Parenting Problems? Looking at the Root of Our Child’s Bad Behavior

Recently, I reposted an article I wrote several years ago. In this article I share some things I have learned in raising children that are difficult. Today, I want to share four reasons I see as the root reason for children misbehaving and what I have learned I can do to help my child.

Help, my Child is Rebellious!

I want to begin by saying that I think there is a lot of good sound Biblical parent books and teaching out there, and sadly I believe their is a lot of misleading parenting information available as well.  As a mom of 15, and the second oldest of 17, I have watched my parents grow in their understanding of good parenting.  I, too have learned the things that are hard to admit as a parent were just not good parenting.  I will be the first to admit I still make mistakes and I pray daily that my children will learn despite my mistakes, and that they will be even better parents that I someday.

The four things  I have learned to ask myself when a child is behaving in a way that I do not appreciate and want to change are:

  1.  Is this child’s behavior actual a mirror of my own behavior?
  2.  Have I been neglecting this child?
  3.  Is this child in good health?
  4.  Have I made it clear that this behavior is unacceptable?

Often, I find the bad behavior in my child is actually my fault.  Children are just little people.  They  can not be expected to know how to behave if they are not taught how to behave.

Is this child’s behavior actually a mirror of my own bad behavior?

One of the biggest lessons I learned was from a friend.  My friend said, “You can’t expect your child to behave differently than you behave.”  That hit me so hard.  I would often lose my temper with my children, and over-react at their childish behavior.  I would use harsh words, sarcasm, and mean language when frustrated.  I would sometimes get mad at my husband and be mean and spiteful.  I would talk about people at home in a negative way in front of my children.  Just to mention a few bad behaviors I demonstrated in front of my children.

I realized I had become a real bad example to my children.  I would teach my children their Bible lessons, and take them to church to learn about God, but more often than not my behavior at home was that of a frustrated and overwhelmed woman with little patience.

Then my children would be sassy and talk back, and talk harshly to their siblings.  They would be sarcastic and rude, and then I would be angry at their behavior, and over-react again.  This was a constant cycle in our home.  The only way to stop the cycle was for me to take my thoughts captive and have self-control.  I had to act like the parent I wanted my children to grow up and be.

Have I been neglecting this child?

Often I find that question one and two go together.  In my early parenting years, I would be busy trying to do it all.  I had to manage the home, I had a job outside the home, and I had ministry responsibilities.  There was laundry, dishes, meals to make, lessons to plan and teach, bills to pay.  There was an image to create that I could do it all.  There was also this false teaching that I need to take care of myself.  I would be irritated when my children interrupted my life.  I was reading, I was cleaning, I was studying, I was working, etc. etc. etc.

I honestly think there has been a lot of teaching, especially in the church, that our children should be seen and not heard.  There is this idea that children should fit into our lives, and not that they should be our main focus.  I am not saying that children should run our lives, I am saying that when we have children they should be at the top of our priority list and our main focus.  Yes,  I realize our marriage should be at the top of our list as well.  But a strong marriage is key to good parenting.

Children are best taught how to interact with others when a strong, healthy marriage relationship is modeled in front of them daily.  How you interact and respond to your spouse is the first example to your children of how to treat someone.  If you ignore, mistreat, talk about your spouse behind their back, and disregard their needs and wants, then that shows your children that others are not important.  And they should learn to put themselves and their needs and wants before all others.

When you do the same with your child, then your child will learn to demand your attention through manipulation or out right naughty behavior, or your child will become selfish and sneaky only taking care of themselves.  I personally see a lot of misdiagnosed children.  Children labeled with attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, autism, and more.  A lot of children are developmentally delayed and/or labeled with emotional/psychological issues that are really just parental neglect. I believe that with the technological/digital age we have become so distracted that we have plugged ourselves and our children in, and sadly dumbed down the whole family.

We have to unplug ourselves and our children and spend quality time talking to our children and playing with them.  Teaching them and holding them.  Children need to be held, looked at, and listened to.  It doesn’t matter if your child is a newborn or a twenty year old, they need your time and attention.

