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When Your Child Misbehaves

Sunday, March 19th, 2023

by Samantha Booth, MA


Parents, we have all been there. The screaming toddler in the grocery store, the pushing and shoving of siblings, throwing dinner across the room, talking back and missed curfews are all inevitable parts of parenthood. Determining how to manage a child's misbehavior can be a parenting challenge. There is such as vast amount of different parenting strategies at our fingertips, it can be overwhelming.  Sorting through what not only works for your individual child as well as what is going to change behavior in the long term, while fostering a secure parent/child attachment

Here is a plan to consider when confronting misbehavior.

1. Introduce Concern: This is simply restating the expectation.  The key for this step is to make sure you are in control of your own emotions before engaging in correcting behavior.  For younger kids this may look like: "It's not ok to hit your brother. Let's take a minute and cool down."  For older kids it may look like: "The curfew we had agreed upon was 10PM, when you didn't come home when you said you would it worried me"

2. Gain Understanding: Asking questions instead of assuming intentions gives your child the opportunity to have their voice heard. For all ages a safe non-assuming question is just to simply ask, "What happened?"  Acceptance, Empathy, and Listening are vital in this step.

3.  Resolution:  Find out if they have their own ideas for resolutions. This will look different within developmental stages.  Maintain consequences and boundaries when dialoguing the resolution. 

The final piece I want to add when confronting misbehavior is the value of consistency. Consistency is critical when it comes to correcting behavior.  Imagine how confusing it would be if your boss got mad at you for something one day and then watched you do the same thing the next day and was completely fine with it.  The same thing is true for children when they receive mixed messages.  They are likely to learn much faster when we consistently respond in the same way to the same behavior. 

If you find yourself struggling with family dynamics, or want to talk about life changes or other things with a professional, we have competent and caring therapists in all four of our locations - River Counseling Services in Platte, Sioux Falls Psychological Services, and Stronghold Counseling Services in Sioux Falls and in Yankton -who will meet you where you are, offering hope. That is our mission. You may schedule an appointment at the Platte office at 605-337-3444 or meet with one of our Sioux Falls or Yankton based therapists from your computer, smartphone, or in person at any of our clinics. To schedule an appointment, please call 605-334-2696.