Biting, spitting, swearing, scratching, shouting, crying for long periods of time, breath holding, head banging, damaging property…all in a days work for some children.
What do you do?
- Focus on the behavior not the child. e.g “writing on the wall is naughty” not “you’re naughty”
- You must have consequences for action. e.g “You know that when you chose to write on the wall, you will not be allowed to play with your favorite toy, until after bath time.”
This combines ‘choice theory’ (the child’s ability to make choices), making them accountable, with a reasonable consequence and within a time frame your child will understand. The consequence must be directly after the action, not later on or another day and false threats only teach children they can manipulate you. All adults present must be on the same page in order for the child to quickly learn that particular behavior is not something they will want to repeat.
- You are in control. Not the child. So no matter, how angry or loud they are you must demonstrate a calm, but firm disposition. Remember children will respect you for setting boundaries, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.
- “I’m so sad you have chosen to miss out on playing with your favorite toy, because I really enjoy us playing with that. I hope next time you choose to draw on paper.” Helpful for the child to know what is right by you.
- If a child is hurting themselves, (banging their head on wall or floor, hitting themselves etc…) it’s important to physically intervene. Initially your goal is to create a safe environment for your child and help them regain control before delivering consequences. Use a calming tone and cuddle them, encouraging them to breathe whilst telling them it is ok. Once the child regains control, then you can calmingly talk through the events prior.
- Hitting children is seen by psychologists as inadequate at teaching the child what they have done wrong and focuses on power and modelling physical violence, which they then may learn and apply in inappropriate contexts such as school.
Children will behave badly, they are learning what is acceptable in their social behavior, if the behavior is repeated frequently this requires you to be consistent with your consequences, so that they can learn when they do x, y will happen and they don’t like the y.