Child practitioners know how to interact with young children, they ask them direct questions and wait for a response. It's very easy for parents, standing with their child, to hear a question, whether it be asked by a childminder or teacher, or a friend or relative, and to answer the question on behalf of the child. It's so easy to do this that it can be pretty difficult not to. Try to avoid doing this though, it really is important that children learn to engage in conversation and that they learn to listen, interpret and respond to questions in their own right.
As a parent, you don't want to show up your child, or have them stuck in an awkward situation where they don't understand a question. This is such an important part of language development though that you really aren't doing them any favours when you respond on their behalf.
When granny asks 'What have you been doing today?', or the childminder asks 'Is it sunny outside?', there's a really high probability that they already know the answer. Adults are sympathetic to the knowledge of young children and don't ask searching questions requiring a comprehensive, in-depth, analytical response. They are asking in order to engage with the child, to help build a bond and in order to allow the child to practice language. The enquirer isn't usually looking for a definitive answer, they probably aren't even interested in the correct answer; instead they simply want to hear the answer in the child's own words. If parents wade in with the answer then they are denying the child the opportunity to speak for themselves.
If you recognise this behaviour in yourself then try to spot it in your interactions with those around your children. If you are aware that you are doing it, then you will be able to pause, think about it, and then stop before giving an answer. If it's a deep rooted habit that you have developed then it may take a little time to coax yourself away from it, but you will get there eventually.
There's nothing more distracting than your having your children misbehave, particularly when out in public, but what can you do to improve their behaviour? Here are a few tips to help guide them back to begin good, before things get out of hand!
- Give short term rewards for good behaviour
- Start a sticker chart or a way of showing that they have been good each day
- Don't criticise the child directly - you may criticise the behaviour though
- Don't reprimand in public or in front of friends
- Don't overload with instructions; instead give one instruction at a time
- Give lots of praise when you see good behaviour
- Be positive as much as you can
- Keep to a routine
- Make sure you tell them what's happening if it's out of the ordinary and explain what kind of behaviour you expect
- Be consistent
So many people claim that children's unruly behaviour is down to them having 'ADHD' but can bad behaviour in a child be simply explained away by labeling them with such a tag? For some children the diagnosis of 'Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder' is accurate, but for so many it's just not the case.
What is it? ADHD is a medical term which originally comes from the North American Psychiatric Association.
- ADD means Attention Deficit Disorder.
- ADHD means Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.
It is said that ADHD effects up to three percent of the population. It is usually associated with boys rather than girls.
A child has ADHD if:
- they have difficulty concentrating and can't ignore distracting sounds or they get lost in their own daydream and its hard to get them to listen.
- they do not have their own ideas to begin games or activities alone
- they forget or lose things often or can't remember instructions
- they continue to fiddle or fidget when everyone else sits still
- they shout out answers and talk a lot and they act without thinking - so do things without caring about the consequences
- they have trouble waiting their turn or sharing
- they won't follow rules
But even children who demonstrate all or some of these things are not necessarily suffering from ADHD. It needs to be repeated, unintentional behaviour and diagnosed by a professional. If you think your child might be suffering have a chat to the teacher, doctor or health professional for advice and help.
There is obviously no single answer to the question of why children bully one another, but usually it comes down to being someone who is blind to the needs of others and overly sensitive to their own needs. Bullying is a type of behavior and with that in mind, it can be either inherent or learned. Inherent behavior is what a child is born with. Learned behavior is something that the child has learned from others.
If your child is a bully, you need to think about whether he or she is a born bully or has learned this behavior. It may be a mix of both.
Born Bully - A born bully starts bullying when he or she is a toddler. It can be only occasional and only mild bullying, but nonetheless, if there is evidence of bullying from an early age, and there is no apparent case of learned bullying from other sources, it can be concluded the bullying is inherent. The solution is to seek guidance from a therapist, child psychologist or psychiatrist.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) manifests itself through impatient, impulsive, energetic and aggressive behaviour. This may take the form of bullying but is slightly different.
Learned Bully - A calm child may turn into a bully once he or she learns bullying from another source and copies.
- Families with a tense or angry atmosphere, where family members are insensitive or aggressive may lead to children learning how to bully to get their own way.
- Parents of bullies are often noted as being inconsistent with their discipline and punishments.
- They are often unaware of their children's behaviour and tend not to monitor their children's behaviour.
- Parent-child bonds are not close and getting angry over little things is commonplace.
- The child learns this behavior and after a while becomes a bully even without realising it, because he has little to compare with the angry behaviour.
Non Permanent Bully
Some children bully occasionally: they may have recently suffered a trauma such as a death of a parent, a divorce, the birth of a new sibling or being under pressure.
