Junior’s making offensive gestures — what do I do?

Making obscene gestures isn’t just rude, it is a sign of aggression. We have tips on correcting your kid’s bad behaviour...

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Your child constantly models the behaviour he observes and learns from you and others around him — and that includes the Internet and social media.

Insights Mind Centre psychologist Daniel Koh notes that because of social media, young people can see how vulgar words and gestures are used both verbally and visually. “Being impressionable, children may learn from what is being shown [online] and think that it can be applied to other areas [in real life].”

How you react as a parent lets your child know if his behaviour is acceptable or not. Three experts, including Daniel Koh, digital literacy educator Carol Loi, a parent coach at SgVillage, and Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, offer tips on handling your brash kid:

1) Remain calm and collected If you laugh or get angry or upset when you catch your kiddo making an inappropriate gesture, they might just be encouraged to do it again. Dr Lim says, “Don’t encourage it by [reacting] as if it’s cute.” Losing your temper or laughing at your child may tempt them to do it again as they’ll know which “buttons” to push to get you to react.

How you react as a parent lets your child know if his behaviour is acceptable or not.

2) Discuss the reasons and consequences of rude behaviour Loi suggests that the discussion should also focus on your family’s values as these determine behaviour and the boundaries you set. Questions to ask junior during the discussion could include:

* What do you think the gesture means?

* Why do people use this gesture? Do you use this gesture? Why, or why not?

* What do you do when your friends use it around you?

* What can you do in future if you see such behaviour around you?

Dr Lim adds, “Spell out clearly and communicate to your child the consequences of displaying this behaviour.” You can do so by having an open discussion about what it means to make these signs and the implications of getting caught.

3) Don’t take matters into your own hands If your child learned how to make the gesture from a classmate in school, Koh advises that you teach your child how to handle the situation on his own, instead of notifying his teacher on his behalf. “Discuss with your child to approach the teacher if they are affected by the student’s behaviour, so that the school can [counsel] the student in private.” Remember, you won’t be doing your child any favours by handling conflicts for him.

4) Punishment isn’t always the solution You may think that if your child fears the consequences of his actions, he’s less likely to repeat it. However, Koh points out punishing them may seem effective in the short-term, but the effects won’t last. Agreeing, Dr Lim adds, “It is even more important to discuss with the child and educate him on why doing [what he just did], is wrong.”