Children’s behaviour is a big issue, so it is not easy to resume some key points that could work for everyone. However, i’d like to try to summarize some tips and strategies which could support parents and teachers in struggling situations.
- Understand the situation. There is always a reason for a child misbehaving. You need to remember that children are people, and as people, they have feelings, real ones. I mean that we need to think how are they feeling at this moment to work on their feeling, instead of their behaviour.
- Children need boundaries and they need consistency. Everyone has different priorities on that: for some people is really important having children sitting on the table during dinner and for other people is something negotiable. I am not going to tell how to educate your children, but I will tell you that you should persevere and focus on your rules.
- You just need a few rules. I wrote them in a piece or card with “my curious child” and i added some pictures to help him to understand. It is important to express them in a positive way , e.g., “My curious child can help to set up the table”, “my curious child can dress himself”, etc.
- Ignore secondary behaviours, don’t fight about everything. Having no attention from you sometimes is the worst punishment.
- Empower yourself. I literally hate people saying: “If you don’t do that I will tell your mum/ dad/ teacher”. By saying that, you undervalue yourself and your children learn that you are not respectable, so simple. So, if something happens when you are in charge, you deal with it.
- One simple way to put the power on you is by saying “Thank you” instead of “please”. Why? Because if you use “thank you after a command, you are assuming that this is going to be accomplish, e.g., “Close the door, thank you.” you don’t even need to look at the action, because you are confident in its accomplishment. However if you say: “Close the door, please.” you give them the opportunity to say “No”.
- Be positive in your relationship, and be kind even if they are been disrespectful. We all make mistakes, especially if we are involved in big emotions and sometimes we just regret few minutes later, so don’t take it personally. Anyway, we can not teach them to be kind if we are not being nice to them. Remember again, they are people, and they have feelings, even if they can not understand them.
- Catch them being good, in that way they will have positive attention and they will repeat the action to have a praise or a hug. Positive attention is better than rewards systems.
- Remember we are models always, whenever we mean or not. If you manage your feelings in stressful situations, your are giving them a clue about how to do it.
- It’ OK to say sorry. Some parents don’t say sorry to their kids, never ever. That is a huge mistake. By saying sorry you are recognising that people is not always right, we all do mistakes, and what is most important, you can see when you are not doing the right thing and you can apologise. We expect children saying sorry all the time, don’t we? Why don’t model how well can we apologise?
- Make them being responsible for what they do through using the language of choice e.g., “Do you prefer brush your teeth before story time or going to bed without reading a story?” In that way they have the consequence of their actions.
- If they made the wrong choice, you can use the strategy of “When.. Then…” e.g., When you brush your teeth, then we would read your story.
- Give them time. Children will need to think about their choices and they will need time to calm down their feelings, so it’s OK not obey during the first minute.
- Involve other partners: parents, grandparent, nannies, everyone who is regularly in charge of the child should be aware of your rules and your behaviour expectations. You surely had listen before the African quote: It takes a village to raise a child. I think it is absolutely true.
I know there is no always easy to apply this principles and we sometimes have contradictions and make bad choices in moments of anger or hurry, but after that we can reflect and explain to our children our new expectations and if needed, say sorry about what we made wrong.
The curious mum.