Long Term Bullies: why do they do it?
- To be powerful or popular: bullies are generally bigger and stronger than their victims and they use intimidation to get what they want. They like the feeling of being powerful and think that violence is the only way to get their own way.
- Spoiled bullies: Some parents spoil their children and do not teach them the correct way to behave towards others. The children think they do what they like to get their own way even if it means bullying.
- Reaction to bad experiences: Some children are literally victims themselves whether it be of abuse or bullying at home, school or playground, and they take out their anger and humiliation on other children. So many people who are bullied as children go on to bully in later life.
- Unaware bully: Some bullies don't even know that their behavior is hurting others and how it makes others feel.
- Having Fun: Some bullies enjoy annoying other people, and hurting them, just for fun! They just like seeing others in distress or crying.
Many children go through a stage, as they develop, where they take to biting objects, but worse, they start biting you and other children. This can be caused by a number of different factors:-
- It may be because they are teething and are literally trying to relieve some of the pain. Instead of biting a teether, they bite the nearest thing... which could be a parent or sibling or friend. This is common around age one.
- Slightly older children many just be experimenting and don't realise how much they can hurt others. This is common around 18 months.
- For children over 2, if they bite while playing with other children, this is more serious. It can cause more aggressive behaviour within the group, it can hurt and it can lead to real problems with their popularity with other peers.
What can you do?
- Make rules: make sure children know about sharing and taking turns. If they know this they are less likely to get annoyed if things don't go their own way.
- Supervise: Make sure you supervise carefully during playtimes and keep an eye on any problems that are brewing.
- Make an example out of the good children: praise good behaviour when it happens rather than just tell them off when they do wrong.
- Intervene and isolate: if they do bite, remove them from the situation and give them time away from the group.
- Provide alternatives: explain they can do other things when they are annoyed or disappointed. Try suggesting that if they get annoyed they should walk away or ask for help. Explain why this is better for them and all their friends.
- Focus on the victim: rather than give all your attention to the child who bites, focus instead on the child who was bitten.
- Don't ignore it - it won't just go away.
- Do try and give your child the vocabulary to explain when or how they feel. This may help them to communicate a problem rather than lashing out.
- Keep calm and deal with the issue gently. If you are really concerned seek medical help.
Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder is a neurobehavioural condition affecting up to 3% children and is more common in boys. The symptoms of ADHD can be highly disruptive and have a severe impact on early development, they fall into three main areas:
To get a diagnosis of ADHD symptoms must
- be present for six months or more
- be greater than the expected levels for the age and intelligence of the child
- have a negative impact on two settings (home, school, playgroup)
- have developed before age 7
- not be caused by mood, personality or another similar disorder.
This is where a child:
- fidgets with hands or feet the whole time
- gets up when told to sit down
- runs about in an inappropriate manner
- can't play quietly
- talks all the time
- damages other's toys or spoils games
- plays too roughly
- has poor motor skills (cannot throw or catch a ball)
Low self-esteem as children don't want to play with them
Isolation because friends seem not to be accommodating and lose interest/patience
Educational success can be impacted as they don't hear lessons or understand instructions
The child often:
- blurts out answers
- can't wait for his turn
socially clumsy as they speak without thinking
barge into games so spoils other peole's fun
have mood swings and be volatile
lash out when frustrated
embarrass parents or hurt them with their words and actions especially in company
underachieve at school because they rush or don't listen to the whole question
The child often:
- has poor attention to detail
- has difficulty sustaining attention
- doesn't seem to listen
- can't follow instructions
- can't organise tasks or activities
- avoids tasks that sustain mental effort
- is easily distracted
- is forgetful
Forgets rules of a game and makes silly mistakes so other children avoid them
Exasperates parents when they do not do as told
Inattention at school could lead to inability to grasp handwriting or doing structured work
However, there is evidence to suggest that early diagnosis and management of the condition may help avoid long term consequences. The main challenge for professionals is to diagnose, treat and support the children and families.
Every child is different, every parent is different, moods change, circumstances change, we all react differently; so why should positive parenting work in all cases for all children of all ages?
Positive parenting means dealing with a child's behavioural in a calm and fair way. It means focusing on the good rather than the bad behaviour and rewarding accordingly. Does your child get more attention when they are behaving well or when they are being badly? If the answer is 'when they are being naughty', then you may wish to read on and look at some ways of addressing this and putting a more positive spin on your parenting.
Why does it work?
It works because it builds on a child's desire to please you. They remember how they feel when they pleased you, and they like it and they want it to continue. It may work slightly differently for different children or ages, but in principal its the same for all.
How does it work?
- You show love and affection to your child and you create a good, secure relationship with them.
