Child Behavior Problems

When children behave with defiance, anger, and disrespect, parents can be left feeling frustrated and angry themselves and resort to equally negative behaviors. It is important for parents to take a step back, try to determine underlying causes or problems, then guide the family to positive solutions.

When children slam doors, scream, talk disrespectfully, and disobey rules they can be showing signs that they are angry or even scared. Parents are not often even the root causes but are unfortunately in the direct lines of fire. Children actually tend to feel safer venting to loved ones and family members because the risks to the relationships are not as paramount in their minds. As children deal with social problems with friends, it might be intimidating to be honest with the friends about their feelings, but taking the frustrations out on family members is safer. Parents still need to address the problems and help their children find more positive ways to communicate, no matter the causes behind them.

Once parents look objectively at root causes for their children’s actions, there are many things that can be done to turn the behaviors around. Often the cause will help determine what the resolution should be. If a child is having difficulty in a class and acting out at home because of frustration, helpful ways to improve the classroom situation are warranted. Meetings with teachers, extra help with homework, or even altering class schedules might be positive ways to counteract the frustration.

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Children who speak disrespectfully to parents might be just going through stages of adolescent development where they are trying to determine who they are and at the same time rejecting any outside control. While this can be a common phase, it does not mean that it should be tolerated by parents. Instead, parents should calmly lay ground rules for communication within the family when there is not a tense situation already in progress. Talking about expectations and rules, as well as consequences for breaking them, should happen during positive, calm discussions, and should happen more than once.

It can be frustrating for parents to be on the receiving ends of these negative and defiant behaviors, but it is extremely important that they do not resort to the same tactics. This will only increase the level of the argument or behavior and not provide real solutions. Sometimes the best strategy for a parent is to tell the child that the behavior is unacceptable, frustrating, and will not be tolerated. The parent can then tell the child that when everyone has calmed down and can speak respectfully the issue will be discussed. This gives the child the opportunity to calm down and regain some self-control while still allowing the parent to follow through with realistic consequences that are not filled with anger. Sometimes in the heat of the moment it can be too easy for a parent to declare a punishment that they know is extreme, such as no cell phone ever again. This then leaves the parent in a position of backing down and it teaches the child that the consequences are negotiable and not always applied.

Investing time in discovering the causes for the angry or defiant behaviors is time well spent for parents. Children need to remain respectful of their parents and can learn to do this when parents are calm, consistent, and model appropriate positive behaviors in their own lives.

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