2 months ago · lizzie · 0 comments
Do you have a problem child, or could you expecting too much from your child’s behaviour?
As a parent you want the best for your child. But today there has never been more expectations on how a child should behave and on the best ways to parent. Parents judge themselves too harshly, judge other parents too harshly and judge their children too harshly.
A good example of this is when a child misbehaves in public. Parents are usually mortified because they are:
a) worried about what other people might think of their child or their parenting skills
b) worried there must be something seriously wrong with their child to act in this manner
c) worried about the outcome of the tantrum.
However, often we as parents often don’t stop to think about why our child is acting out.
Dealing with challenging behaviour
I have 2 children. My eldest daughter is generally pretty well behaved. However, whilst generally delightful, my toddler has developed a habit of running away in public and throwing huge tantrums in public on occasions. Until recently I tried my usual tactic of remaining calm during the incident, removing my child away from the environment and then calmly addressing what just happened. Of course this did nothing to stop the behaviour from happening again. So this led me to think a lot deeper into what might be going on.
Research tells us is that children are attention junkies. They do not have an off switch. They have a thirst for knowledge and play and want to always be the centre of attention. This is interesting, because here I was expecting my 2 year old to be well behaved in situations she would obviously find boring, unstimulating and find herself not the centre of attention. So I thought back to all these episodes. Being the second child, she is often forced to do things that are not suitable or fun (such as collecting her sister from school). So this is always going to be a ‘danger zone’ as we are navigating the school children, passing by the playground and paying attention to when her sister exists class. Being with our friends is another ‘danger zone’ because we need to share our attention. Shopping is also a hot spot as we are distracted by shop assistants etc. Now, of course I do not want to create a monster who needs attention every minute, because no-one can provide a child undivided attention every minute of the day. However, I soon realised there are much clever ways to engage her in the activities we were are involved in, so that she feels valued, entertained and important, because at 2 years of age she can’t understand “mummy can’t talk or play right now!” – this conceptual understanding comes late in childhood development.
Back to the answer to deal with her toddler tantrum
Through some analysis of the situation, I realised the answer was not to work out ways to change her behaviour, but rather what I could do to involve her so that she felt her ‘attention junkie’ was being fulfilled?
So we trialled my new approach during our weekly market shop. Normally, I am chasing after her at least once. So first I needed to tire her out and then I needed to get her involved. The first thing we did was visit the animals at the market. This satisfied her energy levels enough to get started on the shop. Next we grabbed her a cane basket and spoke about all the veggies we were collecting. Then she was in charge of the money and the shop was completed without a glitch. The method was relatively simply, but it just took some thinking through.
Step 1: Being physical
Step 2: Being involved
A new approach to toddler behaviour
This experience taught me that the pressures placed on parents to be perfect lead us to assume we must be doing something wrong if our child misbehaves, or that our child is just really naughty. But I don’t believe this is true. I believe children are sponges and love to be the centre of attention. We can’t always give it to them and there are times we need a break, but if we take charge and involve then in our activities as much as possible. They will generally reduce their outbursts, feel much more relaxed and be much happier too.
So the next time your child has a temper tantrum in public, ask yourself what might be going on in terms of energy levels and engagement. Ask yourself questions, such as: is my child bored, over tired, unengaged, craving attention and so on. The answers to these questions will provide great cues as to what’s really going on and will give you a starting point to strategically and successfully move forward.
Lizzie O’Halloran, BBSc, MASR, NLP Prac
Personal Development Coach & Author
Help For Mums