- You let them know when they do well and when they please you.
- You show a good example and they will be more likely to follow.
- You reinforce good behaviour by giving lots of praise and you ignore any minor bad behaviour.
- You work together with your child to make decisions.
- You avoid hard discipline and punishments.
- You are fair and kind in your approach.
Tips for Positive Parenting:
- Understand your child and their personality - children are all different and strong minded children may need a different focus to a more timid child.
- Keep calm and in control at all times.
- Lead by example - try and be a calm, polite person in your adult relationships as well as with your children.
- Keep expectations reasonable - remember they are children so make sure you don't expect too much.
- Understand why they are misbehaving - why are they doing naughty things? See if you can unravel a reason. Perhaps they are jumping on the bed because they haven't been out all day and need some fresh air and a run around outside.
- Chat about it - have a chat about why the behaviour is going on and discuss what you can do together to make it better.
Don't resort to severe punishment in every case. Keep in mind that the children are learning and pushing boundaries to see what they can get away with. It's our responibility to show them what they can and can't do, and to help them learn this so they make their own decisions about behaviour.
Children learn from their surroundings, and are informed by the people the interact with, parents, teachers and carers - make sure that your children are being given a model example because otherwise they will pick up traits and habits that you don't like!
Table manners present a host of unwritten rules that we want children to abide by: remain seated until everyone has finished; finish all the food on your plate; no toys at the table; eat with your cutlery; arms and elbows off the table. You may wish to impress some or all of these rules but whatever your stance, make sure that you follow them yourself. Your children won't understand if they aren't allowed toys at the table but that you use your mobile phone at the table. Why should they eat everything on their plate if you don't finish everything on yours? Why should they remain seated if you disappear mid-meal to make a phone call, start washing the dishes or take on another chore?
This illustrates just how easy it is to contradict yourself, and can is mirrored in many other areas of a young toddlers life! Be aware of such contradictions in any regimented environment where we expect our children to conform to rules or manners, and especially to the language that we use and the ways in which we address others. If we lead by example then our children will naturally follow.
It may seem draconian to institute 'house rules', but if children are expected to behave in certain ways, you have to let them know what the rules are! House rules are those simple rules that ask your family to comply in certain ways, such as always taking shoes off when you get home, washing your hands before meals, remaining at the dinner table until you have finished your meal, keeping your bedroom tidy and so on.
When teaching your children the discipline you wish them to follow, you need to state your rules clearly. There's no need to write them down, indeed, young children won't be able to read them even if you do! But giving clear guidance as to what they should or should not be doing makes it easier for your children to learn and abide by your rules.
House rules might be based on manners or good behaviour; growing children learn by knowing what the rules are or where boundaries lie. Once they have a clear set of rules in mind, their broader behaviour will also be guided by these principles. Many rules will be obvious and simply reinforce good behaviour, you may have your own quirky rules that other parents might not apply; there's no harm in that at all, but do ensure that you apply any such rules consistently in your own home.
It is quite legitimate that parents be exempted from rules - children must learn that adults enjoy privileges that they one day will also grow into. However, if the rules don't apply to yourself or other adults in your home, then make sure that your children are aware of this so that they don't see non-compliance from adults as a green light to ignore rules themselves!
What's the best way to handle the situation when your toddler says a bad word and why did they say it in the first place?
Using bad language is fairly common in toddlers. They pick up new words from other children at nursery or school and suddenly you hear them say things you've never heard before! Using a bad word is a way of expressing frustration or anger. They may say it because they think it's funny or because their best friend at school said it. But, what ever the reason behind saying that word, your reaction is the most important thing.
How to react
- Try not to react too much. Ignore it if you can the first time. They might see that there's no reaction from you and never say it again! Certainly don't go crazy and tell them off as this will get them lots of attention which may be what they are after! Just explain calmly there are some words we don't say.
- If they are over 2 years and know how to say sorry, ask them to apologise to you or whoever the bad words were directed at. Explain that it was offensive or hurtful and try to make it clear that it's not nice or acceptable.
- Don't laugh, because they will think you've found it funny and will do it again and again to make you laugh even more.
- Think of other words to say when they are angry. 'Upsy Daisy' or 'Oh Dear' when they fall over or stub their toe rather than anything more aggressive.
- Look around at the environment or the people round your child and see where the language might have come from: an uncle who uses bad language, older cousins who might have said things between themselves and been over heard. If it's just 'potty' talk, then it is probably just children at nursery, but do have a look at the people who spend time with your child just in case its a family member and you may need to request a "toning down" of their language.
- If they keep using profanities, then you have to make clear what will happen: introduce "time-out" or withdraw privileges as a means to make it clear that you do not approve and will not tolerate the bad language.
