If you’ve been a parent for longer than 2 seconds then you know kids will misbehave, a lot. If you’re not a parent, then you fall into one of two categories. Either you understand kids misbehave for a myriad of reasons or you’re the type to judge the mom in Target with a tantruming toddler. You may even say, “When I have kids they will NEVER act like that.”
Well sweetheart, all us moms are just sitting here laughing at your cute little naive self. Some of us were probably a lot like you, then our kid turned 1, then 2, then 3, and so on.
Every stage of a child’s life has its ups and down, triumphs and challenges. At 1 they are learning to walk which means you don’t have to hold them as much and allows you a little freedom. On the other hand, they will now be getting into everything so you’re having to watch them 10x closer.
At age two they are finding their independence which is nice because it can be a big help to you as the mom. On the other hand, they are also learning their emotions and how to manage them. This means you’re in for some major melt downs and fits over the littlest of things.
Trying to help our kids learn appropriate behavior is exhausting because once you feel like you have mastered one set of problems, BAM a whole new set shows its ugly face and your back to square one. My kids are all toddlers or living in a womb still so our behavior is only that of a 5-year-old and under. I have heard countless times from other moms, “Cherish this time because the teen years are a whole new ball game.”
I believe them, why? Well, because I was a teen girl and, I don’t’ know about you but, I was defiantly not the easiest kid to raise. All I can do at this point, beside be the best parent I can, is to pray that our kids take after their father.
That boy was NEVER in trouble. He had two other sisters and when they got in trouble he learned from their mistakes. Genius I know. Unfortunately, you have me on one side of the spectrum who was grounded more days than not in her teen years, then you have my husband who has probably never been grounded a day in his life. Just like my husband and I were polar opposites as kids, your children will all be different as well. They will experience their emotions differently and express themselves in different or even polar opposite ways.
No matter what kind of kid you have on your hands you can still try to understand their behavior better by asking yourself a set of simple questions. These questions are designed to help you find the root of the problem and then come up with a creative way to correct or guide the misbehavior.
1.Is this age appropriate behavior?
The first thing you want to ask yourself is, “Is this behavior age appropriate.” About a year ago someone in a mom group of mine mentioned the realization that a lot of the misbehavior she was experiencing with her kids was age appropriate.
This was one of those light bulb moments in my motherhood journey. My daughter was 3 going on 4 and for her this was the time that misbehavior, tantrums, and meltdowns really started. I was so frustrated every day until I heard the mom say this.
In that moment I realized that all of my child’s behavior was age appropriate and that’s ok. Does that mean that all her behavior should be accepted and allowed? No, of course not, but for me it allowed me to understand the behavior better which in turn helped me handle each situation from an understanding perspective instead of a stressed-out confused mom trying to make her child act in a way that was above her age level.
Another thing this realization did for me was help me see that since most of this was age appropriate behavior then that meant that most other moms were going through the exact same thing. Knowing I wasn’t alone in this journey and that my experience wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, helped me cope with the stress of the countless tantrums and meltdowns.
2.Am I adding fuel to the fire?
This one can be hard because you aren’t evaluating the kid, but yourself. Most of the time we react to a situation or misbehavior in a way that does more harm than good. Maybe it’s the tone of our voice, look on our face, or lack of sympathy?
I get it. You’ve told the kids 12 MILLION times to pick up their room and yet it still looks worse than a trailer park after a tornado storm. We’ve all been there. In these kinds of situations its hard to hold our composure and handle the situation without yelling or dishing out major consequences but is it really effective?
I don’t know about you but for me and my kids it does the opposite. The moment I start raising my voice is the moment the situation goes from bad to worse. They either yell in return or get defiant because they don’t like being yelled at. Heck, I don’t blame them, I don’t like being yelled at either.
After reevaluating many situations, I quickly realized I was the one adding fuel to the fire instead of helping quench it. I was either expecting behavior from them that was above their age range or I was reacting instead of responding to the current situation.
The best thing you can do is to go through all of these questions in your head first before reacting. This will give you a better understanding of where this behavior is coming from, as well as an effective approach to handle the situation without making it 10x worse.
3.What is driving their behavior? (Attention Seeking or Power Struggle)
Sometimes this is going to be obvious while other times it’s going to be a struggle to figure out, but no matter what you should still try and see where the behavior is coming from.
