When a child misbehaves, we need to put on our LOVE cap and remember to separate the child from the bad behaviour. Changing behaviour will take time, consistency and effort on our part, so keep persevering! If you’re starting to feel annoyed at the behaviour in front of you, take a deep breath, pause and ask yourself these questions:
- Are my child’s emotional and physiological needs met?
First, HALT. I learnt this through a parenting workshop. It seems to be the most basic thing to ask. Is my child…
H – Hungry?
A – Anxious?
L – Lonely?
T – Tired?
You can add on to this list but I find that even as an adult, when I am Hungry and tired… I can turn into a ‘Hangry‘ monster. Your child might not really be able to communicate some of these needs to you in words, but it could manifest as ‘bad’ behaviour.
- Have you communicated your expectations to your child?
If your child doesn’t know what good behaviour is supposed to look like, they will likely do whatever feels right to them. If you expect your child to speak kindly to his sibling, you need to role model it through your tone of voice and choice of words too when speaking to other people in your household. (this definitely includes your husband!)
- Has my child been lacking in love and attention?
Perhaps you’ve been busy at work and haven’t been able to spend much time with your child lately. Could this misbehaviour be a sign that your child is trying to get your attention? Every child is an attention getter. The question is, how will he get your attention? Will it be through doing positive or negative things?
- Was it an accident?
Before you start scolding your child for spilling milk from his cup for the umpteenth time, think if your reaction is appropriate. We all make mistakes even at work. If your boss starts scolding you angrily for a minor careless mistake you did at work, how would you feel?
- How can I communicate with kind words instead of harsh words?
Using the same example as above, how can you communicate your thoughts with kind words instead of angry or harsh words?
Instead of saying, “See! You did it again, you’re so careless!”, can you say kindly and gently, “This is not the first time it’s happened. Please get a cloth to clean up the mess.”
- Have I given enough time for my child to make changes?
Are you expecting a change of behaviour overnight? What is a reasonable amount of time I need to give my child so he can develop new, good habits?
- Is the misbehaviour a way for my child to gain control?
This is a tough one to reflect on. If you start to notice a pattern where your child is constantly misbehaving because he wants things done his way, then you have a power-driven child. Interestingly, power-driven children are often raised by authoritarian parents who also have a need to ‘control’ the situation which often results in a power struggle.
Understanding where our child is coming from can help us work through problems with a different perspective. If you are discipling your child from a place of anger, ask yourself, if this is where you want to be? What kind of atmosphere would you like your home to have?