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Inside: Discover the secret to managing child behavior problems in a gentle way and help your child behave better.
One of the things that brought the most challenges for me as a mom was dealing with my son’s negative behavior. Whatever it was about trying to stop him from hitting other kids when he was a toddler, helping him manage his emotions better when he got frustrated at preschool, or any other situation that we faced in the last years, I always tried to find gentle ways to encourage him to improve his behavior.
The most helpful thing that I learned about children’s behavior is that behavior is communication. When kids misbehave they are trying to send us an alarm signal and ask for our help. Sometimes it’s hard to see things like this when a child is completely out of control but it’s a very important thing to remember before dealing with any behavioral issue.
As parents, we need to guide our kids and teach them how to do better. But it’s also important to remember that kids need to feel that we care about their feelings.
Every single negative behavior comes with an underlying emotional cause. Sometimes we are so focused on changing the behavior that we don’t even pay attention to what the cause might be. And this only makes things harder for both the parent and the child!
The secret to managing child behavior problems and encouraging positive changes
The one thing that we often miss as parents is taking a step back to try to understand what triggers the behavior. The answer is in many cases just in front of us but we miss it because we are too focused on stopping the negative behavior.
I noticed this many times in my interactions with my son. Sometimes I was so focused on improving his behavior that I didn’t really take the time to understand the reasons behind it. And every time I did this, things only got worse.
Instead of helping my son improve his behavior, I was just making it worse and feeling more frustrated about it.
photo credit: Yuganov Konstantin / shutterstock.com
Things only changed for the better when I started to change my perspective. Instead of hurrying to find a solution for the negative behavior, I stopped and focused on the emotional cause of it.
When my son was a toddler and was hitting other kids at the playground, he was frustrated and didn’t know how to express this another way.
When he was throwing a tantrum when we got home from preschool, he was overwhelmed by all the things that happened during the day and those emotions got the best of him.
Every single negative behavior has a reason behind it. Even if sometimes that reason is not so obvious and easy to understand.
But here is the thing. managing child behavior
The key to helping a child improve their behavior is accepting the feelings behind it.
Once I understood this and applying this approach with my son, everything changed! He felt heard and understood. I had the change to connect with him and show him my support. I was finally able to offer him the support and guidance he really needed. And this meant a lot for both of us!
How to apply this with your child
It all starts with a perspective shift. Instead of seeing the behavior as a negative thing that you need to stop, see it as a signal that your child needs your support and guidance.
Then, follow these 3 easy steps:
1. Find the reason behind the behavior.
A child’s behavior is highly impacted by their emotional state. When they feel scared, frustrated, overwhelmed, disconnected, they are more likely to misbehave.
For some of these situations, you can easily identify the cause. For others, you’ll need to dig deeper to really understand what is happening.
Big changes like moving to a different home, welcoming a new baby into the family, or starting school can bring many emotions to kids. These emotions sometimes trigger a negative behavior. Kids can become more aggressive or defiant when they feel hurt or overwhelmed.
Identifying the real reason behind the behavior is very important! It will help you offer your child the support they need to overcome the emotional struggle and improve their behavior.
2. Accept the child’s feelings.
Once you know the reason, let the child know that you understand and accept their feelings.
photo credit: Alena Ozerova / shutterstock.com
It’s important to differentiate between accepting the feelings and accepting the behavior.
Let’s take as an example a child who hits other kids. Accepting the feelings means letting the child know that we understand their frustration. (e.g. “I see that you feel very angry. I’m sorry to see you so frustrated.”)
This doesn’t mean accepting the behavior. You can stop the behavior in a gentle way while making sure to validate the child’s feelings. (e.g. “I can’t let you hit another child. I see that you are really upset and I’m here to help you.”)
3. Offer the child a better alternative.
Once you know the reason behind the behavior you can start thinking about a solution. In many cases, the solution is offering the child a set of tools to help them deal with the emotion in a different way.
You can start by teaching the child to identify the emotion. Then you can offer some tools for the child to use when they deal with that emotion. (e.g. “It’s normal to get angry sometimes. But it’s not okay to hit other kids. Let’s find together other things you can do when you feel angry.” – Then you can suggest actions like talking with an adult, taking some time to calm down, using a specific calming strategy.)
You can find more helpful tips on how to do this here: How to help young kids deal with strong emotions in a gentle way.
For me, this approach has been life-changing. I finally felt that I can deal with my son’s negative behavior in a way that will both help him and improve the behavior. I’ve seen so many improvements in his behavior using this strategy that I would gladly recommend it to any parent!
Understanding and accepting the child’s feelings before finding ways to change the behavior can make a huge difference for both you and your child. And I hope that this approach will be as helpful for you as it was for us!
More from Playful Notes
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photo credit preview photo: Yuganov Konstantin / shutterstock.com