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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Children behave badly for a reason

5th October 2011

When your kid behaves badly don’t think he is just behaving badly for the sake of it, he could be trying to solve a problem of his own. Keep in mind there are many different kinds of problems kids encounter and each looks a little different in terms of behaviour. This article will deal with the three main types of problem-solving challenges you might see in your kids.

Your child could be having emotional problems. Everyone has moments of feeling angry, sad, frustrated, helpless or excited. When you’re a child who hasn’t figured out how to deal with his emotions, just having these feelings can bring on irritating or abusive acting-out behaviour.

Instead of dealing appropriately or even reasonably well with being told "no," your child has tantrums, curses at you, yells, or punches holes in the walls.

Social/relational problems could also cause bad behaviour. Some kids have an inability to get along well with others, particularly people their own age. They don’t know how to introduce themselves to someone, how to say "no," or how to handle it if a peer does something they don’t like. Bullies often lack social problem-solving skills and treat others poorly to compensate.

Your 13-year-old daughter wants to be accepted at school and to get her way at home, so she uses bullying—of peers and siblings to feel more powerful. She’s solving her problems at the expense of everyone else’s sense of security.

The other reason for bad behaviour in children is functional problems. This is when your child has problems meeting responsibilities around the home, at school, or in the community. He might continually lose schoolwork, refuse to do chores, talk out of turn in class or talk back to teachers, and lie about having his homework done.

Your son lies and tells you he did his homework in school. The next day, you tell him you want to check his work but he didn’t even bring it home. He says he forgot another lie. Before you know it, the zeros are piling up and he just keeps lying about his schoolwork night after night while his grades fall lower and lower.

How then do you help your child solve problems under such circumstances? The best way to start teaching your child better problem solving skills is to have a conversation about a particular incident.

Do this after things have calmed down and before you talk about consequences. Your goal here is to identify the problem, teach your child how to solve it, and then hold him accountable not to punish him and make him miserable.

Find a calm time to sit down with your child and talk. If your child refuses to participate without being abusive or refuses to participate at all, put one privilege on hold until you get through a calm, cooperative conversation. Here are some tips to get you started:

Eliminate "why" from your vocabulary. "Why" invites excuses and blame. Ask deeper questions to identify the problem such as "What were you thinking when…?" or "What were you trying to accomplish by…?" This works well for both elementary school kids and teens.

Some kids, especially those in preschool and early elementary school, might have a hard time answering these questions. Younger kids will develop the ability to talk about their thoughts more as they grow older. Be patient, take a break and let your child think about things a bit more rather than putting the pressure on them to answer right away.

Focus on one issue at a time. Talk about one problem and one problem only during this conversation. Don’t bring up something that happened two weeks ago or something else your child did today that upset you. If your child brings up another incident, let him know you will talk about that later.

Tackling too many problems at once usually only results in frustration on your part, because it’s overwhelming to address them all at the same time.

Identify replacement behaviours. Talk about what your child will do differently the next time this problem comes up. Allow your child to try to come up with an idea on her own; make some suggestions if she’s struggling.

Perhaps you decide that when you tell your preteen daughter she can’t do something, she can go to her room and write in a journal instead of screaming and calling you names. Or maybe you decide that she might ask herself it it’s worth it to scream at you and call you names, or tell herself, "It isn’t the end of the world if I can’t wear this skirt to school."

No wishful thinking allowed. When you ask your child what he will do differently next time, many kids will give you an answer that is based on wishful thinking, such as, "I just won’t do it again" or "I’ll do better."

Wishful thinking is a type of faulty thinking that indicates that your child truly believes he can just do something without really putting thought or effort into it. Get your child to be more specific. Ask him, "How will you stop cursing at me? What will I see you doing instead?"

Be a role model. Remember that kids study us for a living. If you yell and curse but you don’t want your child to do the same thing, this is a problem. It’s important for you to act the way you want your children to act.

Observation is a key learning method for kids, especially younger ones, so be aware of this. You are the most important role model in your child’s life, even if he acts like you aren’t, so make sure to play the role well. Happy parenting!

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