How do you parent a child with problem behavior?
- Jennifer Baxt NCC, DCC
There are many families out there who have children who exhibit bad behavior. Few behavioral problems in children are a result of genetics or lack of intelligence. In fact, most behavioral problems are developed through the influence the children are exposed to. Children who appear to have difficulties in their behavior are usually reacting to their environment, difficulties in the family, problems at school or to a traumatic event they have suffered in the past, to name a few. In most cases, the bad behavior is a result of something; kids will usually have a reason for acting a certain way, though this fact is usually ignored.
During their younger years, children are incredibly impressionable. They rely on watching their older siblings, their parents, other kids at daycare and any other family they may have regular contact with to learn how to act. If the behavior around them is generally poor behavior, then the child may start to exhibit similar behavior because they think it is the way they are supposed to act. They are young and do not clearly understand that this poor behavior is unacceptable. At this point, it is up to the parent to make it clear that their behavior is unacceptable and then teach the child how they are suppose to behave. When this problem is ignored and the parent does not define the proper behavior from the start, then the child will continue to cling to their poor behavioral habits and these can become worse over time. If the parent decides later on that they need to change the poor behavior, it can be more difficult because the bad behavior has become integrated into the childs personality and is how they have always behaved before.
There are some situations where the child may develop poor behavior in other ways instead of the influence by others. Parents are who the child relies on to learn proper behavior, so how the parent reinforces behavior will often have a direct impact on what the child learns to be acceptable or not. For example, a parent may think it is cute when a young child utters an unacceptable word and laughs instead of telling the child that saying such a thing is not acceptable. Laughing or saying that was cute will only encourage the child to do it again, not understanding that it is an unacceptable word to say out loud. Good discipline must be consistent or bad behavior may be encouraged. Of course, one must be careful when handing out punishment. Being too strict can have the negative effect on the child because they might develop resentment toward the parent. Rewarding good behavior, explaining to the child why something they have said and/or done is wrong and not being overly strict or harsh with punishment will all help in promoting good behavior, if a good balance is struck.
Knowing how to best encourage the right behavior from a child can be tricky, especially for first time parents. A family therapist can offer a lot of help in dealing with a child who appears to have some behavioral problems. The family therapist can speak with both the parents and the child and find out why the child might be behaving the way they are. The family therapist can then work with the parents and child to bring about the necessary changes in order to alter the bad behavior into good behavior. Online family therapists are also available for families who would prefer the convenience of communicating with a therapist online in their home.