that a situation will be changing. For example, let your child know when it’s almost time for dinner and she has to put her toys away soon, that way she has enough time to prepare herself to move on to the next activity. Routines are also important and a source of comfort, they help children feel in control of their surroundings. Remember not to force your child if she’s not ready. Comfort and support are much more effective ways to helping her feel secure enough to explore her surroundings.
Parenting with Temperament in Mind
- Avoid comparing him to other children. Remember that your responses can help adapt his temperament. A timid child can become more comfortable with a supporting parent.
- Communicate limits and decisions clearly. Involving your child in setting rules will help make routines and transitions easier as well as help your child develop self control.
- Be aware of your own temperament and try to adjust yourself to your child. This doesn’t mean changing who you are, but realizing that your child enjoys experiencing the world in a different way.
- Finding activities to bond and understanding your child’s actions which are very different from your own can be a struggle. Those feelings are OK and it’s important to communicate them with your partner.
Remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” temperament. Even though some temperaments might be easier to deal with than others, it’s still one of your child’s unique qualities. It’s important that your child feels loved the way she is. Remember, the goal isn’t to change your child, but to help nurture her unique strengths and to deal with difficult situations.
How many parents have thought about taking a moment and listening to their child? If you have, how often have you actually gotten down to your child’s level and listened to his thoughts and ideas? It can be difficult for parents to find the time and energy to listen to young children, especially in times of conflict or stress. Even though we might spend most of our time directing or talking to children, listening is also an important part of communication. It a great way to help you understand how your child thinks and feels and encourages her self-expression and independence. By listening to your child you send the signal that her thoughts, ideas and feelings matter.
Different stages of your child’s development require different means of listening from infancy through the early years.
Infants typically need parents to listen to their cues and signals. It’s important to observe your baby and learn her expressions of anger, frustration and happiness. By learning your baby’s cues and signals you can respond quickly and appropriately to her needs. Infants learn from reoccurring experiences, as you consistently respond to her this in turn helps her feel secure in knowing her caregiver is available in times of distress as well as understanding that her actions cause certain reactions from you.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
At this age your child is developing more complex feelings of emotions as well as a burst of words to help express herself. Your child still needs your help in regulating these emotions and expressing thoughts and ideas. However, she’s also starting a stage of independence where her self-expression matters. It’s important to effectively listen to your child which in turn will foster her independence, self-confidence, self-expression and critical thinking skills. Here are a few practical tips you can implement.
- Talk about feelings: Acknowledge your child’s feelings when sad or angry, “I can see you are feeling sad”. Validating and respecting your child’s feelings is the first step to letting your child know that her independent thoughts matter.
- Offer comfort. Sometimes young children need to have their feelings validated but can’t express themselves yet. Just like infants, learn to read your child’s cues and signals and offer appropriate comfort when needed.
- Actively listen to your child: Listen to your child without interruption and let her take her time to express herself, younger non verbal children may need your help by asking questions about what happened or elaborating on their statements. Make sure you refrain from subjective statements, try to be as objective as possible when helping your child out. After your child is done make sure you understood correctly, restate your child’s thoughts as she stated them. This shows your child that you did actually listen to her point of view. Try to avoid judging your child’s opinion.
- Ask questions to get more information: “what happened” “How did you feel when he took the ball from you”. Follow-up questions help acknowledge your child’s feelings and help you understand how your child is feelings.
- Have your child propose solutions: In situations of conflict you can encourage your child to propose a new solution to the situation. This typically works best with older children who are able to express themselves easily and understand the concept of consequences. Remind your child of your general house rules and suggest she pose a solution. She may truly surprise you! If the solution conflicts with your house rules simply mention that and start over. Let your child carry out the solution and follow up with her if she feels it’s working out or not. If not, then discuss the reasons and go back to negotiating a new one. This strategy helps foster your child’s independence, self-help skills as well as learning about consequences and compromise.
- Try to avoid objecting to your child’s opinion too soon: Give your child ample chance to explain before saying No. If possible offer a series of questions that allow your child to reach this conclusion on her own.
Points to Remember
- Choose appropriate techniques for your child’s age and abilities. It can be quite frustrating for a 3 year old to have to come up with a solution or readily express herself using long sentences. This is behavior is more appropriate for a 5 year old. Try one or two word sentences and yes/no questions with your younger child.
- Try to find the reason behind certain misbehavior. Is your family going through a stressful time or significant changes? Moving, having a baby or starting school are all things that could cause your child to start acting out.
- Use simple language when speaking to your child. Your child might get lost if you use long and complex sentences. Try to be concise and to the point using simple words that your child can easily understand.
- Get down to your child’s eye level. This does wonders to the conversation. Your child feels she has your full attention and is more willing to communicate and listen to you.
- Offer choices. If things get complicated or you’re dealing with a young child, offering choices can be a good solution. Limit them to two choices to avoid confusion and make sure you can follow through!
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Great Resources on Listening
Picture from E>mar