Now, that I have children that are almost 30, I realize those years of being overwhelmed by sleepless nights and teething pain, and growing pains, and emotional outbursts, all go by way too fast.  I am blessed that I have so many children.  Because I can slow down and really enjoy the ones still at home.  I can take the time to listen to them, and just enjoy their presence.

The best way to correct bad behavior in your child is to spend quality time with them often.

Is this child in good health?

When I don’t feel well, I can be really grumpy and not enjoyable to be around.  In fact, my adult children have been known to send me to bed when I am sick, because they don’t want to be around me.  Children need plenty of rest to grow their bodies and brains.  Children need good nutrition and plenty of physical activity.  I have found that if my child is acting out continuously with melt downs, or fits, there is often a health issue.

Children need a lot of sleep, and it is best if it is regulated sleep.  In our house our children go to bed late and sleep in late.  This is because my husband works third shift, and wants to have time in the evenings to spend with his children.  We send our children to bed at 10 pm, and lights out by 11 pm.  Even our littles go to bed this late.  I often spend focused one on one time with my babies at 10 pm, when my husband leaves for work.  That special time just before bed brings comfort and peace to my younger children and it helps them sleep better.  Whatever time bedtime is make sure it is a time that is calm and makes your child feel safe and loved.  I don’t do a fancy bedtime.  I simply remind my children 15 minutes before bed to get ready and be in their rooms at 10.  I then remind them to be quiet and go to sleep.  I take the youngest children into my room and have them snuggle with me and then I put them in their bed once they have relaxed and are calm (sometimes they fall asleep).  When my children are young they have naptime during the day.  Very small children have two naps a day.  Sleep is so essential for healthy development.  

Feeding my children six times a day is one of the best things I can do to help them be healthy and strong.  We eat three meals a day, and have three snacks a day.  I also have certain snacks that my children are allowed to have anytime.   My children are allowed to have an egg, celery, carrots, apples, oranges, and yogurt anytime.

Water your children several times a day.  In our home, we serve water with every meal.  We rarely serve any other beverages in our home.  Goat milk is available for snacks and breakfast, and occasionally we have 100% real juice.  I am not saying we never have special drinks.  But they are usually for special occasions.

Water and healthy food make for a healthy digestive system.  A mom should be aware of how often her children go the bathroom, both poop and pee.  If my children are not using the bathroom regularly, I will supplement their diet with probiotics and magnesium.  If they are a picky eater and won’t eat vitamin/mineral rich food them I will supplement their diet with those vitamins and minerals they need.

If a child is being fed well, drinking water well, and sleeping well, but continues to cry often, throw tantrums, and/or lay around and complain a lot, there may be a serious underlying health issue.  Often mean and sneaky children have mental health issues.  Mental health issues in children that are in a stable, healthy home often come from a trauma.  Trauma can happen even in the best of homes.  Trauma can happen in a child’s live from conception to adulthood.  If your child experiences trauma don’t ignore it, don’t pretend it didn’t affect them or you, and don’t let it be an excuse for bad behavior.  If your child has a serious health issue, physical or mental, it is your responsibility to get them the care and treatment they need.  Seek professional help from a doctor, pastor, therapist, etc.  Getting your child the help he/she needs is not a sign that you are a failure, but it is a sign that you love your child and will do anything to help him/her be the person God created them to be.

We all get sick.  There are so many germs, viruses, bacteria, and more constantly around us.  You get sick and your children get sick.  Teach your children to handle illness in a healthy way.  Show them that when you are sick you take care of yourself.  You go to bed and rest, you eat healthy food, and take supplements or medication as needed.  Show them to keep your family healthy you bathe, and clean your clothes, and clean your kitchen and bathroom to minimize germs.  When you are sick tell your spouse and children what you are feeling and what you are doing to care for yourself.  This will help everyone have less stress.  Teach your children to talk to you about when they don’t feel well.  Let them know you care, and show compassion.

The best way to deal with sickness is good communication.

Have a I made it clear that this behavior is unacceptable?

