All children misbehave sometimes. That is a normal part of growing
up. But children's behavior is also influenced strongly by the people
and the environment around them. Here are some reasons a child might
- Needs a nap
- Feels ill
- Needs food/drink
- Has too much stimulation
- Feels bored
- Feels frustrated
- Feels scared around strangers
- Needs to feel a sense of power and control
- Needs attention
You can prevent some misbehavior of children from occurring by
practicing some of the following tips:
Use encouraging words - When children
are behaving well, they deserve your attention and appreciation.
They will learn that good behavior is a way to be noticed.
Using positives - Tell children what
you want them to do rather than what you do not want them to do.
Changing "Don'ts" to "Do's" takes practice,
but is worth the effort. "Do's" give good ideas rather
than bad ones and are more easily understood.
limits - Limits tell a child what is expected. Too many rules
and demands may overwhelm a young child, but setting a few limits
on matters that are really important reduces conflict and the need
for making more discipline decisions. Limits are most effective
when they match a child's ability; are expressed in clear, positive
terms; are consistently enforced; and are based on reasons the child
understands. Example: The child can no longer sleep at nap-time
but becomes overtired by the end of the day. You insist that she
spend an hour doing quiet activities after lunch.
Giving choices - When children are
allowed to make small choices (Examples: An apple or raisins for
snack, television or a story before bed) they learn to make simple
decisions and will be prepared to make more important decisions
in the future. They feel a sense of power and control over their
lives when they can make some choices.
Use humor - Children respond well to
humor. It is effective at breaking tension or avoiding a struggle.
(Example: The child has left his jacket outside. You say, "I
see a lost jacket out in the yard. I hope someone helps that poor
jacket find it's way home.")
Warnings - Letting a child know in
advance what to expect eases transitions and reduces resistance.
(Example: The children are busy playing. You let them know that
lunch will be ready in ten minutes.)
Planning ahead - You can be prepared
so that problem behavior is avoided. (Example: You know the child
becomes irritable when he gets bored so you pack some toys and activities
to play with when you babysit this child.)
Change the setting - You can change
the child's environment so that certain misbehaviors are prevented.
(Example: This toddler likes to tear up newspapers so you put the
newspaper out of site.)
Role model - You practice the behavior
you would like the children in your care to adopt. (Example: You
want the child to let someone finish speaking so you do not interrupt
the child when she speaks.)
When misbehavior does occur, it is first important to try to determine
the reason for the misbehavior. By knowing the reason why a child
behaved in an inappropriate way, then you can use the appropriate
Here are some ideas for handling common behavior problems:
Diverting attention - This works well
for infants and toddlers as they are easily distracted. Diverting
attention from an activity you disapprove of by substituting another
plaything or leading the child to another activity is an easy way
to avoid a meaningless struggle with a child who is too young to
understand and learn from other methods.
Calming time - A calming time may be
used to separate fighting children or calm an over-excited child.
You need to calmly explain to the child/children that they must
sit quietly for three minutes (you may want to give one minute of
calming time for every year of the child's age a four year
old would receive 4 minutes of calming time). Calming time gives
children time to simmer down, think about their behavior and realize
that you will not allow such behavior to continue.
Ignoring misbehavior - This is an effective
way to deal with fighting between siblings and misbehavior that
is directed at getting attention. Children do need attention, and
it is important that you give a child your attention at other times
and especially when they are behaving well. Children who do not
get enough positive attention will settle for negative attention
(Example: yelling) brought on by misbehavior.
Redirect behavior - You can move a
child away from behavior you do not like by suggesting an alternate
acceptable behavior. (Example: The child is throwing a ball in the
house. You set out some paper cups and suggest that the child try
bowling, stressing that the ball must be rolled.)
Consequences - Allowing children to
experience the consequences of their behavior can be more meaningful
than any action a caregiver could take. A child who experiences
unpleasant consequences of behavior will not be likely to act that
Consequences may be:
- Natural - A child who acts bossy may spend a lonely day
after playmates decide to leave.
- Logical - A child who rides a bike in the street is not
allowed to use the bike for a period of time. Logical consequences
are used when the natural consequences (being hit by a car while
riding a bike in the street) would effect a child's health or
safety. Sometimes it is difficult for a caregiver to allow a child
to experience consequences but it is important to remember that
the child is learning.
- Problem Solving - You can talk with the child about why
she is behaving in a certain way, why the behavior is unacceptable
and how you might work together to change the behavior. (Example:
When the child is angry, she slams her door, this causes the pictures
to fall off the wall. Next time she is angry, she will tell you
how she feels.)
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