Every kid is different, vastly different. My oldest loves and thrives on quality time while my middle one thrives on physical touch. My almost 5 year old will try to fight for power occasionally while my middle will fight for power every second of every day, or at least it feels that way.
When my daughter is acting out, a lot of the times it’s because she hasn’t gotten one-on-one quality time with me or my husbandThis makes her feel unseen and unimportant. When my middle child is having a day of power struggle after power struggle, I realize that there have been too many times that I controlled the situation instead of letting her have a little independence and control. For example, trying to put on her seatbelt in her car seat, turning on the water herself, letting her turn on the lights, letter her get her own snack, and the list could go on.
The more I can pin point the cause of the misbehavior and then correct that, the less misbehavior I will have moving forward. Also, remember that every day is different so some days this may not work and that’s ok, we’ve all been there. It can suck in the moment but eventually you will find a cause.
Like when my daughter kept waking up crying day after day and seemed to be super grumpy but I couldn’t find a reason. I was at my wits end, until all of a sudden, she spiked a 103 fever. Dun dun dun…She was sick. Now everything made since. Not every day will be black and white. You will have many gray days where it feels like your drifting along lost at sea, but I can promise you that you will get through it.
At this stage of life so much is a guessing game since they can’t communicate like you and I. Somedays you will guess right and others you’ll guess wrong, it’s just part of being a mom. As your kids get older and you learn them more and more, then this will get easier and easier, that is until they hit their teen years and talking becomes the last thing on their list of desiers.
4.How can I help them correct this behavior in a positive way?
There are many ways we can help our kids change their behavior in a positive way, even if it includes a consequence.
If you have noticed that a specific behavior has become a consistent problem and you feel there needs to be a consequence, then come up with one that can be implemented immediately and that is related to the misbehavior.
Here are couple examples.
*If your child keeps refusing to ride their bike or scooter with shoes or a helmet on, then the consequence would be that they can’t ride the scooter for the day.
*The child won’t turn off the TV or media when asked, then the consequence would be that they lose media for a day.
The 4 most important things to remember when coming up with a consequence is the following. Make sure the consequence is related to the behavior. Make sure the consequence can be implemented immediately. Make sure the child is aware of the rule and consequence in advance. Lastly, make sure you as the parent follow through each and every time. If you need a family meeting to talk about the rules and new consequences, then have one. This way everyone is on the same page.
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Some behavior is hard to come up with a consequence for. Either the behavior is random or there isn’t a good consequence that is relatable or can be implemented immediately. In these situations, we handle it in the moment. For example, if my daughter is playing outside and starts throwing rocks at her sister, I will lean down to her level and tell her, “You either stop throwing rocks or you will come inside.
This makes her aware of the consequence in advance as well as keeping the consequence immediate and relatable to the misbehavior. Just make sure you set it up by saying either do/don’t do this or this will happen. This will keep it simple while at the same time giving them the power to make the choice for themselves instead of being told by an adult what to do.
Sometimes misbehavior doesn’t need a consequence, especially if the behavior is coming from a child seeking attention or having a power struggle. It’s important for kids to feel seen and know they’re important, but most of the time we as parents or adults forget that.
If you notice or think that’s where your child’s behavior is coming from try setting aside 10-15 minutes a day of one on one time with them. Your job during this time is to just be fully present. No screens, no chores, no phone calls. The goal is to have uninterrupted one-on-one time.
During this time let the child choose whatever activity they want to do with you. Even if it’s laying on the trampoline looking at clouds, collecting rocks, playing a board game, or even doing the chicken dance. Let them have full control over the activity. (In reason of course.)
TIP:If you can set this time up to be a daily thing then do it. What makes it even better is if you can schedule it for a specific time every day. This helps the kids plan for it and know it’s coming each and every day. If your weeks are too busy, then do extra one on one time during the weekend.
Children will misbehave, a lot. It’s the cycle of life. Our job as parents is to help guide our kids and teach them how to make better choices. It’s not an easy job by any means, but if you ask yourself, and really process through, these four questions you will begin to understand their misbehavior a lot more. It will also help guide you as the parent on what tools you can use to steer your children in a positive but effective way. You’ve got this mama, and I can promise you they won’t be 16 and throwing a temper tantrum in the middle of Target, at least I hope not.