Parenting has never had more information and advice – and much of it is bad and even damaging to families! That’s why we’ve summarised the very best evidence based research to help guide you through the most common and challenging parenting challenges.
While it is easy to think a child misbehaves because they are naughty, the truth is all the behaviours of a child are purposeful. When your child habitually misbehaves they aren’t trying to deliberately annoy you: “What can I do to make dad and mum mad?” While you might believe that’s how they are thinking, it’s not truth. There are numerous reasons for why a child misbehaves. Rather than reacting to how they behave, a better way is to try to identify what is causing them to behave the way they are. Asking questions is a great way to do this.
Reflect on the following questions to help identify why your child might be acting the way they are. An important parenting skill to to know that a great way to solve discipline problems is to first ask better questions!
PARENTING QUESTION 1: Is my child under one years old?
It’s doubtful if a child’s behaviour under one years is really misbehaviour. Their behavioural responses are due to a real need. Find the need, meet it and the annoying behaviour will stop. Check out our developmental fact sheets
PARENTING QUESTION 2: Is my child going through a new growth phase?
Children grow according to a specific sequence called developmental stages. Each stage involves specific tasks the child has to master. This requires increased energy demands which can drain the child, making them more susceptible for misbehaving. Learning to crawl, walk, talk are growth phases that can drain a child’s energy. Check out our developmental fact sheets: 18 months to 3 years, 3 – 4 years, 4 – 5 years
PARENTING QUESTION 3: Is my child’s behaviour congruent with their temperament?
Temperament is how your child is innately ‘wired’ – how they think, feel and act. If your child is strong willed it is realistic to expect a higher energy expenditure: walking, talking, eating, running faster. But if your high energy, forceful child suddenly becomes quiet and withdrawn, it indicates something is wrong. Check out the following articles: Temperament, also Strong Willed Child, Temper tantrums,
PARENTING QUESTION 4: CHANGE
Has my child recently experienced a change in their routine?
Children feel secure with a familiar routine. When the routine changes your child can express their insecurity through misbehaviour. They simply need gentle reassurance. Read our article on Changing Behaviour…
Has there recently been changes in your child’s environment?
Parents separating, shifting homes, even changing childcare rooms can threaten a child’s sense of belonging. Again, they need gentle love and reassurance. Read our article on Changing Behaviour…
Have you or your partner experienced any significant life situational changes?
A family is an interconnected system so that what affects one part affects all the others. If dad has recently been made redundant, the resulting stress will definitely impact a child. This is particularly so when a new sibling arrives. Suddenly having all dad and mum’s attention becomes seeing baby get the lions share of the attention that is “mine.” Understandably it causes hurt that can get expressed as misbehaviour. Such misbehaviour is not the behaviour of a naughty child – rather it’s an expression of your child’s hurt. Check out our Couples Assessment resource and Couple Relationship Resources.
PARENTING QUESTION 5: Are you over committed with work?
Over commitment with work is a major cause of misbehaviour. A child’s most dominant need is to belong. When a parent is absent the child feels they don’t belong. We used to advise parents that quality time, even if it’s only 10 minutes, is okay. Research has shown how false that is. Children need quality time that is quantity time too. It’s very hard for a child to feel loved if their parent is always doing work. So to get the parents attention they misbehave figuring better negative attention than no attention! Check out the My Energy resource
Once you’ve determined that the challenge you are facing is not just a short developmental phase, it’s time to get to work with a plan of action. Our interventions cover the most common issues parents and children face in the early years and our attachment tutorial is the foundational concept to improving any parent-child situation.