Parentingideas Blog

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Is this over reaction or misbehaviour?

Blog Post Teaser Image  At a recent parent seminar I spoke about the importance of parents helping their kids manage some of life’s challenges, in particular, handling disappointment, managing conflict and dealing with rejection.

Most parents’ questions revolved around how they should respond when their children over-reacted either to parental advice, or when relating to what may have happened at school.

Listening to these parents it’s evident that sometimes children where clearly overstating problems, and sometimes, well……..they were being a little naughty.

Let’s look at some common issues:

• Miss 9 would often put herself and her work down when she did homework at night. When reassured by her mother that the work was okay, she would throw a tantrum, working herself into a ‘knot’.

• Mr. 10 when quizzed by his mother about some apparent bullying at school would reply that he was okay, and that nothing was wrong. Mr. 10’s mother wasn’t convinced, but she didn’t know why her son was clamping up.
• Miss 7 would harass her mother whenever she (her mum) said ‘NO’ to one of her requests. ‘No’ was met with a range of interesting responses including whining and guilt-inducing statements that had this mother doubting her judgement and thinking, “Am I being too tough?”

Mr 10, like many boys, is probably a ‘cave-dweller’. That is, he likes to keep things close to his chest (spending time in his bedroom), mainly because he wants to process what’s going on. When he is ready he’ll probably talk. Besides, sometimes we as parents can read too much into situations and see problems that aren’t there.

Miss 9 and Miss 7 behaviours have one thing in common – they were both person-specific. That is, neither displayed their ‘signature’ behaviours at school. They kept them for home, and specifically for their mothers. Both mothers felt annoyed by their children’s behaviours, which suggests that the behaviours were both purposeful and attention-seeking.

Yikes! Knowing this is one thing, but changing tack to manage the behaviours is another thing altogether.

As a general rule, it helps to avoid your first impulse to children’s behaviour. Your instinctive reaction will often ‘service’ the behaviour, ensuring that it’s repeated. Too many repetitions and a behaviour (whinge, tantrum, guilt-inducing statement) becomes the default response.

Second, you need to respond differently. If a behaviour is to get attention, then don’t provide it. If it’s for the purpose of having an argument, don’t argue. If it’s for the purpose of making you give in, hang tough.

The concept of purposeful behaviour is relatively new for many people. Once you understand it, you begin to see your children’s behaviours (as well as your partner’s, friend’s and colleague’s behaviours) in a different light, and start to feel more confident and assured about managing them. Seeing (mis)behaviour as purposeful is a game-changer for so many parents. More information 

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