Parents frequently scratch their heads wondering how their charming cherub suddenly morphed into a temperamental tyrant. Often, their biggest concern is whether or not this behavior is just a phase, or points to a more serious problem.
First, know that it’s perfectly normal for children to test their boundaries to see how far they extend. The expectations at school, home and grandma’s house are usually different, so they need to learn what the parameters are in each setting. Sometimes, difficulty in making the transition from one place to another can create some unattractive behaviors. A little time and a lot of patience can go a long way.
Here are some other ways you can circumvent behavior problems:
Unrealistic expectations. Sometimes a parent’s or teacher’s expectations are higher than the developmental stage of the child. It would be unreasonable to ask a three year-old to go and clean their room. They wouldn’t know where to start and may pitch a fit or cry in frustration. Instead, break it down into smaller tasks by asking him to put his toys in the toy bin, or place his dirty clothes in the hamper.
Don’t reward bad behavior. When a child is crying or throwing a tantrum, don’t give in just so they will quieten down. Otherwise, they will quickly learn this is the best way to get what they want. Likewise, negative attention (yelling or spanking) should not be given if they are misbehaving. Instead, firmly state what the consequences will be if they continue and then follow through.
Lead by example. Children are wonderful mimics and they want to be just like the grown-ups they love and admire. That’s why you have to remember that what they see and hear at home is what they consider to be normal behavior. If you are yelling and cursing, they will think that is acceptable behavior. Imagine how confused they will be when they are reprimanded for doing the same thing.
“Worry about yourself.” Little ones want to assert themselves and show their desire for more independence at a very young age. In the wildly popular YouTube video shown below, this cute little tyke refuses any help whatsoever with buckling her car seat.
Of course, not all acts of independence are quite this charming. In fact, they can be very exasperating for both caregivers and children. Especially when the child realizes that he can’t do it himself. Or you become frustrated with his efforts and the amount of time its taking. You can help children feel more in control by offering lots of choices. Let him choose what book he wants to read, or if he wants to put on his pajamas or brush his teeth first. Foster independence by assigning little “chores” such as putting the napkins on the table at dinner time or feeding the fish.
Seeking outside help. If are concerned about your child’s continuing behavior issues, consult with a qualified mental health professional to see if there are any underlying issues such as anxiety or a learning disability. Sometimes a disorder such as autism or ADHD may identified. The important thing is to help your child learn key development tasks such as problem solving skills and impulse control, while bringing stability back to the family unit.