There’s No Such Thing As Bad Behavior

When your child displays distressing behaviors such as screaming, throwing tantrums, or making a bunch of mess, it’s natural to feel upset. You may even want to address it immediately by reprimanding your child to stop.

Dealing with these behaviors can be challenging; but what if we told you that they’re not necessarily “bad”? This notion might seem controversial, especially if you are a parent who struggles day in and day out because of your child’s seemingly “bad” behavior, but hear us out…

After all, your perception of your child’s behavior can greatly influence how you effectively support their needs.

Behavior is neither good nor bad.

Let’s consider the act of screaming, for example. If your child screams at the top of their lungs in a public place like a grocery store, you might feel embarrassed or perceive it as being disrespectful. However, in the case of emergencies, such as a fire or an earthquake, wouldn’t screaming to alert others be the right action to do?

Labeling a behavior “good” or “bad” is actually just based on the context and the normal expectations in a given scenario. Behavior in itself is inherently neutral.

Instead of thinking that behaviors are just “good” or “bad”, it is better to categorize them as:

  • Unexpected – Behaviors that catch us off guard or deviate from normal expectations. For instance, if your child suddenly starts throwing toys during playtime, it disrupts the usual flow of the activity.
  • Expected – Behaviors that align with what we typically anticipate or hope for in a given moment. For example, if your child shares their toys with a friend during a playdate, it demonstrates social skills and cooperation, which we highly encourage them to do.

What your child’s behavior can tell you

When your child exhibits unexpected behaviors like tantrums, your first instinct might be to stop it immediately. These behaviors however often have an underlying meaning that your child wants you to notice. Young children don’t often know how to express or communicate what they feel in a way that’s expected or the norm. When they feel discomfort or frustration, they resort to unexpected behaviors to try to grab your attention.

When your child is acting up it’s often their way of telling you that something isn’t right.

Instead of simply reacting to the behavior, try approaching the situation with patience and empathy. Think of what might be causing their frustration.

  • Is your child tired, hungry, or feeling overwhelmed?
  • Did something happen before they acted up that might have caused their distress?
  • Is there a pattern to these behaviors or do they occur in specific situations?
  • What can you do to help your child feel more comfortable or secure?

How to help your child

Now that you know the importance of understanding your child’s behavior, let’s go over some strategies you can use to support your child through challenging moments.

  • Stay calm and be patient

Reacting with anger or frustration can escalate the situation, making it harder for your child to communicate their needs to you. Take a deep breath and try to remain calm. Being patient allows you to approach the situation with a clear mind and respond more effectively.

  • Validate your child’s feelings

Let them know that it’s okay to feel the way they do and you’re there to help them navigate through the situation. Making them feel understood and supported will help de-escalate the tension in the air.

  • Offer comfort

Hug your child, or say soothing words to provide comfort and reassurance. Your presence and support will help them feel calmer and more secure.

  • Identify the cause

Encourage your child to try to express what’s bothering them. If they struggle to articulate their feelings, ask simple questions like, “Are you hungry?” or “Are you feeling tired?” This can help you pinpoint the underlying cause of their distress. You could also try to backtrack what happened and identify if there’s any repeating pattern that triggers their unexpected behavior. 

When you don’t immediately label your child’s behavior as “bad” you give yourself a chance to understand what’s really going on. You’ll see beyond the surface and find the root cause of the behavior. This makes you better equipped to give the right kind of support and guidance to help your child navigate through their needs and emotions.

 

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