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Transforming annoying behaviour

Isn't it often the case that we notice when our child is displaying annoying, irritating or what we perceive as inappropriate behaviour; but we will happily leave them to their own devices when they’re behaving well?

A small child misbehaving?... Or perhaps just being a child and enjoying life.

Maybe it’s because we don’t want to disturb them when they’re good? Or, perhaps we can have a bit pf a peace & quiet, especially if our younger child is playing ‘well’?

It can however be worrying, embarrassing, annoying or even downright infuriating when we witness our child constantly pick their nose in public, eat loudly, grab toys from other children, hurt someone, be overly clingy, not share, constantly keep whining or any other equally annoying and/or potentially destructive behaviour.

These types of behaviours can make our hair stand on end! Perhaps we think that it reflects badly on us or our parenting? Or, maybe we’re worried that our child will eventually get shunned by all his or her friends as they continue to display such behaviour!

We as parents have an inbuilt mechanism which automatically wants to protect our children from not fitting in or getting hurt in any way; we want to see our kids grow up to be successful adults, to be accepted by society. When we see our child repeatedly behaving in a way that is inappropriate, our alarm bells go off, our fight or flight response is activated; but we may end up acting inappropriately as well!

So, outlined below are some positive options:

  • Stay calm

  • If we allow our alarm bell to go off, we run the risk of a gut reaction and cloudy thinking which often leads to an inappropriate response.

  • See the behaviour in perspective - ask yourself if this behaviour is appropriate to your child's age?

  • A baby will cry when it wants something but this is not appropriate behaviour for a 4-year-old for example; they need to use their words more.

  • Put your detective skills to work as a first step

  • Stand back & curiously observe your child’s behaviour; maybe even jot down a few notes about what’s happening. You will then gain a more objective perspective rather than reacting unconsciously. Maybe you will discover that the behaviour in question happens at a certain time of the day e.g. in the afternoon after school; on kinder days; just after a visit to Auntie May. Or, there may be other noticeable patterns? By standing back & journaling the behaviour you get more insight into possible causes which then gives helpful clues as to how to change or minimise the behaviour.

  • Ignore the negative behaviour

  • Try not to focus on the negative behaviour as you may be inadvertently reinforcing this behaviour - your child unconsciously gets your attention even if it is negative attention.

  • Give positive attention to the behaviour you want to develop in your child

  • Focus on the behaviour you want your child to express; that is, the appropriate behaviour. For example, if your child whines a lot, you might perhaps notice and praise the child when they are talking in a normal voice or asking for something more politely (without whining). By giving the opposite positive behaviour more attention the child will have more of a tendency to give this new behaviour a go, especially if he or she is not getting inadvertent reinforcement/attention from the negative behaviour.

Above all else keep everything in perspective... a child who grabs toys at 2 years of age will probably not be doing this when he is 20!

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