How to Deal with a Child Who is Acting Out
If you notice your child engaging in a higher frequency of inappropriate attention seeking behavior, let that be a cue for you to provide more attention at other times.
In another post, we talked about how most of our children’s misbehavior is actually their way of communicating with us (Read: Misbehavior = Communication). We firmly believe that there is no such thing as a “bad kid,” but rather that our kids do bad things to communicate what they need from us. It’s our job to tune in and listen!
When there is an unexpected uptick in attention seeking behavior, take a step back and do a little inventory:
- Have you been busier than normal?
- Has your child had to share time with you more than usual?
When we fail to give our children enough attention, they seek it out in the ways that they know, and often that is by misbehaving (because historically, we always provide attention to address misbehavior).
Sometimes we parents need reminding to provide more attention throughout the day.
One of the best ways to remind ourselves to pay attention to our kids is to use an interval timer. This is typically used for exercise when doing interval training, but we use it as a prompt to check in with our kids.
An easy, free app for your phone, you can set the interval to be however long you would like, and it either buzzes or beeps at the end of every interval.
Last weekend, I had both kids sitting at the dining room table playing with Play-Doh while I was doing the dishes and tidying the kitchen. I set my interval timer for three minutes, and each time that it buzzed, I walked over and used descriptive praise to acknowledge what they were doing. (Descriptive praise is more than just saying, “Good job!” It is actually describing what your child is being praised for, e.g. “I like the way you are sharing the toys together.”)
If you are checking in and acknowledging your kids periodically, you will definitely notice a decrease in the negative, attention seeking behaviors.