One day your child can follow instructions and have a good day. Then 24 hours later you are staring at a holy terror! When they act out we tend to jump to conclusions about why they act this way. We have little patience for their disruptive behaviour. We know they can do better… But why don’t they? They must be doing it on purpose!
Children DO NOT wake up in the morning wondering how many times they can make you angry or deliberately making poor choices. Well, sometimes they do. I will explain this later. Children struggle for different reasons. Development, temperment, impulsivity, mental health, cognitive delays, lack of ability… I could go on and on. Children want to do well, we all do. Have you ever said or done something in the heat of the moment? Have you forgotten to turn off the coffee pot or lock the door because you were in a rush? As adults we should know better, but we are only human.
We expect children to know better. But are we being too hard on them? Have you taught them how to do things? Do you have visuals and check lists? Timers and house rules are a must in most homes. Some children need more tools to succeed and more patience from us. If you label your child as difficult, hard to love, argumentative etc. the attachment between you and that child suffers. When we think negatively about our child it is hard to have patience and empathy toward their struggles. We have to change our thinking.
Once you learn to think about your child’s behaviour as a cry for help, instead of a deliberate act of defiance you will start acting differently. Think about what skills they need help with. What tools they need. And how much time they need to learn the skill. It’s hard work, but it can be done.
On the other hand those children that act out deliberately have learned “this behaviour gets me what I want”. They either want attention or to get out of something they don’t want to do. If the parent yells at the child as they clean up their room for them… It worked! “I got out of cleaning my room!”
When we ignore good behaviour such as playing quietly, or when they get ready right away, we give the message this isn’t important. When the child acts out, THEN they get our attention. Children learn bad behaviour gets noticed. What motivates a child that struggles to work harder, when its rarely acknowledged?
Some parents claim that if they say something positive, the behaviour stops. Some children get irritated from positive feed back.
So what is the possible message from the child?:
- I don’t know how to react.
- I don’t hear this often enough.
- I don’t know how to act appropriately.
- I want MORE of this attention, I just don’t know how to maintain it in a positive way.
What do you think your child is trying to say with their actions/behaviours?
Children have a hard time expressing what they need. It’s up to us as the parent to help them. Wishing the bad behaviour away doesn’t fix anything.
Take it one struggle at a time. Break it down. Mornings are a struggle is too vaugue.
What is hard?
- Showers take too long
- They don’t know their routine yet
- There is a fight not to go to school every day.
What could be done differently?
1. Pack lunches the night before
2. Realize your child us a slow poke and they need more time. Set the alarm for an extra half an hour earlier.
3. Set up a check list for what needs to get done : 1. Brush teeth 2. Brush hair 3. Get dressed 4. Pack backpack 5. Eat breakfast (use pictures if they can’t read)
4. Set a timer so they know how much time they have to do the task or routine.
5. Acknowledge the effort
6. Add a reward or incentive. For example, “If you finish early you can go outside and play.”
7. Give empathy and encouragement, instead of a lecture on why they need to go to school. I complain about going to work some days. My husband doesn’t start to panic and tell me I need to go because we have bills to pay!
Empathy would be to say: “I know buddy, wouldn’t it be great if we could take the day off!”
8. What is triggering your child?
- A young brother that won’t leave them alone.
- No friends at school.
- Having trouble with math?
Ask why mornings are so hard.
If you think about the behaviours that take over your house and think of some possible solutions, you are closer to a calmer home and a better relationship with your child.
You can do this! Just give it some time, and expect set backs. If it doesn’t work right away the plan might need to be altered. Take a break if you need to, but don’t give up completely.