Dealing with challenging behavior: Part 1
All children are challenging at times, make sure you aren't rewarding negative behavior with attention.
As angelic and perfect as our children may seem, we all know that they have their “bad days.” This can be difficult and challenging as a parent, especially if we are experiencing a “bad day” too! It’s quite typical for a 3 year old child through kindergarten age to show challenging behaviors such as anger, aggression, defiance and sad withdrawal. Michigan State University Extension says that the frustrating activities and events going on around children, along with their natural temperament, will affect how often and the intensity of challenging behavior.
Often parents get just as frustrated as the child becomes challenging and may find themselves responding with aggression and other challenging behaviors. Although it is difficult to think rationally when your child is acting out, it is important to remain calm. Children will feed off of your behavior and the way you respond to situations and individuals. If you have to walk in the other room and close the door to take some deep breaths that is better than lashing out in front of your child. You are your child’s first teacher. The way you handle challenging situations is the example that you set for your child.
Most preschoolers will use aggressive behavior because they are angry or frustrated and don’t know how to express their feelings in words. Remember, behavior is communication! You can help your child by labeling his feelings. For example, “Tommy, we don’t bite! I know you’re angry but biting hurts!” You should also stop the behavior and give attention and empathy to the child who is the victim. Restating the rules may be necessary and suggesting an alternate behavior. Avoid responding with aggressive behavior, such as spanking, biting the child back, belittling and humiliating the child or yelling. If a parent lacks self-control chances are the child will too. As a parent, you must act as your child’s controller. Help them learn to control their actions. In time they will learn more appropriate ways to handle their anger and other feelings.
As parents, many times we tend to notice when our child is misbehaving. Try this—Catch your child being good! Give them attention and praise for doing something good rather than something bad or wrong. A child will misbehave if they are attention seeking; they will misbehave if they have learned they receive more attention when misbehaving, rather than behaving. This shift will take some time but eventually you will see a change in behavior.