Problem children: what hides behind their disobedience and tantrums?
«Restless, naughty, ill-mannered- in short, a problem child». We hear such words very often from our parents and teachers! Problem children become the «nightmare» in a group of students at school and «terrorize» everyone around them: both adults and children. Parents become tired of fighting their stubbornness, and teachers cannot wait for the problem child to finally graduate from school or leave kindergarten.
But what hides behind such behavior? Why do children become «problematic»? What are the mistakes of parents when raising a child? And how to get the child to listen to you? You will find answers to these questions in this article.
- The portrait of a problem child
- Why do children become «difficult» and uncontrollable?
- What to do with a naughty child?
The portrait of a problem child
A father brings a six-year-old boy to an appointment with a psychologist. The child is unable to control his behavior: he constantly jumps, touches toys in the office without permission, and slams doors. When he gets bored, he goes to the blinds, pulls on them, and finally breaks them. The father explains that in kindergarten, teachers cannot cope with the child, he ignores them and carries on doing his own thing: running around, breaking toys, screaming loudly during nap time. The child cannot make friends, children stay away from him, no one wants to play with him or do any activities together.
This is a typical example of a problem child. Such children:
- do not control their own behavior;
- do not take into account the feelings and emotions of themselves and of others;
- do not follow any codes of conduct in preschool and school institutions;
- are unresponsive to parents and teachers;
- are often very moody and make scenes;
- do not know how to behave properly in public places;
- have their behavior get on the nerves of adults;
- become outcasts in a group of children.
Why do children become «difficult» and uncontrollable?
Mistake №1. Raising a «family’s favorite»
Parents fulfill any needs and wants of their son or daughter. This situation often occurs when it’s their only child in the family or when this child is very long-awaited. As a result, children get used to feeling their utmost importance and do not take into account any prohibitions and restrictions from adults.
Mistake №2. The absence of punishment in the family and of the sense of responsibility for their actions in a child
The child is always forgiven for bad deeds and disobedience under the simple explanation: «they’re still very little and do not understand what they’re doing, they will grow up and realize everything».
Mistake №3. An overly caring approach
The omnipresent «laissez-faire» approach is as dangerous as constant prohibitions and restrictions, as these will lead to the desire to violate them. Especially when the vital needs of the child are being limited: in their physical activity, communication, and the exploration of the world around them.
Mistake №4. Incorrect behavioral patterns set by parents
Lectures on the dangers of smoking and the benefits of reading may be held at home on a daily basis, but if the father smokes and the books only serve to stabilize the rickety dining table, the child is unlikely to understand it and to adapt the «right» behavior.
Mistake №5. A lack of a clear distinction between what is allowed and what is not
If mom strictly forbade eating sweets, and the grandmother secretly slipped them in the child’s pocket, or dad came home from work in a good mood and allowed to stay up until after 12, the child will quickly adapt to the changing nature of mood in adults and will learn how to manipulate them to obtain the necessary.
Mistake №6. «Outsourcing» educational functions
The opinion of parents, in this case, is that the kindergarten and the school should educate their children as they do not have time for this, they are busy earning money for the family and the child, in particular.
Reasons for the bad behavior of a child
In addition to the mistakes parents make when raising a child, there are other reasons why a calm and obedient child may suddenly begin to behave badly:
1. Willingness to attract attention
When mom and dad are constantly at work, children see their parents only in the mornings and in the evenings, thus they often lack love and care. On weekends, many parents leave their children with their grandparents when dealing with accumulated household chores.
Naturally, the child seeks attention from their parents in any possible way. And, as you know, the fastest and easiest way is to perform an action that mom or dad will immediately pay attention to: make a scene, start screaming on the street or stomping the feet, or get into a fight with someone.
What should parents do:
- call the child by their name more often and say kind words to them;
- if the child’s bad behavior is caused precisely by the lack of parental attention, it is better not to react to such behavior.
- if the child begins to behave badly, distract them, assign an easy task to them, such as to water the plants, dust off some surfaces, or wash the dishes. Always make sure to express your gratitude for completing these tasks;
- spend your free time with your child: go on walks and play together. Make them feel like an important part of your life, and not as a nuisance to it.
2. The «Hunger for power»
Many children, especially in times of crisis, demand the fulfillment of all of their wants and needs. The child seeks to dominate over their parents, thus becoming more independent from them.
This is expressed through moodiness, disobedience, refusal to listen to adults, insisting on their own opinion.
What should parents do:
- recognize the power and the importance of the child. However, this power should come along with being responsible. For example, a mother allows her daughter to wear her favorite party dress on a weekday to kindergarten, but if she gets it dirty, she will have to wear a different dress to a concert.
