Guest post by Lynn Reilly
When it comes to addressing the behavior of a child who is acting out, do you know what the most difficult part is?
Creative Commons Flickr via Tim Green aka atoach
Once you have an understanding of why a child is choosing a negative or bad behavior, it is easier to respond and help them to find a different behavior that works better for both of you.
We choose behaviors for a reason.
We yell to get attention and be heard. We cry to show frustration and disappointment. We push and kick when we don’t have the skills or can’t find the words to express anger and resentment.
We steal when we feel we can’t get what we desire using traditional methods. We use the words “please” and “thank you” when we want to show respect in an effort to get what we want.
We use behaviors to communicate our needs.
Children develop their communication methods since birth and rely on the responses of their parents, caregivers, and peers to determine if the communication they’ve chosen is getting the desired result.
When the communication methods we use don’t work to benefit us or those around us, it’s time to change them up.
As parents and caregivers, it’s our responsibility to help them determine how well their communication method is working, by creating consequences for each behavior to either deter and encourage them to continue.
- If they cry as infants, we respond to that behavior by picking them up to comfort them, or feeding them if they show signs of hunger.
- When they throw a temper tantrum after they don’t get a toy they want, we remove them from the environment and do not allow them to have the toy, to show them that their behavior will not work.
- When they lie, they lose our trust and their freedom, and have to work to gain it back.
- When they use harsh tones to demand what they want, they don’t get it.
- When they use manners and gestures of appreciation, they are often given what they ask for.
It’s fairly basic when you strip it down.
For every action, there is a reaction.
This is what we, as parents and caregivers are in control of and teach our children. They choose an action or behavior to communicate their needs, and we choose a reaction to their behaviors. This process teaches them what will get them what they want and what won’t.
Outside of the home, they will learn that if they are kind to others, they will gain friendships. If they are unkind to others, they will lose them or have very few.
If they do their homework they will get good grades. If they save their money, they can buy a nicer pair of shoes—and if they’re really patient, maybe even on sale!
And just when you think you are losing your mind because your child seems to always be choosing bad behavior, remember this….
We learn from the consequences of our negative behaviors just as much as the ones from our positive behaviors.
In conclusion, as long as consequences exist to support or discourage the behavior, the learning is still taking place. Just perhaps with a few premature gray hairs at stake.
With the consistent consequences in place, the behavior that needs adjusting will change…and the box of hair dye will always go on sale.
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Lynn Reilly is a mother of 2 young children and a professional school counselor for adolescents. She shares her perspectives regularly on everyday parenting concerns, based on her professional counseling experiences. These are fused with personal parenting experiences using a blend of humor and reality in Perspective Parenting. Her blog is also the featured blog for this month (June).