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Why do kids misbehave? Do we have an answer?

Apr 27, 2017
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Hispanic father lecturing son

‘Why does he not listen to me?’ Is a very common question from parents, who find it tough to decipher the reason for their child’s misbehaviour?

Namita Pandey

‘Why is my child behaving in this manner? Why does he not listen to me?’ Is a very common question from parents, who find it tough to decipher the reason for their child’s misbehaviour? A public tantrum gets us thinking about our parenting skills and it challenges us about all that we know about the ‘right upbringing’. Sometimes, it isn’t as complex as thing as it seems to be. In most circumstances, the reason why a child engages in such behaviour is that there is reward for such negative behaviour. “We often give in to a child’s tantrums, not resisting such behaviour. Especially, if it happens in the public, we want to stop it, by just agreeing to his/her wishes, rather than addressing the issue. Children are very smart. They know what works and what doesn’t. When a 2 -year-old, Ira complains about her lunch, and gets what she wants, she learns that complaining works,” says Moumita Chakraborty, A Freelance Counsellor in Delhi.

We have all gone through such stages, and we know what works for us. It is the same for teenagers. Most often, listening to music while in the car would mean avoiding questions on homework, school and exams. We knew ignoring our parents would mean avoiding uncomfortable questions from them. We also know that when they ask us to stop doing something, there is a buffer time, till they get serious about it. Eg: When they ask us to stop watching TV, we can continue to watch for another 20 minutes, till the second call comes in. “ We used to sleep late at night, so that we don’t have to do the early morning chores. We all knew what we can get away with. Parents have to be wise enough to catch these, and stop the reward,” says Priyanka Mukherjee, A parent of a 3-year-old child. “We have all gone through this stage ourselves as a child, but we often give them a benefit of doubt when we are parents. And that really does the damage,” she adds.

There are a few pointers for parents to understand their child’s behaviour and how to deal with them
1. Children want to push the boundaries: Children are forever figuring out the complex world that they are living in. Their guinea pigs are parents, who they try to decode first. For the same reason, they will try to see if there are any boundaries of Dos and Don’ts. As a parent, you have to know that this is normal, and for the wellbeing of the child, you have to set boundaries and be consistent in enforcing them.

2. Children get stressed if the world around them are not consistent: Consistency is hugely important in making a child feel safe and secure and able to have a comfortable understanding of the world and how it works. The teachings in the school and at home should be similar. There can’t be different dos and don’ts that will only confuse them.
3. It is not right to expect things from a child beyond his developmental level: As a parent, don’t put undue pressure on the child on things that his cognitive senses can’t understand. You should only expect things that goes with his abilities. You can’t expect a toddler to finish his meals on his own without messing around. You should be realistic in your demands. To understand this, parents should read more books that illustrate it better.

4. Children want to be in control: Children want to be independent, they want to take control from the age of two. From an early age, they begin to recognise their strength and act upon it. They want to brush on their own, eat by themselves and sleep on their own. That’s how they assert their independence.

These are the list of things we need to look into before we blame our kids of misbehaviour

1. Are we breathing down their neck: We are conditioned to obey and respect our elder? And that’s why, many a times, we are asked to do something by our elders without an explanation. We need to sit them down once in a while, talk to them and reason it out with them. We can’t be always giving them commands, and expect complete obedience. “This has been handed down to us for generations—which we can command them to do things and they will listen. And if they talk back, or ask for reasons, we get upset about them behaving like this. But times have changed, and children do seek explanations. They have many questions in their head that needs an answer. Also, treat children with respect, and you will get it back. Don’t think they are kids, so can be spoken to any which way,” says Shiva Chatterjee, a mother of 7-year-old girl.

2. We need to make our kids feel that their opinion matters: We can’t snub them always, saying they are children, and therefore they don’t know anything. Kids have to be treated according to their age, and given responsibilities likewise. We can’t treat them as grownups some time and as children at other times. We have to be consistent with our behaviour towards them. Their opinions shouldn’t be ignored, their voice should matter.

3. We should not stunt their mental growth, we should give them the opportunity to think and analyse the world on their own: We should allow our kids to have their own version of the world. They should have their own experience and their own tale to tell. They shouldn’t be indoctrinated. As parents, we should allow them to have their own take on life and things that matter. We can’t impose our views and wonder why they don’t have an individual voice. We have to let them develop as an individual, far from our shadows.

4. Kids need your time more than anything else: “the best gift that we can give to our children is our time.’ This is very true. We may fulfil their wishes, buy their hugs with toys and games–but what they really need is our time and undivided attention. We need to make them feel unconditionally loved and encouraged. Only then will you see that they respond to you differently. You have to develop a bond that makes them open up to you, love you and respect you. If they are unloved, you will see disturbed behaviour.

5. Are we setting a good example? – We can’t be preachers and not doers. We have to lead from the front. The problem with most parents is, that we tend to teach kids what’s there in the book, but we don’t become the role models that they should look up to. Children learn more by observing and instructions. “We are hypocritical at many levels. We say, you should love your parents, take care of them when they are old. And ill-treat their own parents in front of their children. This is not setting the right example. You have to follow your own rules, before you expect them to follow it,” Shiva signs off.

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