Have you seen this child behavior problem?

You know when a child behavior problem occurs the most—in public. What's a mother to do? Well, understanding goes a long way.

There are certain benchmarks in a child's emotional, physical and intellectual development. Have you noticed that trouble sometimes begins whenever your child reaches a milestone such as:

  • reaching a birthday
  • going to school
  • learning to read
  • riding a bike
  • using the toilet
  • advancing in a sport or hobby
  • even learning to drive!

Suddenly their behavior suddenly goes in the tank? Your sweet child becomes obstinate and disrespectful. Behavior you thought you'd seen for the last time returns, and tactics that have always worked suddenly don't. Child behavior problems can sneak up at any time. They act as though they now have it all figured out and they don't need parents anymore. What the heck is going on?

If you were unprepared for this interesting relationship between accomplishment and behavior, you might make the mistake of responding like most parents do: with anger and control.

What does that get you? A power struggle and ultimately no change other than continued resentment and more bad behavior. So what's a parent to do when they see a child behavior problem? It helps to understand where your child is coming from.

Children have a powerful drive to mature, to achieve grown-up status. It's one of the most powerful motivators acting on your child.

And in your child's mind, that milestone - let's say it's riding a bike without training wheels - that ability is the next obstacle on his path to growing up.  It's a big obstacle, and he's fixated on it for a while.

So he begins to see it as the obstacle, rather than an obstacle, between him and adulthood.  It's analogous to wanting to climb a mountain.  From a distance, you have a clear view of the peak you're striving towards, but as you get closer, the foothills obscure the peak and you begin to mistake the slope you're on for the path to the summit, still far ahead.

When she  achieves her goal, she feels like she's basically a grown-up now. But you're still treating her the same way you did before her big success.  And that, right there, is your recipe for discord, resulting in a child behavior problem.

This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Sure, it's unpleasant when your child regresses, but I think every kid deserves to act up now and then.  Mistakes and learning go hand in hand.

So what to do? I'm not recommending any particular action; it just helps a little to understand why it's happening. So, that's the first tip:

1. Understand and empathize
Knowing where your young person is coming from is half the battle. You can maintain a sense of control over your own reaction. Remember that your child desperately wants independence and autonomy, even if they're not quite ready for it yet. So when you see a child behavior problem, make sure you stay calm and in control of your emotions.

The second tip:
2. Give them leeway if they've earned it
Is there any space in their routine where they might earn some extra independence? A few extra minutes of bedtime reading, for example? Or a little extra allowance? Any small token of recognition that they are growing and maturing will go a long way from their perspective.

Personally, I try - with mixed success - to meet the unpleasant behavior with patience and correct it the same way I would have when they were younger.  Soon enough, we're back on track and their eyes are on the next goal. So if you have a child behavior problem as the result of a major milestone or for any reason, stay calm and understanding and you'll handle it in stride.

Go to Routines for Kids from Child Behavior Problem