Many parents have approached and consulted me for tips to change their children’s disruptive behavior. Frankly speaking, to change a behavior is not easy. Try to imagine that you have promised to change your habits and keep a healthy lifestyle, i.e. go to bed early and get up early, eat healthily and at regular time, do exercise daily for at least 30 minutes, visit parents every twice a week, save money, etc. We all know the benefit of these habits but many times we can’t resist the temptation and end up staying late at friend’s party, eating snack and drinking beer, going home to rest instead of visiting parents, buying expensive clothes and furniture. Trying to change yourselves is already a difficult task, not to mention changing others, especially your beloved children. Seeing the challenge the children face, many parents tend to give in early in order not to see them unhappy.
There are always reasons and purposes for our voluntary behaviors. Behavior must fulfill certain functions. Children displaying disobedience or non-compliance could be triggered and sustained by different rewards. For example, a child whining in the shopping mall may simply want to get his/her parents to buy him/her a toy. If the child could not get what he/she wants, the child would throw tantrum, fight for a deal to avoid complying or delay performing certain task or homework. They would exhibit disruptive behavior to draw attention or entertain themselves. By the time the parents notice the level of the behavioral problem aggravated, the behavior has already turned into a habit – a conditioned reflex, which is a behavior triggered without deliberated thought or rewards.
To manage this kind of behavior, there are a few things for the parents to do. The parents should first equip their children with appropriate social skills for achieving suitable outcome. Effective teaching should be conducted when the child is calm and at a state of willingness to learn. Reprimanding a child at the wrong timing is similar to asking a drunken person to stop drinking. This will only result of undesirable consequences such as irritation and sour relationship.
When the children display behavioral problem, many parents would mistakenly think the best solution to stop the problem is giving what they want. This would result the instant happiness and peace. The parents would feel good after the issue is resolved. However, this quick fix will only have a short-term effect. In fact, it will create a long-term problem in the future. The common effective way to solve the problem is removing the reward, such as a toy or the attention, from the child immediately. If the child is generally cooperative, the parents could just try to stop the disruptive behavior calmly. Alternatively, the parent could do some other activities to distract their attention. Stop them by force would be the last resort.
Parents need to have enough preparation and understanding of the limitation of the environment and their own ability when handling behavioral problem. When the child tries to display certain behavior to obtain the reward but his request is being rejected. He/She tends to intensify the behavior until they get what they want. In order to have a long-term result, we need to be persistent and consistent. Eventually, this is part of the learning process for children to go through.