Getting Rid of Your Children's Bad Habits Effectively
Being a parent can prove to be quite the challenge. You want to not only tackle bad habits and get rid of them but you also want to make sure you are doing so in a way that will benefit your child, not harm them. Sometimes it can be very tricky to decide the best way to approach each situation. While every child responds differently, here are a few habits that many parents struggle with and how we have found to get rid of them.
Reasons Children Do It
Thumb sucking can mean various things for your child, depending on their age. For newborns who are just learning how to use their muscles and move various parts of their bodies, it can be a way to explore their surroundings or even let you know they are hungry. Typically if they are hungry, there is going to be some form of crying associated with the sucking.
As children get older, thumb sucking can happen when a child is stressed. It is a way for them to calm themselves down. It typically does not cause any problems and much of the time children will cease the habit as they notice their peers are not doing the same thing. A lot of the time, children who have never been given pacifiers will suck their thumbs. Pacifiers are a much easier habit to break because the amount of time children are allowed to use their pacifiers can be limited.
If you child continues to suck their thumb as they get older and it is interfering with their life (such as hindering their ability to learn to speak because their finger is always in their mouth), or you notice they are doing it in an obsessive way, you may want to talk to your pediatrician. The same goes for nail biting.
Getting Your Child to Stop
The best way to figure out how to stop any problem is to pinpoint when and why your child is sucking their thumb. Are they bored during those times, tired, stressed out? Saying something to your child such as “I’ve noticed that you’ve been sucking your thumb a lot lately. Can I ask why?” can open up a dialogue. A lot of parents forget that once their children can begin speaking, a lot of issues can be resolved very simply through communication. When children are in a situation where you think thumb sucking is bound to happen, give them something else to focus on; whether it’s a new toy or a hands-on activity that the two of you can enjoy together.
Be Patient and Kind
Do your best to be sensitive whenever trying to break a habit. If you pick on your child or give too much attention to the habit, this can make your child feel insecure about their behavior or embarrassed. The last thing you should ever do is make fun of them or approach the situation in an angry way because this can cause them to want to do it more. Approaching the situation by placing gross tasting nail polish on your child, for example, is something that should not be done.
Aggressive Behavior: Hitting, Biting and Kicking
Just like what we said with thumb sucking, when it comes to any behavior you are trying to change, it is important to be a bit of a detective. Try your best to pinpoint times where you child is becoming aggressive. While aggressive behavior and testing the waters is normal for ages 1-2, because children do not know any better, there needs to be consistent forms of punishments that stop the behavior before it spirals out of control. Children who do not have the means to communicate what they are feeling are bound to act out because that’s the only way they have learned to get attention.
What Causes This Type of Behavior
Aggressive behavior can be caused by a variety of things. If you child’s routine has been changed or they become frustrated or overwhelmed, they may lash out through behaviors such as hitting, kicking or biting as a way to get attention. The behaviors can also be learned from the children they play with.
Before children learn to speak, it is very difficult for them to communicate their needs to their parents and it takes parents a few months to get used to their child’s unique ways of letting them know what they need.
Step in Right Away
Look for patterns in the way your child is acting aggressively. Do they only do it around certain people or in certain situations?
When you notice your child is about to do something negative, step in right away. Divert their attention from the ‘stressor’ and say something short and sweet like, “Biting is not nice.” You do not want to give too much attention to the behavior. Giving more attention to the victim and ignoring the aggressor is an important step, as it shows them they need to find other ways to get what they want.
After they’ve calmed down and had some time to process what happened, talk to them and have them apologize for what they did. Depending on the age of your child, sitting them down and explaining to them why what they did was wrong is important. Even saying something as short and sweet as, “Hitting hurts. You made Jessica sad when you did that. Do you think maybe you should give her a hug?” can prove to be quite effective. It helps them learn why what they are doing is wrong and consider what it would be like if it were to happen to them.
Children Copy What They See
When you are trying to change a child’s behavior, do not raise your voice; lower it. Show them that you have your emotions in check and over time, they will mimic you. Aggressive behavior on your part only leads to more aggressive behavior coming from your child. For example; if you spank your child, this may cause them to begin hitting others or make them do so more often.
Consistency is extremely important. Show them that you are the boss and that there are consequences to their actions. Whether you choose to give time outs or have them turn off the movie they are watching, make sure you give proper warning so your child doesn’t become confused by your decisions. Be short and quick with your punishments to show them that you are in control.
Show Them You Understand
A lot of the times reaching out to your child and letting them know what they’re feeling is normal is very beneficial. Say something like, “I know that it makes you angry when we have to go home, but we will go back next week. Mommy gets angry too. Sometimes when I’m angry, I need to leave the room and take a few deep breaths. Want to try it with me?” This allows them to interact with you on a whole new level and gain a deeper bond with you, revolving around trust. For children under the age of 3, it is best to keep your explanations short so they do not become overwhelmed.
Avoid Being Overly Harsh: Things You Should Not Say To Your Child
Children are constantly learning and the things you say can affect them for the rest of their lives. They thrive when things are explained to them so giving them the answer of “because I told you so” is not going to cut it. You want them to respect you and listen to you, and that is not the way to go about it. Explain to them why what they are doing is not okay, whether that’s because it’s not safe or because it is harming another person. Give examples as necessary to help them better understand and connect the dots to see that they were in the wrong.
While we can all agree saying “shut up” to your child or cussing to get them to listen to you is never a good idea, even saying “you should know better” can cause damage. You do not want to teach your child through making them feel bad about themselves. Instead, as we have mentioned previously, this would be the perfect opportunity to explain why what they did was wrong and ask them questions. Let them explain to you why they did what they did. For all you know, they may not have realized they were in the wrong. Maybe they were distracted from being overly excited or simply had no idea they were hurting another child’s feelings.
Open communication with your child is important, even when your child is barely speaking. The more you talk to your child and explain things to them, the quicker they are going to learn and the more confident they are going to be as adults. Parenting is probably the trickiest job in the world and most people learn as they go, so don’t beat yourself up over mistakes because none of us are perfect.
Christina Appleworth writes on topics related to home improvement and remodelling. She helps provide a wide range of made to measure venetian blinds and readymade blinds through her website.