- define clear boundaries for inappropriate behavior. It is clearly not allowed to fight and call parents, adults or other children’s names; in the same way, as it is not allowed to break their own toys or the toys of others. If the child crosses these boundaries – they should be punished. This should be discussed with the child beforehand in order for them to be informed of the consequences of their incorrect actions.
- teach your child to control themselves and their emotions, to cope with anger, rage, and aggression.
3. Revenge («You did something bad to me– I will do the same to you»)
We ourselves sometimes do not notice that our actions or words offend our children. And if for us it may go by unnoticed or the conflict may be deemed not important enough, resentment may have serious consequences on our son or daughter.
Firstly, the child becomes anti-social and then begins to display physical or verbal aggression against the adult, behaves badly, does not obey their parents in any way. The consequences of this may include either building a stronger relationship between the child and the parent, or an even greater distancing of the child from their mother and father.
What should parents do:
- teach your children to express their feelings and worries, and ask more often: «What do you feel now? What is your mood like today?»;
- after a quarrel with a child: ask for forgiveness, if you did not manage to keep calm and screamed at them, discuss the nature of the quarrel and what can be done to avoid this in the future;
- do not be afraid to express your feelings in front of your child. Your authority will not suffer from this. Yes, you may sometimes feel sad and ashamed of your mistakes.
4. Consciously avoiding failures
Such a child refuses to participate in games, in sports competitions and public events, does not answer the teacher’s questions in front of the class, is afraid of visiting new places and meeting new people.
Adults believe that this is just a form of acting up through disobedience, but the problem here lies much deeper – in the individual perception and self-esteem of the child.
The child is afraid to fail and to be unsuccessful and therefore refuses future potentially traumatic situations. Parents also contribute to that, when their expectations with regards to the child do not correspond to their real capabilities.
What should parents do:
- create win-win situations in which the child is able to demonstrate their strengths;
- increase the self-esteem of the child, praise them for their perseverance, and for completing the task;
- teach them to think about themselves in a positive way: «Yes, I still don’t know how to tie shoelaces, but not to worry, I can already build a Lego house in five minutes»;
- do not compare your child with others, compare them only with themselves, with their personal actions and achievements;
- support them and always lend a helping hand in the event of difficulties, but do not do their tasks for them!
At 3 years old
By the age of three, the child begins to strive for independence from the adult. They are often stubborn, refuse to fulfill the requirements of their parents, and make scenes frequently. Most mothers and fathers are often not prepared for the fact that their cute baby suddenly turns into an uncontrollable tyrant. But such manifestations of the crisis should not be feared, as they solely suggest that the child is growing up and that they are ready to separate themselves mentally from the adult and start becoming an independent individual with their personal needs and desires.
At 6-7 years old
The next crisis stage of the child’s life falls on the preschool age when their social «Me» begins to take shape. Just like at the age of 3 years old, the child wants to make their own decisions and wants adults to take their opinion into account. Children can demonstrate a painful reaction to criticism, may often become offended and show disobedience when parents demand their requirements to be fulfilled with no questions asked.
A teenager is seeking ways for self-expression and self-affirmation in society, the opinion of parents becomes no longer authoritative for them. Hormonal changes in the body cause explosiveness, irritability, and emotional instability. Many children start demonstrating poor academic performance and start igniting conflicts with peers and teachers. A hostile atmosphere also reigns in the family at this moment since parents are willing to take control over the life of their son or daughter.
If you are worried about your teenager, if you suspect that they are involved with a «bad» group of friends or that they are being bullied by their peers, or whether you just want to make sure that everything is fine with them at school – it is not necessary to place them under total control. Simply download the Find My Kids app from the AppStore or GooglePlay.
In addition to the reasons stated above, behavioral disorders can manifest themselves in children with the following physiological issues:
- ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder);
- ASD (autism spectrum disorder);
- Developmental delay;
- Mental illness;
- Psychological trauma or constant stress.
In these cases, parental action alone will not be enough. The child needs medical, psychological and educational assistance.
Remember the boy who came to see a psychologist with his dad? In his case, there was a whole range of reasons that acted as motivators to such behavior. Mom and dad broke up when the child was not even three years old, and his grandmother was taking an active part in his upbringing, as parents had their priorities set in on their personal life. After the grandmother came to a quick realization that she is unable to cope with the boy, she tried to involve parents in the process of raising their child. As a result, the boy mainly lived with his dad and his new wife, then with his grandmother, and sometimes his mother took him on weekends. In such a situation in the family, the child did not feel needed and loved. This neglect had its toll on the development of his neurological disorders, which the boy’s parents did not even pay attention to.
