Monday, September 27, 2021

Dealing with Behavior Issues and Disobedience

I was talking to a friend the other day about what to do when your child is defiant and we discussed some dos and don'ts and things that have worked and not worked for each of us.  She had recently has been having issues with her child in the following directions department.  The discussion we had prompted my thoughts on this post, which I am going to share with you today.

I understand that discipling ones child can be a touchy and controversial topic, and this post simply reflects my opinions and experience with my own four children.  I am going to lay out some basic tips for help parents with correcting their children's bad behavior.


If you don't want to punish your child a particular way, don't use that as a threat to try and get the child to do as they are told.  They will learn quickly that are bluffing, and you don't follow through. It will not motivate them to stop their bad behavior because they know you are not actually going to do what you said you were.  Also, these types of threats are usually outside of what a child is expecting to occur, as they usually come out when the parent is frustrated or upset.  

What one should do instead is set the ground work before the behavior has occurred.  If you expect your child to clean their room before they can play video games, tell them your expectation (their room must be clean), and the punishment for not doing what they are told (they don't get to play video games).  We recently changed out cleaning routine here.  I sat the kids down and explained out new routine, when we were going to do it, and how it was to be done.  I have had very few issues with our new routine.  They know what to expect, when to expect it, and they have even begun to remind me when it gets time and I forgot to tell them to start.


Sometimes this is easy and sometimes you have to get creative.  Your child throws their food on the floor, they have to clean it up.  Someone threw a toy at a friend, giving them a scratch, the child must retrieve a bandage or they could apologize and try to comfort the other child.  Natural consequences are a way to logically connect the undesired action with an understandable consequence.  


With whatever routines and behavior expectations you have, be consistent.  If you expect the kids to clean up after lunch, then always clean up after lunch.  If you don't want them to play video games until all their chores are done, then the video games must stay off until the child as completed the chores.  If your child talks backs and is disrespectful to you, then you must follow through each time.  If your child throws their food on the floor, make them clean it up each time.  

Having solid and reliable boundaries not only help you, but it give your children a solid expectation of what is expected and what consequences they will face for not doing what they are told or behaving appropriately.  If your boundary has a squishy spot, believe me, the child will find it and poke it to see how far it will bend. 


There is a line we must draw with our children, as they are all people and not robots or machines that always respond the same way.  There is a place when grace and mercy can be utilized even when a child is continuously misbehaving.   Grace is for when they are trying.  It is a time for you to come along side your child and assist them in whatever it is they need to do or correct.  Keeping up with consistency, if a child refuses to do what they are being asked, your normal course of action should still take place. Don't immediately do it for them or dismiss their behavior.  This is not showing them grace or mercy.  Just like empty threats, doing the action or continually dismissing disrespectful behavior after continually correcting them does not help you teach the child about taking responsibility and following directions.  What it does teach them is if I hold out long enough mom or dad will just do it for me, or they don't care if I speak this way.  

An example on when to not use grace:  The child has been told to clean their room.  It has been an hour and they haven't even attempted to clean.  They are just sitting there pouting saying they don't want to.  Do not clean up for them.  This is the time when you need to stand firm, even if the room isn't done.  You being it up the next day.  No fun activities until it is done.

An example on when to show grace:  The child has been told to clean their room.  It has been an hour, but they have earnestly attempted to pick up some things.  They appear overwhelmed at the mess and tell you it seems like too much.  Instead of leaving the child in this overwhelmed situation, come along side and assist them with the mess.  This is when grace can be extended.  The child has tried and for whatever reason needs help.  You are not doing the chore for them, but assisting them in getting it done.


Sometimes our children act out of character.  We usually know they are tired, hungry, sick or agitated when they act in ways we are not used to.  Sometimes those same things can contribute to misbehavior.  A child cannot usually express that they threw their food because they are tired and just want to sleep, or they yell and fuss because their pants are itchy and they don't have the words to articulate how they feel.  Sometimes misbehavior is a symptom of a bigger problem, and identifying that problem is the key to stopping, or controlling the misbehavior.  

One story I live to tell on this comes from my first year of teaching.  I had a student, not always the best behaved, but overall he would listen and do what was asked.  One day out of the blue, he threw himself on the floor, kicked off his shoes and crawled under a table and began screaming.  I was beside myself as this child had never reacted this way to our center clean up command before.  The outburst occurred several more times over the next few weeks, and I had no idea why his behavior suddenly changed.  One day, about a month after it all started, a man I did not know came early one day to pick the child up from school.  He introduced himself as the child's uncle and explained he was taking him to see his mom.  Apparently she had been in the hospital the whole time these outburst were happening, and I did not know.  Then, armed with this new knowledge, I knew how to deal with the behavior when it occurred.  He would get under the table and begin screaming and I sat on the floor near him and we talked about his feelings and how it was ok to feel upset and scared about his mom.  Shortly after beginning this, he would just come sit near me when he started feeling overwhelmed with his fear or anxiety.  The throwing shoes and screaming under the table stopped.


Another big reason misbehavior occurs is because kids don't yet understand how to control their emotions.  The are not born knowing how to control those big emotions, they must be taught.  My oldest son has had some major anger issues.  He takes out his anger on the nearest person or object.  He lashes out when he is embarrassed, hurt or just very upset at the situation.  We learned early on that we could not talk down his anger, hug it away or really do anything to stop the outburst.  What we did find, however, that placing him in a place, alone, until he calmed down, was what helped him.  We would take him to his room, close the door, and he was free to come out whenever he calmed down.  We would discuss what made him upset, how he reacted, and talk about better ways to react.  Now, he has learned to control his anger more.  He will now say he is getting angry before he gets to the point of lashing out and we can stop whatever is causing it or explain why things must be the way he doesn't like.  

Some ideas for helping kids cope is to give them acceptable behaviors they can do when their emotions swell up.  For my son, we told him when he is angry, he cannot hit another person, but he can stomp his feet or punch a pillow.  Having a calm down area or a safe place to exhibit their emotions can help as well.  For my son, his safe place is his room.  My daughter just wants to sit by us when her emotions fly out of control.  

There are so many ways to help kids control their emotions and behavior.  Parents and teachers can arm themselves with tactics that help facilitate this.  Not all behavior issues and disobedience stem from a defiant, unruly child.  Sometimes, they just don't know where the limit is, or they are not used to doing things a certain way, or their routines is different, or any number of things can cause a child to decided to do what they ought not.  It is up to us, as teachers and parents to figure out the why misbehavior occurs and to give children the tools they can use, the boundaries they require and the grace when needed to succeed.


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