Why can’t our bundles of joy just follow the rules?

Kids use their behaviour to show how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking. Often, they’re communicating something through their behaviour that they aren’t necessarily able to verbalize. When you are determining what discipline strategy you should use, you might want to consider the possible underlying causes for the behaviour problem.

They’re Testing Limits

When you’ve established rules and told kids what they’re not allowed to do, they might not take you seriously and will often want to test whether or not you mean it. They test limits just to find out what the consequences will be when they break the rules. That is why it is important to be consistent in setting clear limits and following up with the consequences whenever those limits are tested. If children think there’s a small chance, they may be able to get away with something, they’re often tempted to try it. However, if you show them that they’ll receive a negative consequence each time they break a rule, they will eventually become more compliant.

The Lack of Skills

Sometimes behaviour problems stem from a lack of social skills. A child who lacks social skills may hit another child because he wants to play with a toy. If the child doesn’t have problem-solving skills they may not clean their room because they are not sure what to do when their toys don’t fit in the toy box. When your child misbehaves, instead of just giving him a consequence, teach him what to do instead. Show him alternatives to that behavior so he can learn from his mistakes. It is important to attach a lesson when you hand out consequences so that your child understands why their actions were wrong.

They Want Independence

As preschoolers learn to do more things on their own, they often want to show off their new skills. Teenagers also are known for their attempts to be independent. They may become more argumentative and may behave disrespectfully at times. This rebellion if often an attempt to show adults that they can think for themselves. They may break the rules on purpose and may try to show adults that they can’t be forced to do things they don’t want to do.

Give your child appropriate choices. Ask your pre-schooler, “Do you want water or ice water to drink?” Tell your teenager, “It’s up to you to decide when you do your chores. And as soon as your chores are done, you can use your electronics.” Giving age-appropriate freedom will meet your child’s need to be independent.

They Can’t Control Their Emotions

Sometimes kids have no idea what to do about their feelings. They may become easily overwhelmed when they feel angry, and as a result, they may become aggressive. They may even act out when they feel excited, stressed, or bored.

Kids need to learn healthy ways to deal with feelings such as sadness, disappointment, frustration, and anxiety. Teach kids about feelings and show them healthy ways to manage their emotions to prevent them from misbehaving.

When kids have better control over their emotions, they can use healthy coping skills to deal with their feelings. Instead of misbehaving to express their emotions, a child may learn to take a time-out to calm down.

Underlying Mental Health Issues

Sometimes children have underlying mental health issues that contribute to behaviour problems. Kids with ADHD, for example, struggle to follow directions and behave impulsively.

Underlying anxiety or depression can also contribute to behaviour problems. An anxious child may avoid going to classes that make him feel nervous. A depressed child may be irritable and lack the motivation to complete their chores or schoolwork.

If you suspect your child may have an underlying mental health issue or developmental disorder, talk to your child’s paediatrician. An evaluation by a trained mental health professional may be necessary to determine if there are any underlying emotional issues contributing to behaviour problems.