Wednesday, August 15, 2012

12 Tips to a better-behaved kid

By ELAINE DONG

If you have an unruly child on your hands, fret not. Here are 12 practical ways to get back on track towards good behaviour.

Tip # 1: Listen to him

The first thing you need to do is get to know your child. What makes him tick? Why does he behave the way he does? Is he looking for validation or attention? Some kids are naturally more active than others, and as long as the behaviour is not destructive, there are ways of setting boundaries and navigating bad behaviour minefields (see Tip # 2).

However, if you child is acting out so that he gets attention, even the negative kind, from you, then it’s time to address that. Try spending 10 minutes a day just asking him how his day was. If you can catch him after school, ask about what he did, and really listen. If you get back from work late, spend the last 10 minutes with him before he goes to bed. Do this for a while, and you will definitely see a marked improvement in behaviour. You are also getting to know your kid better!
Spend time with your children, play and talk to them to understand them better.

Tip # 2: Set boundaries

Let your child know that there are certain behaviours that you will not stand for. Things such as lying, bullying and being rude and arrogant are absolute no-nos. Add to the list as you see fit. Whenever she gets out of line, address it immediately. For example, if you catch your kid in a lie, confront her about it straight away. Let her know she has broken a rule you both agreed on, and that she has to bear with the consequences. Set a punishment that takes away certain privileges, such as no computers for a week, or no day out at the mall. You could even set the punishment together upfront, as you are setting down the rules. This way she knows exactly what the consequence of her action is.

Tip # 3: EQ training - talking them through tantrums

Depending on how old your kid is, this can be approached in different ways. With older kids, they are probably able to express their frustrations. But you will have to listen to them and address the issue. Younger kids may not know how to say what’s making them angry, sad or frustrated. You have to be their voice. Talk them through it. Once your child has calmed down, say things like “I understand you were very angry just now because I didn’t allow you to buy the book you wanted. You felt I was being unfair.” When you say this, you’re helping them identify their feelings.

Continue with “I know you love reading, but we made a deal. You have to finish your old book before you can buy a new one. So any time that you’re done with the book, we’ll go to the bookshop and choose another one, okay?”

Never put them down and brush aside their feelings. Saying things like, “You’re just a kid, why are you so sad?” doesn’t help and it damages their self-esteem.

Tip #4: Give them control

Whenever a problem arises, always give the control back to your child. This doesn’t mean letting them run rampant. It means letting them be a part of the decision-making process regarding things in their life. If your kid is learning music, does he have a say in what instrument he wants to learn? Does he get to choose what he wants to do for extra-curricular activities? If you decide everything for him, you’re crippling him. He will not learn to make decisions or to accept responsibility for those decisions.

When kids have a sense of ownership over their life, they are likely to be happier kids. Happier kids = well-behaved kids.

Tip #5: Empower, not scold

When bad behaviour rears its ugly head, your first instinct would be to scold. Stop. Ask yourself: Was it a genuine mistake? If it was an honest mistake, express your anger, but also let your kid know that you understand it was a mistake. Ask her how she thinks she can make it right. Again, give the control back to her. Will she help to clean up the mess and promise to be more careful next time? Will she replace whatever is broken? Will she apologise?

At the end of it, the message to get across to your child is that a mistake can be rectified, and that she can choose to be part of the solution.

Tip #6: Do you know what they’re reading and watching?

Once in a while, sit down and watch the shows they watch. Flip through the books they’re reading. Kids pick up a lot from books and shows, and unfortunately, you have no control over the content of these shows. A lot have rude and obscene language, and some shows glorify bad behaviour. As you’re watching, discuss what you see on TV with them. Do they agree with the behaviour? Why and why not? If necessary, stop your kid from watching the said shows, and make sure they know why.

Tip #7: Play with your child

Playtime is important. You will have a better sense of what she’s like by spending some time every day playing with her. Board games are great for older kids; for the little one, how about a little rough and tumble time? You will have an idea whether she plays fair, whether she is kind to other kids, whether she has a mind of her own, or follows the crowd. It gives you a chance to impart values as well, such as being a gracious winner, and knowing how to share. Through play, you also teach her about communication and dealing with different personalities.

Tip #8: Know their friends

Children spend a lot of time with their friends, so it’s only natural that they will pick up certain personality traits. If a friend is rude and callous, your kid may emulate that behaviour. If a friend is respectful, then chances are your child will be motivated to do the same. Invite his friends over for playdates at the house, so you can see the dynamics of the friendships. After school, spend a few minutes asking them about what happened in school. These little snippets will help you put together a picture about your kid’s friends.

Tip #9: Be kind

Show by example. Be kind to the people around you. It’s about empathy and being able to look at things from someone else’s perspective. In the morning, instead of rushing them to get ready for school, wake them up with a kiss and a hug. Show them gestures throughout the day, such as a bright smile to greet them when they come home from school, a squeeze on the shoulders for a job well done, or just say “I love you” randomly. Kindness teaches kids to be considerate, and they learn to give and take.

Tip #10: Teach them to laugh

Children love laughing. If you observe, they are often giggling, smiling and laughing. Humour and laughter will help them through life, as life throws challenges at them. It’s your job to nurture this natural talent of theirs, by always emphasising the positive aspects of life. Be optimistic yourself. Know what your kid likes. If she loves a cuddle in the morning before you go to work, do it to put a smile on her face. If she loves an ice-cold chocolate malt drink on a hot day, make some for her. Children respond really well to love and attention, and you will have a happier kid.

Tip #11: Go to bed

Kids need more sleep than adults do. While we can get by with between six and eight hours of shut-eye every night, kids would need up to 10 hours, or 12 if they’re below six years old.

Make it a rule that they should be in bed by nine o’clock, the latest. If your kid is still napping during the day, try to space it out so that she finishes her nap before 3pm every afternoon. This way, going to bed at 9pm won’t be a challenge. When your child is well-rested, she’s less likely to be irritable and cranky.

Tip # 12: Cultivate good eating habits

Make sure there is little or no sugar in your kid’s diet. It is true that they’ll get hyped up on sugar, so limit those fizzy drinks for special occasions. Check for food intolerance, as kids who are gluten-intolerant may have behavioural problems if there is gluten in their diet. To do this, take note of your child’s behaviour after eating specific foods. To confirm any kind of allergies or intolerance, go to a paediatrician who specialises in these fields. Sometimes a quick check will give you the results.
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