Some of the behaviors little kids exhibit can be downright baffling and, often, rather frustrating. Some parents even feel embarrassed of how their kids talk and act and resort to calling them names like "brat," "spoiled," "defiant," "unruly," or "bad." But instead of giving them insulting and degrading labels, I’d rather treat these behaviors as clues to what is going on in a child's mind. Their actions and reactions are actually valuable unconscious messages that reflect what they are feeling or lacking.
Now, let us dig deeper into the real reasons behind some troubling everyday behaviors that kids exhibit:
- This is a sign of frustration.
- The child is trying to release negative energy.
- Kids who find the urge to control other people and situations may have an underlying fear that their needs are not going to be met.
- Bossy behavior may also stem from mimicking their parents or characters on TV.
- This may also be due to a need to feel important or getting what they want.
- Healthy competition even among siblings is natural, but a child who tries to be or appear to be better than his or her brothers and sisters is likely to be seeking to be valued more as a person.
- Taunting their siblings may be their way of getting attention and/or gaining control.
- Disrespectful kids are showing that they are not connected to the person.
- It can also be because the grownups around them break promises or show behaviors that go against their own teachings (e.g., lying, bashing the neighbors, cursing the boss, and so on).
- When kids don't listen, it can be because they think that grownups don't acknowledge them or their desires.
- It can also because they get nagged too often, too many points are being tackled all at once, or either the child or the parent is busy doing something else while the one-way discussion is ongoing.
- Lack of self-esteem can be because the child is given too much advice (told what to do) but does not receive enough encouragement from parents and caretakers.
- It can also be because they receive criticisms even for a job well done (not getting a perfect score in tests, not folding clothes properly, missing a spot when coloring, etc.)
- Kids who receive help too quickly even for minor matters tend to not develop enough confidence in themselves.
- This is a signal that the child is overly excited.
- He or she might not be getting enough of your attention.
- Hiding the truth may be because an adult overreacted to a mistake the child made in the past.
- It can also be an expression of the child's active imagination.
- This indicates that the child is tired, exhausted, and/or not getting enough sleep.
- The kid might be feeling overwhelmed or over-stimulated.
- Kids who show signs of defiance may want to feel more competent and respected, to be treated as an individual and not a robot that can be ignored and/or ordered around.
- Also, they might have the desire to be heard and understood.
- This can be signal that the child is unable to cope with the situation.
- This may also be their way of getting attention or listened to.
Little kids are still too young to express themselves fully. Even big kids are not as equipped as adults in conveying their thoughts and emotions in a more socially acceptable way. Thus, as parents, it is important to remind ourselves that all behavior, even problem ones, is a form of communication and there is always a reason behind it.
Also, oftentimes, a child who has tried several times to communicate with adults about what he needs but his needs remain unmet will use negative behavior as a way of sending out a very loud message. The only real way to minimize or stop challenging behavior is by helping our kids explore the meaning behind it and to suggest a positive replacement for it.
When adults help children find positive ways to communicate their needs to others, the kids learn important social and problem-solving skills that will help them throughout their lifetime.
Psychology for Effective Parenting reveals many powerful communication techniques that are usually reserved for psychologists and therapists. My aha moment arrived on pg. 36, when the author spoke about how the brain registers the word “don’t.” That information alone will help parents reset their instructions so they can increase listening and cooperation. The book is filled with many such hints. I highly recommend this to all parents.
I believe our kids are the key to the future of the world and, as parents, we have a lot of influence while our children are still learning and growing. We set ourselves as our kids’ role models. Consciously and unconsciously, we pass on to them what we know, what we believe, and what we value. This is why partnering with parents in teaching life lessons and soft skills to get kids prepared for the world has become my key purpose in life. I hope that through my experience in teaching communications in university and in NLP training and coaching, I’ll be able to equip you with more tangible methods so that you can be your children’s life teacher, too!