Managing Challenging Behaviors

Every kid has their bad days, but when the good days are becoming few and far between families can feel frustrated and unsure of what to do. Some challenging behaviors can look like: tantrums, hitting, biting, throwing or breaking things; but as adults we have to remember that littles don’t know how to manage their own emotions, they’re operating solely on how they feel in the moment. Behavior is language; our behaviors tell others what we may not be able to communicate verbally. When we have littles who may not know or have the words to say how they are feeling their behaviors can escalate to get their point across. Many children “voice” their frustrations by biting, hitting, kicking-it’s very common for parents to experience this throughout their young child’s life.


However, it is up to us as parents to teach our children to manage their behaviors and communicate their feelings appropriately. Children may use their behaviors to gain your attention, to get out of doing something or if they want something; meaning they are attempting to get their needs met.


Why punishing doesn’t work

When we meet our children’s negative behaviors with punishment, we’re not teaching them how to cope with negative feelings. We are teaching them that negative feelings equal punishment, which in turn teaches children to not express their negative emotions around you. This could potentially lead to kids’ having increased behaviors at home, school and daycare.


What to do instead

Avoid overreacting to the behavior, when you give the behavior attention it inadvertently can encourage it.


Be direct when addressing the behavior, Example: “Ouch, biting hurts” or “Pushing others is not nice”.


Validate your child’s feelings; make sure they know that you know how they feel. “I know you’re frustrated right now, but biting does not solve the problem. It’s okay to be mad, but pushing others is not appropriate”


Redirect your child. After you validate their feelings redirect them to something else to do; it can help giving them a choice of activity ie: “you can read or you can play with the blocks”.


Teach your children to use their words; when something happens to them that they don’t like teach them to say “I don’t like that” or use “I feel” statements to help them communicate their feelings.


Lastly, remember to praise your child when they are nice to others, when they share, express their feelings, etc to encourage this behavior.


The key to changing challenging behaviors is to remain consistent in your approach.  As frustrating as it is to deal with your child’s negative behaviors and as difficult it is at times to remain calm, especially when we as parents are trying to balance a million and one things on top of parenting; it’s important to remember your child is just learning how to deal with big emotions. Little kids are impulsive and are not equipped with fore thought, they often times just react to what’s happening around them. It’s up to us to teach them by addressing the behaviors appropriately and by leading by example; showing them how we handle our big emotions impacts how they react to theirs.