Talking to your child about their behaviour
It’s normal for your child to go through phases, feel a whole range of different emotions and test boundaries. But if your child is acting out and you’re finding their behaviour hard to deal with, it’s probably a sign that they’re feeling something that’s hard for them to deal with.
Your child might not even be aware of the feelings they have deep down that are causing them to act in a certain way. But it’s ok, there are things you can do to help and make things better for both of you.
Here are some top tips for talking to your child about their behaviour:
1. Find a suitable time and place to talk. Your child might find it easier to open up if you start the conversation while doing an activity.
2. Make it clear that the behaviour is the problem, and not them. Let them know that it’s okay to feel however they feel, whether that’s sad, angry, worried or something else, and that you can work together to find new ways of managing these feelings.
3. Explain why the behaviour is not okay so they understand. For example, you might say that while it’s normal to feel angry, it hurts other people when they hit.
4. Be curious, empathetic and non-judgmental. Focus on listening and trying to understand things from their perspective.
5. Use simple phrases such as ‘I notice there is a lot of shouting happening’, ‘I think something might be upsetting you’, ‘I feel worried you’re not happy’, and ‘I need you to know you can talk to me about what’s going on’.
6. Reassure them that you love them and want to help them feel happier and enjoy things again.
7. Think together about other ways they can manage their difficult feelings. This might be drawing or painting, doing something active like running or their favourite sport, reading a book, writing a story, baking or making something out of playdough or Lego. Let your child know that it’s okay if it takes time to figure out what helps, and you can keep trying together.
It is important to remember that behind every behaviour, there is a need. Try to understand what is motivating this behaviour. There may be other outside influences that are affecting behaviour.
You can respond to unwanted behaviours with different strategies.
Ignoring can be an extremely effective way of stopping a lot of irritating behaviour with attention the children will continue to do it.
Remember CLOSE DOWN
When the child has stopped displaying an unwanted behaviour, give them attention. This way the child will slowly stop the behaviour as they recognise the attention is given for a different behaviour.
Also remember – always think about the child’s feelings. “It’s okay for you to feel angry, and it’s okay for you to want what you can’t have and I am not going to get upset about it, I just really mean you can’t have it”.
Something becomes a punishment if it is given after the event and the child has no opportunity to change their behaviour. Consequences are not punitive as the child is always given a choice.
Consequences are a good way for children to learn from their behaviour. They are able to develop resilience and capability through consequences of their choice. An example would be natural and logical consequences. A natural consequence is where a consequence is the direct result of the child’s actions/behaviour. For example, going outside when it’s raining without a coat – cold, wet clothes. A logical consequence is something given from the parent/care. For example, a child spills their drink, they need to clean it up.
Rules and boundaries help children make sense of the world around them. They welcome boundaries and it helps them to feel safe. In order to support your child, boundaries need to be in place so that they are able to learn and how to cope with the outside world as well as within your own home environment. Children need boundaries for protection and security as well as to learn about behaviour.
Think about a feeling that you may have and how this can affect your body and behaviour. This may be how a child may be feeling if they experience this emotion.
Heart rate normal
Able to listen
If we want children to accept our feelings, it is important that we express ourselves in a way that is:
We need to:
“I am starting to get angry and I want you to stop swearing at me”
“I’m feeling upset and confused by what you’ve said”
“I feel so frustrated”
“I feel disappointed”
A four part “I” message can be used to express our feelings, therefore helping children to express their feelings:
So they know how much of a problem it is for you.
Description of what they are doing so they know exactly what you don’t like.
Actual consequence of what they are doing, so they know why you want them to stop.
A request for help.
Can you make an “I” statement that you could use at home with your children or family?
If this is something you feel you need further support with, please contact Miss Harman at email@example.com or call 01264 352322.