All parents, at some time or the other, feel stressed by their child’s behaviour every day and get over-whelmed by it. Many parents are confused about how often their children should be on their best behaviour. It’s important for parents to remember they are not alone, and there are always strategies that can help.
Here are four things a parent should know about managing a child’s behaviour.
1.Parenting is stressful
Almost half of the parents spend a lot of time thinking about how to manage their child’s behaviour. All parents experience stress as they attempt to meet the challenges of caring for their children. But high levels of parenting stress can also make child behaviour problems worse.
Parenting websites such as raisingchildren.net.au contain tips on ways to recognize and reduce stress, which can help parents cope with the daily challenges of parenthood.
Advice from a health professional can also help.
2. Your child may be acting their age, not misbehaving.
Children behave in different ways depending on their age, temperament, developmental stage and the situation. Yet many parents believe children should always be on their best behaviour, suggesting they have unrealistic expectations about a child’s capacity to behave in certain ways.
Children are bound to have difficulty regulating their emotions, have tantrums, have strong opinions about eating or resisting bedtime.
Even adults cannot be expected to be o their best behaviour all the time, so we certainly can’t expect this of our children.
3.Praise works better than punishment.
No matter how old children are, praise and encouragement will help them feel good about themselves, boosting their self-esteem and confidence.
Praise works best to encourage desired behaviour when it it genuine and task specific- that is, when you tell your child exactly what it is they have done well or descriptive praise.
A concerning proportion of parents report using negative or punitive strategies, including physical discipline to manage their child’s behaviour.
Physical discipline was defined as anything done to cause physical pain or discomfort to a child in response to their behaviour including smacking, hitting, spanking, slapping, pinching or pulling.
Research shows physical discipline can be harmful to a child’s physical and psychological well-being. Research also shows children who experience physical punishment are more likely to develop aggressive behaviour themselves.
Physical discipline is also a less effective strategy for encouraging desired behaviour because it focuses on what not to do rather than modelling or reinforcing desired behaviour.
4. Lots of parents lose their cool, but saying sorry helps.
Most parents agree that they become impatient too quickly, lose their temper and later feel guilty.
When things are getting heated, it can be helpful to hit the pause button. Take a minute to breathe, step back, even walk away if possible. Try to see things from your child’s point of view and understand they don’t have the ability to reason and rationalise things like an adult.
And if you do cross the line, take the time to reflect on what happened so you can reflect on what happened so you can recognise when things are heading this way again and intervene. It’s OK to say sorry to your child if you have lost your cool, as this will help them understand what has happened and it is modelling respectful behaviour too.