Is hitting, spitting, whining, slamming doors, or nasty back talk driving you to the end of your rope?
One of the first things you can do to resolve a child’s difficult behavior is to observe. Put on your detective hat and simply notice. Notice when that pesky behavior crops up. When it does, who’s there and what’s happening?
What happened immediately before? What happened in the hours before? For example, sometimes when a child is left alone with his sibling for ten minutes, a fist may fly. Or sometimes when a little one wakes up after a night of not sleeping well, she is uncooperative and whiny. Or maybe it’s an evening when a parent goes out that a child doesn’t want to get ready for bed or is grumpy in the morning.
So for five days, just notice when your child’s difficult behavior rears its head. What happens before the hitting, whining, or tantrum? Notice who is there and who’s not. Notice what the circumstances are.
And then notice your response. How do you feel and what do you do? What do you say to your child? What words come to mind but are too hurtful to actually utter? What words slip out that you regret? What helps and what makes things worse? Take a moment to write these observations down. All of them.
These are important things to notice. Patterns get shaped early between you and your child. Over time, they take hold and form the relationship. Being observant and reflective can be the first step in helping to shift some of the difficult behaviors or patterns you see in your child and the patterns that are shaping how you interact together.
Because by the time your little one reaches adolescence, those patterns have settled in, and you may be locked in battles with your teen that are hard to get out of. Overtime, the pattern takes a stronghold. It’s not too late to untangle them when she’s 16, but it’s a little more complicated and can take longer.
So take some time now to notice, to observe what’s going on both before your child lashes out and when he is coming undone.