Biting, hitting, kicking, yelling, throwing, name-calling, and all out tantrums. Sound familiar? Almost every kid, no matter how darling, acts out, and it’s our job as parents to figure out why. If your kid’s behavior has you stumped, consider these four reasons why kids misbehave.
1. To get attention
Kids love and crave our attention, and they’ll even choose negative attention over being ignored. If your kid acts out, it may be a bid to get your undivided attention at any cost. Think about what’s been going in your home lately. Have you been unusually distracted, is there a new sibling in the home, or have your circumstances changed considerably in the recent past? Unwittingly you may be giving your child less attention than normal.
It’s important to spend one-on-one time with each of your children every day. Life gets busy, and this probably seems daunting, but focus on quality time instead of quantity time if you must. Read books before bed, get on the floor and play with toys, or walk your child to school by yourself. You can also bring your child along on errands if you’re really pressed for time. The important thing is making sure your child feels like you have time for him and him alone.
Kids, especially toddlers, have a very low tolerance for noise and people. Think about it: the world is a very large, confusing place to a young child, and they are constantly trying to figure out how to behave correctly. It gets exhausting really quickly. When your child melts down in public or at the end of the day, there’s a good chance she’s reached her stimulation breaking point.
To avoid overstimulation, don’t over schedule. Keep outings and playdates relatively short, and honor bedtime and nap time. If your child is particularly susceptible to sensory overload, offer a quiet place in the house for alone time.
3. He thinks he’s in charge
There is a child-centric movement in modern parenting that focuses on modeling loving behavior to our children so they’ll comply. It’s a great concept, but it is sometimes taken too far by those who don’t understand child development. While our children need affection, they also need leadership in the home, and they crave boundaries that help them make sense of social interactions. Also, a child will not mimic an adult he perceives as weak and submissive, no matter how loving and gentle the attitude. Your child needs to see that you are in charge and expect obedience.
Does that mean you have to resort to yelling and corporal punishment? Absolutely not! Create clearly-defined house rules and enforce them consistently. You can lovingly discipline by getting down on the child’s level, speaking in an authoritative voice, identifying the misbehavior, outlining expectations for the future and enforcing consequences. If you’re uncomfortable with the idea of time-out, try a time-in technique where your child sits with you quietly until she is calm enough to rejoin the activity.
4. Your child is high-maintenance
Most psychologists estimate that personality is 50 percent environment and 50 percent genetics. In other words, your child may be naturally strong-willed or have low inhibitions. That doesn’t mean you should give up, but rather that you should not beat yourself up if you have a child that’s more boisterous than his peers. Keep enforcing your house rules and giving your child ample affection when he behaves well. Prepare for a long, uphill battle, but you’ll get through it together.
Life with kids does not need to turn into a constant battle. Expect some unruly behavior, but stay on top of your rules and consequences. The goal of discipline is not to crush a child’s spirit but to help him learn to control himself. It’s a goal you can both work on together.