- Television may be the cause. Make sure they watch appropriate programmes!
- If they are using bad language to get something definitely don't let them have it. Say 'no' and explain that using bad words will not get them what they want!
- If they are copying an older sibling, trying to be like them, make it clear to the older child that it's not acceptable language and show how it's causing problems. Copying and imitating older children (in language and behaviour) is a way of learning, so it's not something they are doing wrong necessarily.
Make sure you don't use bad language either... watch what you say because they will hear, copy and think it acceptable to be like you!
Most parenting books tell you about the "terrible twos" - those crazy, unpredictable days of unannounced tantrums, yelling and screaming in the shopping queue for no apparent reason and the sensational throwing oneself to the floor in an anguished rage! Fast forward three years as your child has just started school and you may discover some of those dreadful memories coming back to haunt you. Five year olds with "attitude", answering back, rolling their eyes in despair. It is probably more frustrating for parents: a two year old is just a baby; a five year old should know better. But, it seems common.
The reasons behind this strange character change could be numerous. Your five year old has just started school and is discovering their own independence. They want to act grown-up in front of their friends and are being exposed to more grown up behaviour from school friends. They are realising that they have an opinion and that they can make themselves heard.
What can be done to ease the tension? Give them the chance to feel in control of some situations. Let them make a few decisions: dinner menu, which park to go to, where to shop. This will make them feel empowered.
Reward them when they are good. Positive enforcement is very valuable and has great results. Even get them a reward chart and make sure you stick on a sticker each time good behaviour is spotted. For free customised sticker charts log in to ToucanLearn.com and go to Fun Stuff! Get your child to choose the picture to illustrate the chart and even go with you to buy the stickers.
Use avoidance tactics to avert a problem before it happens! Try and distract a potential bad mood with something fun or constructive to do together.
Children certainly know which buttons to press to annoy us. But, shouting and losing control (however tempting) is not the way to deal with a child who is misbehaving. There is one technique that can bring excellent results: the humble sticker chart!
The sticker chart is a great way to give positive attention to a child when they have been especially good. Simply add a new sticker to a chart each time you see good behaviour and remove one if you see bad behaviour. Display the chart somewhere your child will see it: on the fridge or a wardrobe door.
Firstly, explain to your child what the chart is about. Children love stickers: they are colourful, easy for them to use, and when they are awarded a sticker they always feel special. Perhaps allow your child to choose which stickers they can use for their chart. Write their name clearly on the chart or add a photo. Make sure they understand how it will work!
Sticker charts work for all sorts of occasions: potty training, eating well, doing school homework or just being good! In the run up to Christmas sticker charts are especially popular! Will Father Christmas see a chart full of good stickers and leave lots of presents?
Sign up at ToucanLearn and log in for some great sticker charts that you can customize yourself and a super sticker chart ready for Christmas. The kids will love them!
Here are some tips:
- Be consistent with the awarding of stickers.
- Don't forget to add a sticker and don't put-off adding a sticker because you are too busy... make sure its done straight after you see the good behaviour.
- Be really enthusiastic about the chart and the good behaviour.
- Take stickers out with you so you can still award them when you are away from home. They could wear the stickers on their clothes until you get home.
- Don't forget the big treat/outing when the sticker chart is complete. It needn't be a huge, expensive gift... just a little something as a reminder of your child's achievement.
- Do make sure you still hug, encourage and chat to your child along the way... the sticker chart is just one part of the reward for being well behaved.
Should you be concerned if your child has an imaginary friend? Absolutely not! Many children foster imaginary friends at various stages of their childhood, sometimes the same friend will persist for years. Research suggests that imaginary friends are created by intellectually and intelligently superior children, although not all bright kids will create them. There is speculation that imaginary friends assist with the adoption of language and help to develop social skills because children will interact with their imaginary friends more than they might interact with their peers.
Imaginary friends will most usually be given a name and be attributed personality traits that may be quite different from those of your own children. Hollywood indulged in the behaviour of imaginary friends in Drop Dead Fred (1991), currently being remade for release in 2011, and even more famously, Harvey (1950), where the friend took the form of a giant 6-foot rabbit imagined by Elwood P. Dowd in the film and stage play of the same name.
Listening to your child interact with an imaginary friend can offer a wonderful insight into their feelings, concerns and interpretation of the world. Your children will allude to people, places and events in ways that they may not talk about openly with you. This could be the closest exposure you will have to their mind.
Make sure that imaginary friends don't form a barrier to your children socialising with other children and don't let your children use imaginary friends as an excuse to do things that they know are wrong but think they can get away with by apportioning blame onto their friend.
Now if you still have an imaginary friend, that could be a different matter...!