Who is this child and why are they calling me?

By: Aimee Golden, Ed.S, NCC, LPC

We have all been guilty of it. Watching our child have a meltdown in the middle of Wal-Mart or our favorite restaurant and considering, even for one minute, to either leave them there or act like we don’t know them. However, sometimes kids seem to have more meltdowns and shouting matches than not. So often, I hear parents in my office say, “What is wrong with my child and why is he/she behaving this way?” As a therapist, the answer to this question is simple: Because they want to. The most important thing I recommend to parents is to determine how much of their child’s behavior is age appropriate and how much of it goes above and beyond. This simple self-check helps us realize that not every misbehavior and disobedience is a direct attack on us and our abilities as parents.

What is normal behavior for my child?
Normal behavior in children depends on the child’s age, personality, and physical and emotional development. A child’s behavior may be a problem if it doesn’t match the expectations of the family or if it is disruptive. Normal or “good” behavior is usually determined by whether it’s socially, culturally and developmentally appropriate. Knowing what to expect from your child at each age will help you decide whether his or her behavior is normal. Therefore, I suggest every parent research psychological and emotional development from resources in the community, such as Parents as Teachers.

How can I change my child’s misbehavior?
I cannot stress this enough. Every child craves and seeks out attention, regardless of whether it is positive or negative. In the absence of positive attention from a parent or caregiver, a child will act out and misbehave to get attention, even if this results in discipline and consequences. Therefore, children will continue to do a behavior when is it rewarded, by getting your attention, and stop it when it is ignored. The key is being consistent in your reaction to a behavior because rewarding and punishing the same behavior is confusing to your child. When your child’s behavior is a problem, you have three choices:

 Decided that the behavior is not a problem because it is appropriate to the child’s age and stage of development.
 Attempt to stop the behavior, either by ignoring it or punishing it.
 Introduce a new behavior that you prefer and reinforce it by rewarding your child.

There are two important things to remember while trying to modify your child’s behavior. First, it takes at least 30 days to change a single behavior using a single, consistent method. Second, it will get worse before it gets better because your child has been able to push your past your limits before now and they think they will find your breaking point now.

The Purpose of Counseling
My goal is to teach parents and work as a coach, while you learn new and alternative methods of interacting with your child to achieve a decrease in undesirable and problematic behaviors. I have worked with parents for several years establishing a structured behavior modification program that helps parents discipline their children and set forth a consistent discipline program required to change behaviors. Please call our office if you feel that you and your family need some additional help and support. It is our job as parents to provide for the needs of our children and advocate for them in any way we can. If not us, who?

Final Thought:

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement he learns to be confident.
If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love.
If a child lives with recognition, he learns it is good to have a goal.
If a child lives with honesty he learns what truth is.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him.
If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live to love and be loved.

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