Dealing with Misbehaviour in Children aged four to ten
Dealing with misbehaviour from children can be quite a challenge to any parent, and while there is never one right way to respond that works for every parent and every child, three are a number of principles that can help. Below we list some ‘Positive Discipline’ principles that focus on encouraging children to behave well while dealing calmly, firmly and positively with misbehaviour. The overall aim is to help parents maintain a good and satisfying relationship with their children while teaching them right from wrong and the skills of behaving well.
Good Discipline is about a Good Relationship
There is no magic about good discipline. It’s basis is a good, open and positive relationship between you and your child. Often when children misbehave the parent child relationship can be put under strain, so it is really important to take steps to build this up again. There are a lot of enjoyable ways this can be done.
Set aside special time with your child.
For younger children this can be 15 or 20 minutes, daily of special playtime, where you make a special effort to play with your child doing things you both enjoy, ideally letting the child choose. For older children it could be a trip to the park or a special conversation before bedtime.
Spend time actively listening to your child.
It can really help to find times where you can sit and really listen to your child, hearing about what they think and feel, really trying to understand them. This can make a real difference to your relationship.
Encourage Wanted Behaviour
Catch your child being good.
Rather than noticing bad behaviour, really go out of your way to notice the times your child behaves well. Remember what you pay attention to will happen more often.
Use clear genuine praise.
Rather than saying vague statements like ‘Good boy’, use very clear and genuine statements of praise each time your child behaves well, such as ‘I’m pleased you came in when I asked’ or ‘Thanks for cleaning your room’. Make sure your child knows exactly what you are pleased about
Be clear about what behaviour you want.
Rather than saying ‘Don’t run in the shop’, say ‘Please keep by my side when we are in the shop’. Saying what you want, is more positive, gives children clear ideas on how to behave and is thus more likely to succeed. Even when you have to say ‘No’ to a child, you can always give him other positive options. For example, ‘No you can’t play with the computer, but why don’t you play with your new skittles’ or ‘No you can’t go over to Steve’s now but you will be able to go out after dinner.’
Encourage steps in the right direction.
Don’t just wait for perfect behaviour before you notice it, especially in the beginning encourage any small examples of good behaviour you see. For example ‘Mary I’m glad to see you get out your books to start your homework’.
Good behaviour can also be encouraged using simple rewards. E.g. ‘John Because you tidied up quickly we have time for an extra story’ or ‘When you do your homework then you can watch TV’.
Thinking about situations in advance can do a lot to avoid and reduce potential conflicts. For example making sure your child has brought some entertaining activities on a long train journey or planning a positive way for him to be involved in a shopping trip, could avoid tantrums and frustration.
Have Good Routines.
Good clear routines around bedtime, mealtimes, homework etc, which make it clear about what is happening and what is expected can really avoid problems. Sit down and plan the routines you want to build up in your family. Remember children can take a while to settle into new routines.
Talk Problems Through
In the long term it is best to talk problems through with children and help them find more positive ways of behaving. This is best done away from a conflict situation when everyone is calm. Remember when talking things through it is best to listen to the child first, going slowly to understand their point of view and feelings before helping them think of other ways of behaving
Many parents inadvertently encourage misbehaviour by giving it attention e.g. giving out, shouting, nagging etc. Simply by ignoring a lot of misbehaviour will disappear or reduce in severity. Rather than correcting your child’s whining, simply pay it no attention and let it go over your head. Or rather than acting as a referee when your children squabble, simply pull back and let them sort it out themselves.
Use choices and consequences.
Rather than nagging children when they misbehave, give them a choice about a consequence. For example ‘Either you clean your toys away now or they will be taken off you for the day – it’s your choice’ or ‘Either you come in now for tea or you will miss your favourite TV programme tonight’.
If you do give a child a consequence to a rule, be prepared to enforce it. When they know you won’t give in, the problems will reduce.
All discipline problems are best managed in a firm but calm way. It is very tempting to get upset or have a go at a child but this doesn’t work and leaves parent and child upset. If you feel yourself getting angry it may be best to withdraw, calm down, and then deal with the situation: ‘I’m too upset to talk about what happened, I will deal with you later about it’
Be kind to yourself as a parent
Though very effective, positive discipline is hard work. You need to be positive and consistent for a long time. It’s hard to do this if you feel tired or low. That’s why it is very important for parents to be kind to themselves and to look their own needs. It is important to find activities you can enjoy or relaxing, or to make sure you keep in touch with good friends and family. Basically by looking after yourself you are looking after your child. The more relaxed and refreshed you feel the more calm positive and consistent you will be.
Dr John Sharry – Help Me To Parent Ltd