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How to Deal With Children's Inappropriate Behavior

by Tiffany Raiford

All children behave inappropriately from time to time. Whether they throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the supermarket or hit another child over the head with a toy on a play date, there is a reason behind your child’s inappropriate behavior. Children might behave inappropriately because they are frustrated with a situation or something is wrong in their world. Your child’s poor behavior is a sign that something is not right, and while you cannot prevent all inappropriate behavior from occurring, you can deal with it rather easily.

Understand that your child is communicating with you through inappropriate behavior. This form of communication is to let you know that something is wrong and he wants the situation handled immediately. Do not immediately yell at your child to stop when he begins behaving in a manner you find inappropriate.

Ask your child to verbalize or show you what is wrong with him when he begins behaving inappropriately. He may simply want your attention, he might be hurt or he might be angry because a friend or sibling took something from him or broke something that belongs to him, and this is how he thinks he needs to express his unhappiness.

Explain to your child why his inappropriate behavior is not the acceptable way to express his feelings. For example, if your child is upset because his sister took something that belongs to him and his way of dealing with that is by hitting her, explain to him that you understand his frustration but there are more appropriate ways to express his anger at his sister. Explain to him that it’s okay to be angry when someone takes something from him, but that he should not use his anger to get back at someone else. Instead, he should come find you and explain what happened so that you can remedy the situation in an appropriate manner.

Support your child’s feelings when he expresses inappropriate behavior. This does not mean you should accept his behavior and do nothing about it. It simply means that you should not disregard the cause of his inappropriate behavior, since inappropriate behavior stems from something. Rather than discounting your child’s feelings by telling him to stop acting like a baby or to stop being a brat, support him by telling him that sometimes you get angry, too, but that you don’t hit people when you are angry.

Explain that there are consequences. Now that your child knows this behavior is inappropriate and not acceptable, explain the consequences of this behavior in the future. For example, you can tell him that from now on, when he behaves inappropriately, he cannot play outside the rest of the day or go to the park with his friends or play with his favorite item for the rest of the day. Children do not like having things taken from them, which makes them more likely to stop their inappropriate behavior in the future.

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