Kids can be trying even when they’re being good, but bad behavior can push the very best parents over the edge. But rather than reacting to tantrums and fits, here are some ingenious ideas you can try to defuse your children’s explosive outburst before they derail you or your plans.
1. Smart punishments
It’s always a good idea to hit your kids where it hurts—metaphorically speaking, of course. If you build your punishments around things that they love—TV, phones, games consoles—you’ll begin to see results. For every action that you want to tackle or correct, implement a system where you reduce their screen time. Empty threats won’t work though, so if you’re going to try this option then stick to it.
2. Positive reinforcement
We all resort to the traditional “don’t do x” format when admonishing children, but this is actually counter-productive. Kids—especially smaller ones—tend not to hear the “don’t” part of that instruction and focus on the rest of the sentence, which then becomes irresistible to them. So, “don’t hit your brother” leads inevitably to inter-sibling violence. This is called negative reinforcement—to achieve the behavior you want, you need positive reinforcement. Choose your words carefully and encourage good behavior instead of discouraging the bad. In short, don’t say “don’t”.
3. Model good behavior
We’ve all heard the old line beloved of parents and educators alike, “do what I say, not what I do”. Well, in reality, this doesn’t fly. If you want your children to behave properly you have to model good behavior for them. This applies to all of your children, all of the time. If you react negatively to your own setbacks and frustrations, how do you expect your little ones to do otherwise? Take a long, hard look at your own behavior and, if you see any faults, start correcting them immediately.
4. Don’t give in
So, you’ve been presented with a tantrum or other outburst and have responded by calmly and patiently laying down the law. Then the waterworks start, and apologies quickly follow. What do you do? Well, if you cave, you’re finished. Punishment, be it big, small, clever or otherwise, will only work if you are determined and consistent. Giving in to apologies and then allowing kids to return to what they were doing will only send the message that you have no follow-through.
5. Blank face
No matter what your children do to get you riled up, it’s important not to show it. Kids love the knowledge that they can get a reaction from their parents for acting out, and they are often doing it precisely for all the extra attention they receive. It’s really tough, but you should try not to show any emotion: anger, embarrassment, sadness, whatever. Start practicing your blank face and apply it from now on.
Of course, when it comes to children there are varying degrees of bad behavior. If it is causing serious rifts in your family life, consider asking for professional advice. Happy parenting!