Clinica Sierra Vista WIC

How Children Behave

The parent, interrupting his conversation, states to the child: I cannot talk with you Tim; I'm speaking with Mr. Smith. Go back and play." The parent turns away from the child, the child takes off. The parent feels satisfied that he handled the situation correctly. But what if the child acts out the same way with a teacher, or a principal, or a police officer? What do we do when we see one child fighting with another? What do we do when we have asked our child to perform some task and find them doing something else?

The problem is that often we move toward the child and ask in a logical fashion, "What are you doing?" What we are really saying is "You are supposed to be doing what I asked. Why are you not doing it?" But clearly the question is already answered because you can see that your child is busy with something else. This has likely happened time and time again within your home, usually ending with you feeling frustrated and perhaps even involving some yelling at each other. Does this work to your liking? Is following your child around and coaxing and arguing your idea of good parenting? Parents often say, "Well, after I yelled at him he did it." Sure, after you yelled. Would you consider that to be an enjoyable process and want to keep doing it for ten years?

Parents often question the attention factor: Why would my child want me to yell at him? It is not that he wants it but that you have trained him to expect it. This has become a normal family process for him because you have taught him how to behave. You have taught him as you allow him to interrupt, you allow him to keep watching TV when his room is a mess, you allow him to sneak food even though he did not finish his lunch, you give him extra money even though he spent all of his allowance. We want our children to learn but we are not teaching them good behavior. They are behaving the way they do because we allow it. We have taught them to behave that way.

Want to change the process? Learn to make your child more accountable for his actions. If he tries to interrupt your conversation with someone else, put your hand up without looking at him and keep your eye contact on the other person. If the children are fighting, ignore them. Train them to NOT expect your attention when they misbehave. Wait to offer your attention to them when they are getting along. If your child has not cleaned his room, wait him out. He will want something sooner or later, and then say this: When my child finishes cleaning his….. , then I will be glad to take him to buy socks. Then wait…and wait. Your child will eventually learn that you mean what you say, you expect chores to be done in a timely manner, you will not break up their fights and yell at them, and you will not rescue them, buy them things, or take them places when they have not done or behaved as you have asked.

If we want children to learn to behave better, we need to guide and coax them into better behavior first. They cannot do it all on their own. The father in the beginning could keep his eye contact with his friend, and place his hand up, as in STOP, in front of the child. With no voice or eye contact to the child, he should keep talking with the friend, no matter how dramatic the child becomes the child is just testing your persistence anyway. The parent who dislikes the way a child speaks with him can wait, saying out loud, "I'll be glad to speak to children when they speak politely to me first." Then wait. Then wait some more. Our personal attention influences their behavior choices. Offer your attention for behaviors you want to see again. That is how children learn to behave.

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