I often do not like help in the kitchen.  When I cook I just sort of make it up as I go.  I have a general plan, but most of the time, I wing it.  In fact, that is sort of how I do everything in life.  This frustrates my husband.  He likes to know the plan, and he likes to work together.  We have been married 30 years, and just a few weeks ago, I explained to him that I am not trying to leave him out or hurt his feelings when he tried to help me, but that I truly am just unsure of how to have him help because I am making it up as I go.  This explanation was very helpful to our relationship.

This is also a valuable skill as a parent.  You must remember that children are people.  They have their own little lives, with their own thoughts, ideas, hopes, dreams, and desires.  We all have our annoying habits and irritating behaviors.  Often we don’t even realize when something we are doing annoys someone else around us.  We learn to tolerate or avoid.  But, what if we learned to teach our children how to be likable and considerate.

I read an article a while back by a famous psychologist.  The article was on parenting and the writer said that it is the job of a parent to make their child likable by age four.  How do you make your child likable by age four?

You teach them manners and consideration.  You teach them by modeling good behavior.  I have a child that constantly puts things in his mouth and loudly chews on them.  It is a disgusting habit, and I constantly point it out to him when he is doing it.  Not in a rude way, but in a way that makes it clear to him that it isn’t attractive and it may keep people at a distance.

But what about really bad behavior?  How should I discipline really bad behavior?

The same way.  First, we must set boundaries and expectations.  If  I have never told my child that they shouldn’t run and scream in the house, but every day they go around running and screaming, and some days it gets on my nerves, so I yell at the child to stop running and screaming.  But, I never actually make it clear that the rule in our home is no running and screaming inside, and I never consistently reinforce this rule, then how do I expect my child to learn.  I have to first, stop the child and get his attention, call him over to me, and explain the rule is not running and screaming in the house.  Then I have to tell them a consequence for breaking the rule.

Second, establish consequences.  Try to make consequences that are logical and fitting to the bad behavior.  Say, “next time you run and scream  in the house, you will need to sit on the couch beside me for five minutes.”  This a reasonable and appropriate discipline.  An unreasonable discipline would be to send a small child to his/her room for 30 minutes.  The child should be in your sight when you are correcting bad behavior.  The child should have a discipline time that is reasonable for his/her age.  Another example, your child keeps getting on an electronic device without permission.  If you have not established that there are rules about electronic devices then you can’t be angry that they keep getting on them.  Instead, set clear rules and consequences.

In our home electronics are not to be played on during the school day, and the children are always to ask before playing on them.  If they break these rules they lose the privilege of being on devices for the remainder of that day.  If it continues to be a problem or if they are talking back, or being rude, they will lose their privilege’s for two days, and if they sneak it, they lose it for the rest of the week.  You see the consequences build in a natural and logical way.

Consequences should not be unending, or without clarity.  Children need to trust that you will reward their corrected and good behavior.

Third, we must deal with negative behavior right away.  Children grow and change.  They test the limits, and often are selfish.  Therefore, new behaviors may develop in a child that is unbecoming.  It is our responsibility as good parents to deal with such behavior right away.  If your preteen is suddenly being sarcastic and saying slang words, and acting the fool, then instead of just saying stop it, you’re acting foolish, take the time to tell them gently that you don’t appreciate these behaviors, and that it is not attractive or cool.  Let them know that you do not want them talking like that and if it continues you will have to limit their time away from you.  We often tell our children that if they can’t behave at home, then how can we trust them to behave when they are not at home with us.

We can NOT expect our children to obey rules that we never established.

Having children is a privilege not an inconvenience.

We only have children for a very short time.  I had my first child at age 22, I had my last child at age 43.  My youngest child will turn 20, when I am 63.  I am so privileged to have children in my home for 40 years.  Most parents only have 20-30 have childrearing.  That is such a short amount of time in a lifetime.  I am so grateful to have these forty years to raise my children and learn and grow alongside them in my faith and relationship with God and my family.  The time is short that we have our children surrounding us. So, don’t waste a mind of it.

I hope this blog blessing you.





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