What to do with a naughty child?
Is it worth the punishment?
The subject of punishment always causes a lot of controversy among parents. Some believe that punishment degrades the identity of the child and deprives them of independence. Others recall their own childhood – «I was constantly punished until I was 10 years old, my father would even beat me sometimes»- and to also act in the same way with their children. Some only use punishment as a threat(«if you don’t stop messing around right now, I will punish you»), but in reality, this does not take place.
We have already found out that the complete lack of punishment and responsibility for actions leads to the development of a sensation that everything is permitted and contributes to an unwillingness to obey the requirements of adults.
Therefore, parents should set the rules for punishment and always obey them:
- The aim of the punishment is to make the child aware of their «wrongness» and henceforth motivate them to act differently. There will be no physical or psychological harm from such punishment.
- The child must be sure that, whilst punishing, the parents will still continue to love them.
- The punishment should be with regard to a specific act that the child committed.
- Never punish a child while in anger and, especially, in public places.
- Take the age of the child into account. Punishing a two-year-old child for accidentally knocking over a bowl of soup is not correct.
- The punishment should not humiliate the child.
- If you were informed about a child’s misconduct, hear them out first, and then make a decision on the punishment.
- The punishment in the form of deprivation should not involve what has already been gifted to the child (their sweets or toys).
- If possible, define the actions that will certainly lead to punishment with the child in advance: what these actions will be and what exactly will the child be deprived of.
The following punishments can be considered psychologically «safe»:
- Timeout (time spent by the child on his own).
- A temporary ban on the use of computers, gadgets, and watching cartoons.
- A temporary ban on the purchase of toys or sweets.
- An education conversation in a calm tone.
- A collective search for constructive solutions.
- The child’s own correction of their mistakes.
In 2017, a survey on children’s punishment (by their parents) was conducted. In it, MCQ was proposed. The results were the following:
- 80% of parents use moralizing conversations;
- 12% practice physical punishment with a belt;
- 43% temporarily restrict access to the computer;
- 29% leave the child on their own for them to reflect on their actions;
- 13% deprive their children of pocket money.
Tips of a psychologist for parents of problem children
- Start raising your child by setting an example. Leading through your personal example of calm and composed behavior will do much more than a long moralizing conversation.
- Love your child at any state: moody, naughty or stubborn. 90% of cases of disobedience in children are associated with a lack of parental love and attention.
- It is important for parents to have an idea of the crisis stages in the development of the child. This way, it will be easier for them to understand and react accordingly to a certain behavior of their son or daughter.
- Teach children to understand themselves, to dissect their feelings and reflect on them. This way, they will learn to deal with those feelings.
- Do not aspire to the title of an ideal parent with an ideal child. Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
- Pay attention to the games that the child plays and cartoons they watch. What heroes and what people do they set themselves as an example. For example, note that the «Tom and Jerry» cartoon depicts the classic cat-and-mouse rivalry in a very violent way and includes scenarios that may be reproduced in real-life situations they involve household items. Many parents complained of their children becoming restless and more prone to violent actions after watching it.
- Punishments should take place, but do not forget about the encouragement and praising actions for good behavior.
- Remember: good behavior can be achieved not only through punishment but also through deep conversations.
- If something is not allowed to the child, then it should not be allowed under any circumstances, regardless of the mood of the parents.
- Learn how to respond to your child’s tantrums. The three-year-old can be distracted by something interesting on the street or at home, the older child’s tantrum is better to ignore, and after the child calms down, it is important to discuss their wrongdoing with them.
- If you can’t cope with the problem of a child’s bad behavior, contact a psychologist for help.
- Sedatives should only ever be used as directed by your doctor!
- If you promised to punish the child– punish them, if you promised to encourage them–do so. Keep your promises. And the child will learn to do the same.
- To touch, hug, kiss, or hold the child’s hand is the best way to deal with a beginning tantrum. If the child begins to act up in the store, on the playground, on the street, squat down to be on the same height to them and calmly explain the incorrectness of their actions.
- Do not put any labels on your son or daughter. If a child is constantly told that they’re bad, evil and naughty, sooner or later they will really become like that and will behave accordingly.
- And the last recommendation: all the rules of conduct, all the «DOs» and «DON’Ts» teach the child from their early childhood, form their culture of behavior at home and in public places.
Dear parents, remember that even the most «difficult» and uncontrollable children can become obedient if they feel important, needed and loved. It is your love and support that can help in the fight against the problematic behavior of your child!