Three-year-old Tara was playing with a ball when, all of a sudden, she ran with the ball to her mother, who was working on her laptop. Tara caught hold of her mom’s hand and started pulling her from the chair, requesting her to get up and play with her. However, being busy, Tara’s mother kept ignoring her attempts. When Tara could not persuade her mother to come and play with her, she threw the ball at the laptop, damaging its screen.
Five-year-old Rohan’s father was speaking on the phone when Rohan came to him with his test notebook. He held the book open in front of his father’s face to show him the marks he had obtained in the tests. Rohan’s father moved his hands aside and continued talking. Not being able to get his father’s attention, Rohan grabbed his father’s phone and pulled it away.
Both these incidents are instances of children acting up. There are many other manifestations of acting up like frequent tantrums, hitting, screaming, self-harm, lying, and stealing. According to the article, ‘Acting Out’ on Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, “More critical negative behaviors including aggressive or abusive actions toward other children, animals, adults, or even themselves are usually a more serious and longer-lasting form of acting out.”
Most of the time, children act up when confronted with denial to their demands. But, there are many other reasons as well like weak bonding with parents, feelings of rejection and resentment, attempt to seek attention, and exposure to violence and harsh discipline.
What you should do:
You should first of all remember that children’s behaviour is both a response to a situation as well as a communication of their feelings. This is because they lack the vocabulary to express their feelings effectively. So, when your child acts up, or indulges in inappropriate behaviour, like throwing up a tantrum, hitting and screaming, it is usually to let you know that something is bothering him. As a parent, you need to investigate what affected him and then set things right.
When trying to control a misbehaving child, most parents are overcome with anger. As a result, they resort to punishing the child. Anger prevents them from identifying the real problem behind the misbehaviour and deal with their child in a wise manner. The solution to acting out behaviour lies in using techniques that allow a child to learn and modify his behaviour.
1. Identify what triggers the problem: Before you come up with any solution to your child’s behaviour, you need to identify what triggers your child’s bad behaviour. Ask yourself questions like, “Does he have proper communication skills?”, “Is he reluctant to share things with others?”, “Does he feel anxious in certain situations?” This will help you identify the causes or situations that trigger your child to act up. Once you identify the causes, try to ensure that he is kept away from the triggers.
2. Reinforce the desired positive behaviour: A positive approach by parents towards the child goes a long way in preventing or resolving many issues. You can do this in many ways like calling attention to your child’s good behaviour and rewarding her with a little extra attention, praising her efforts, giving her a hug and so on.
3. Ignore provocations: While indulging in a tantrum provides the child the opportunity to give vent to his frustrations, it also helps him attract your attention by indulging in acts that displease you. So, harden your heart and ignore such attempts by your child. In his article, ‘Annoying Behaviors and How to Get Rid of Them’, published on alankazdin.com, Dr Alan E Kazdin explains how parents should be ‘ignoring’ effectively. According to him, “To use ignoring you would not look at the child or talk to the child during the annoying behavior. The key is to be sure to quickly switch and give your child positive attention when the annoying behavior stops or when the positive behavior happens.”
4. Talk to your child: Communicating with your child can help you understand and address his many critical needs. While it provides your child the opportunity to voice his concerns, it gives you a chance to tell him how you want him to behave. This would help both of you to come to a mutual understanding about what to do to get the desired result. So, sit with your child when he is in a good mood and engage him in a conversation.