Managing Your Child’s Behavior

  • Published
  • By Ruth A. Sunde
  • 92nd Medical Group

Raising children can be difficult, and even downright maddening sometimes. Young children in particular can test the limits of our patience and sanity.

Children begin to question the world around them as part of normal human development around the age of two. They begin to explore what happens when they say “no” to everything and everyone. They begin to touch and discover the world around them. They are becoming little scientists in the big laboratory we know as life.

As parents, we should work alongside them to gently guide them as they work in that lab. Their science experiments should be a learning opportunity so the child learns naturally from their mistakes. They are looking for a consistent, gentle but firm, response from the parent.

Parents can often become the “mad scientist” when their child repeatedly engages in bad behavior. A steady diet of pouting, whining, badgering you, and royal temper tantrums can frazzle even the most patient parent.

The Fairchild Family Advocacy Office offers several different parenting classes to help tame the “mad scientist” in you. Below are some tips that many parenting models agree upon.

First, don’t let your child see your frustration or anger. This is difficult, because as a child experiments with the world around them, you are a part of that experiment.

Around the age of two and beyond, children begin to see you have things they want, such as money, independence, a car or phone. They are beginning to understand they are inferior to you and there’s a hierarchy in the house. Thus, they will test the limits to see where the boundaries are.

As a natural part of growth and development, the child now starts to test you, looking for a reaction like getting you to argue, barter with them for compliance or even getting you to beg them to stop the behavior. They have now gotten what they want—a reaction from you. You are, ultimately, the only thing the child has any control over.
Understand this is all part of the lab work. Engaging you with this kind of behavior does not mean they are destined for a life behind bars. Testing you is all part of discovering and growing. It can be hard, but try to not to show your frustration or anger.

Secondly, abstain from talking too much. Don’t expect a child to comprehend anything you’re saying to them while they throw a temper tantrum. Even as adults we don’t think clearly when we’re mad or upset. Why would we think that reasoning with a child having a meltdown would be any more productive? When the child engages us with excuses or other manipulative behavior, it simply gives them more ammo if we meet that behavior with reasons why they should do what we are asking of them.

Gentle but firm follow through is putting them in their room or having them sit quietly in a chair. Most parenting models agree that a timeout should be no more than one minute for every year they’ve been alive. As a child becomes older you can have them pick their punishment—perhaps going to bed 10 minutes early, less TV or screen time, or deducting from their allowance.

Both parenting modalities, “1-2-3 Magic” and “Love and Logic,” taught by Family Advocacy personnel include the little emotion/little talking notion. This concept is then followed up with a firm, but gentle and consistent consequence to any bad behaviors.

Following these tips will help the child learn what appropriate behavior is and what is not. As they experiment, you are giving them the same responses to their experiments. These are just a few of the tips you can use as you watch your child grow in life.

For more information about putting skills in your tool box concerning parenting or anger management, contact the 92d Medical Group Family Advocacy office at 509-247-2687.