How To Stop My Child From Acting Out
- First you have to decide if the behavior is one that you can ignore or you need to intervene on. If the child is not hurting themselves, someone else, or breaking something, the behavior might be something that you can ignore. Oftentimes, kids act out to get attention from their parents. So if you ignore the behavior and then give them lots of positive attention at a time they are behaving well, then they will learn that they get attention with good behavior choices.
- If you decide that you are going to intervene make sure you are willing to follow through with the consequence.
Example: When my daughter was about 5 years old she was refusing to follow directions right before we were going to go to dinner. I told her “if you don’t pick up your toys, then we will not go to dinner”. As the words came out of my mouth I realized that I DID want to go to dinner, probably more than she did. So when she refused to pick up her toys, I was the one who ultimately was punished. If I had backed down and gone to dinner, she would learn that I am not going to follow through on consequences. If I followed through, I was not going to go out to dinner. I should have instead taken a moment to think about what I wanted to do with her behavior. Sometimes, as parents, we feel in a rush to give a consequence and don’t have time to think. You are the parent and get to make up the rules, SO, you CAN stop and think about what an appropriate consequence would be before you say anything.
- Pick a consequence that is appropriate for the behavior. If a child doesn’t clean their room, stick their toys in a trash bag and put the bag up for a period of time (an hour, a day, a few days…depending on the age). Time outs are also great ways to give children consequences. It gives them (and you) time to cool down, think about positive options that they have. (read the blog on time outs to learn ways to properly give a time out)
- When you talk to your child, always get down to their level (don’t bring them up to your level), look them in the eyes, and calmly tell them the behavior you would like from them. Often we tell children what not to do, but we often forget to tell them what we do want from them.
Example: (Don’t say): Don’t kick your sister when you are angry (Do say): If you are angry, come talk to me –or- (Do Say) If you want to kick something, kick a soccer ball.
- Consistency and structure is the key to parenting. If your kids know what to expect, they can do it. If kids think that 30% of the time they can take advantage or get their way by being difficult, then they may take their chances that they might get the consequence. This doesn’t mean that your child is bad, it just means they are smart. How many people in the U.S. play the lottery. We have very little chance of winning, but we play anyway. If your child knows that there is ZERO chance of getting away with behavior, they are less likely to do it. So next time you are in line at the grocery store and your child is screaming for that candy bar, tell them “no”, let them cry, and let them learn that throwing a tantrum won’t work anymore.
**Word of caution: If your child is used to getting their way, then whenever you implement any type of behavior modification, they are going to fight harder against you. When you get stricter, they act out more. They don’t want to lose the control they have over you and they are willing to fight you for it. Be consistent, continue with the new plan, and if it’s not working, get professional help (your first session with me is free). Professionals often have many different interventions they can teach you so that you can better help your kids.
If you are looking for a therapist in Long Beach for you or your child, please give me a call to ask me a question or to set up an appointment.