Hmm, another discipline article. It seems that parents are constantly and furtively searching for the easiest and most effective way to have perfect children. You know, ones that don’t talk back, scream, yell, throw tantrums, pick their nose at the table, fight with their siblings or complain, whine and act like ungrateful spoiled brats at hearing the word NO! Learning how to correct bad behavior in children is an ever-constant experience that takes flexibility that surpasses that of a contortionist. Why? Because your children are constantly changing and growing and the problems of today will not be the same behavioral problems you will face in a year. Right now, you might be horrified that your child is the biter on the preschool playground. But in five years, when they no longer bite out of frustration – they may be defiant with teachers or accused of not listening at school. Luckily, many of the tactics used early in childhood can be altered ever so slightly to work, as they become grumpy and moody teens.
The first thing when trying to correct bad behavior in children is to understand their personality. You may have two children, one of which listens at the first hint of your dissatisfaction. The other, may balk and become increasingly challenging just because they know you are unhappy. You have to be able to find your child’s currency. In other words, what makes them tick. In young children, this can be a favorite toy, dessert after dinner or even a chore or two around the house as ‘punishment.’ You may even find that something as simple as a jellybean jar, filled with beans each time your child is good and taking away beans for negative behavior; is enough to make your child act as you wish. The truth is that rewarding positive behavior is actually the best way to make an impression on your child. Remember the old adage ‘you catch more flies with honey than vinegar!”
When you figure out how your child works – you have to figure out a way to positively reinforce good behavior. This means that it has to feel better to your child to be praised for good things than bad things. Where many parents go wrong is rewarding their child for simple things like saying thank you and flushing the toilet. What you need to learn to do is reward your kids for good decisions, growth, and responsibility. Some things like manners – are part of being a human and should be expected ALL THE TIME! Other things like thinking of others, doing their chores or homework without being asked and getting good grades, being respectful and following directions are choices that your child makes. If they are choosing otherwise, as a parent you have to figure out if you are giving them more attention for that negative behavior than you are when they are making positive choices. Remember, by rewarding positive behavior you will encourage more of it and therefore be helping them correct bad behavior by their own accord, rather than your demands.
Positive reinforcement works with every child. The difference in your child with others is what kind of positive reinforcement you use. Do the jellybeans work? Does rewarding them with extra television time, video game time or a special outing do the trick? If your kids are older, the positive reinforcement can be an allowance, time allowed with friends, going to a football game with school pals or taking them to a movie. Some kids do well with being allowed to stay up later than usual. This is where it is vital to know what is important to your child (their currency) so you can find positive ways to make it part of your discipline. When your children act up and lose out on what is important to them at any age, they begin to recognize that it is their choice and not yours.
Another vital element in learning how to correct bad behavior in children is making sure that they understand your expectations. You can’t be broad spectrum with kids and say that you expect respect for elders at all times. You have to teach them what that means, point it out when you see them doing it and most importantly, show respect yourself. If you want your children to listen to you, you have to listen to them and show them what a good listener is. If you want your children to clean up after themselves, you have to make sure they understand what that means. Remember, your children are learning the ropes and do not have all the information they need. From a young age, parents need to be thorough about explaining the ropes of life. You cannot fault a child for misbehaving if they truly don’t know any better – and often this is the case. If you aren’t sure if they know better, than role playing scenarios and making it a point to notice and reward their positive strides of behavior will help you to get the behavior you want and expect.
One of the other important aspects of correcting bad behavior in children is to realize that they aren’t as random as you think. If your children are acting up, there is obviously some perceived reward that they get from doing so. Often, kids misbehave to get attention. Kids are masters at manipulating adults in their life. When you see new challenges in behavior arise, you should always try to find out what your child needs to learn and know so that they can grow into the kind of person that they will be proud of. Teach them about consequences and make sure they have a full understanding of why biting is wrong, spitting at the table is unacceptable, and things like throwing trash out of the window, back talking or not listening are not going to be tolerated.