Understanding Children's Behavior (page 2)
It's often difficult for parents to understand their children's behavior. Sometimes it seems as if children are behaving in ways designed to aggravate, upset or embarrass their parents. And sometimes they are, but it's important to understand that children, like adults, behave in ways that help them meet their needs. If parents can understand the motive or need behind a child's behavior they are less likely to become upset and more likely to deal effectively with problem behaviors.
We all have certain basic needs for love, attention, belonging and feeling important. Children may try many different behaviors to meet these needs and get what they want. Parents can encourage and reinforce behaviors that are acceptable and discourage inappropriate behaviors depending on their response to them. For example, a child who throws a tantrum in the store and gets the candy bar he wanted has received attention and feels important. He is likely to throw another tantrum the next time he wants or need something because his parents have just reinforced his behavior with their response.
Children prefer to gain attention in positive ways, but if they are unable to meet their needs or get what they want in appropriate ways, they will use negative behaviors. It is much easier for parents to overlook positive behavior than negative behavior, so children often feel they don't get attention unless they misbehave.
Problem behaviors often result when children feel they aren't important and they aren't able to meet their needs for attention and belonging in acceptable ways. Following are some suggestions to help parents understand and deal with children's problem behaviors.
Let children know they are loved and important by spending time with them, complimenting accomplishments and giving then encouragement.
- Make sure children understand rules, expectations and consequences. Be consistent.
- Identify the need or motive behind children's behaviors and help them fmd positive ways to meet their needs. Offer alternative or substitutes when they can't have what they want.
- Allow children to "help" with daily activities. It makes them feel important to be able to contribute, and it is a good way for them to get attention with positive behavior.
- Don't give attention on demand. Ignore negative behavior when possible. Remove children from problem situations, such as time out for tantrums at home, or leaving the store for tantrums in public.
- Don't allow children to go places if they can't behave appropriately. Make sure they know they will be allowed an opportunity to go when they can demonstrate acceptable behavior.
- Pay attention to positive behavior. "Catch children being good" and let them know that you appreciate their behavior.
For more information about children's behavior, or other questions or comments, call the Trinity Child And Adolescent Program at (515) 574-6596.
This article was written by Pam Lehman, a counselor with the Trinity Recovery Center at Trinity Regional Hospital. Pam has a Master of Science degree in counseling.
Reprinted with the permission of the Community Action Network. © Community Action Network, All Rights Reserved.
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