Most kids are unable to voice their likes and dislikes, fend for themselves and even get things themselves. So, when their wants aren’t satisfied, it can lead to a meltdown, or a temper tantrum. Not only are they unpredictable, they behave impulsively at times as the part of their brain handling impulse control hasn’t matured yet.
So, the next time you think your child is acting up, take a deep breath and try to analyse things from his point of view before screaming at him. Here are ways that kids might appear to be naughty, when actually, they aren’t!
Next time you think your child is acting up, take a deep breath and try to analyse things from his point of view before screaming at him.
1. Behaving impulsively
This might sound familiar ― your little one tries to put something dirty that he has picked up from the floor into is mouth, even as you scream repeatedly at him not to do it. What about him picking up a rock and throwing it when you just told him not to do that. This behaviour isn’t naughty, your kiddo just hasn’t learnt self-control yet. “Most times, children do not wilfully oppose their parents just for the sake of it. Their wishes and motivations are just different from what parents expect of them,” explains Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist from Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness. Kids may sometimes also feel helpless because they lack freedom and choice. When they oppose their parents or defy their wishes, they are protesting this lack of control and freedom.
What can you do? Dr Lim suggests that parents be firm and consistent, because giving in when your kid whines or becomes defiant will only encourage such behaviour. Once they know that you will not change your mind, they will stop protesting. While you should still allow your child to speak his mind, do explain to him the rationale behind your decision.
2. Throwing a tantrum or being difficult
Next time bubba has a hissy fit, check if he is hungry or tired before assuming that he is just being difficult. Like adults, your mini-me gets more irritable when they feel uncomfortable or tired. However, unlike adults, they’ll whine and cry for your attention and help as they are unable to get what they want on their own. Perhaps they just want a snack or a cuddle, so check first before you scold them!
What can you do? Thankfully, this problem is easily solved when you appease your mini-me’s hunger pangs or give him a nap. As he may not be able to express himself, you’ll need to read his cues and find a solution that will soothe him.
3. Having meltdowns at inconvenient places
Your cherub is well-behaved whenever you are at home. But why is it the moment you bring him out, he throws embarrassing temper tantrums at the most inconvenient time and place? He is not out to mortify you, he might just be overstimulated. “Overstimulation happens when kids are overwhelmed by experiences, sensations, noises and activities that are too much for them to cope with,” says Dr Lim. This causes them to have a meltdown or act out.
What can you do? “Simply remove the kid from the overstimulating environment for a period of time,” he suggests. Bringing your little sprout to a quiet and unstimulating corner or room for a few minutes will allow him to calm down and process things before heading out again.
4. Being selfish
Not wanting to share his toys or food with anyone might seem like bad behaviour. However, this is just human nature! Everyone has things that they would prefer others not to touch. Even some adults won’t want to share everything all the time, so don’t expect your little one to do so either. If you have more than one child, do not expect the older one to always give in and share his things with your younger kid just because “he is older”. This might make him feel like you are biased, and can lead to sibling rivalry.
What can you do? There will be times when your kiddo is open to sharing his stuff with others, but other times when he just doesn’t feel like sharing. You can teach him how to do so by setting a good example for him, and reminding him that sharing his things with others is a good thing. Explain that there will be times when he wants to borrow items from others, too, so it is a give-and-take relationship. If you have more than one kid at home, make sure that the sharing goes both ways, instead of only having the older kid share his stuff and giving in to the younger one. This way, you can teach them to play together and minimise fights.
5. Acting like an Energizer Bunny
Asking your mini-dynamo to sit still is akin to cutting off all his fun. Even if you swing it, he will soon be fidgeting again. Dr Lim states that younger kids tend to be more active. While this is not truly a developmental need, children do go through a phase of being overly active. However, most will mature and be more settled by the time they are 6 years old.
What can you do? Instead of forcing your little monkey to sit still and risk triggering an outburst, why not direct his energy towards something else? Outdoor play and physical activities can help your kiddo keep fit, too, on top of helping to release some of his energy. So, pack the mosquito repellant and head to the closest park or playground ASAP!
“A stable routine allows the child to know what to expect, and also helps with discipline.”
6. Refusing to listen to you
Refusing to leave the house in the mornings, wanting to wear the same pair of underwear two days in a row, or insisting on putting on his shoes himself then taking forever to do them. This might be frustrating because it seems as if your peewee is deliberately making life difficult for you. However, they are just going through a developmental process of becoming more independent. “Even as a crawling baby, a child would assert his independence and climb to areas he finds stimulating, instead of following a parent’s instruction,” elaborates Dr Lim. “There are also some milestones, like the Terrible Twos, where the child starts asserting their independence by throwing tantrums.”
What can you do? Although it might get frustrating at times, try to stay patient and understand that this is a normal developmental stage. Your little one is just trying to gain some independence and testing his boundaries.
7. Being moody for no reason
Did you know that emotions are contagious? Kids are especially sensitive to feelings around them. “Even before they start to talk, babies would have learnt to identify non-verbal communications and emotions. Kids are like empty sponges, and they quickly absorb the information around them, such as identifying emotions and reacting emotionally,” explains Dr Lim. So, the next time you observe your kewpie is acting kind of moody, check your own mood first to see if you are affecting him unconsciously.
What can you do? Everyone has emotions, and this is what makes us human. However, being moody and short-tempered all the time will affect your tot negatively. “Children learn through modelling after adults. As kids spend the most time with their parents, they will learn to react emotionally like their parents would. Angry parents are more likely to bring up temperamental children,” Dr Lim states.
8. Responding badly to your decisions
One day, you allow your kid to watch the TV during dinner, the next day, you don’t. This inconsistency can confuse your mini-me, which could cause him to kick up a fuss because he doesn’t know your reasons for the overnight change of heart. Dr Lim notes that being consistent is one of the most important factors in good parenting. “Having consistent rewards and consequences allow children to know what to expect, leading them to feel safer and have a more stable personality down the road,” he adds.
What can you do? Set a definite time for their daily activities such as when to wake up, have meals and go to bed. “A stable routine allows the child to know what to expect, and also helps with discipline.” Of course, certain flexibilities can be allowed occasionally, like permitting a later bedtime on special days.
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