Parenting is a tough job, no doubt about it. And these days, parents have more on their plates than ever. Being so busy can lead to important oversights when dealing with behaviors that seem minor at the time. Of course, you don’t want to be a helicopter parent or micromanage your children’s every move. Your goal is to teach them independence and get them ready to be on their own.
It’s hard, then, to think that this begins even when they are small. But what sometimes seems funny and cute (full disclosure, I’ve often laughed at kids’ bad behavior—on the inside), can quickly turn into obnoxiously bad behavior. Because we know even GR8 parents need tips every once in a while, here are six behavior problems that may seem small at first but shouldn’t be ignored.
Rough Housing Too Roughly
Why it shouldn’t be ignored: You know you have to get involved if your child hits or kicks a a sibling or a playmate, but you should also be aware of more subtly aggressive acts such as pinching or shoving. It’s not unusual to see kids doing this and to think it is normal. But, in fact, when kids hit each other it is not normal. But, if you don’t step in, this rough behavior can become a habit by the time they are 8. As they get bigger, they can do more damage. And it sends the message that hurting others is okay.
A GR8 way to stop it: Put a stop to aggressive behavior immediately. Take your child aside and explain to them that their actions hurt others, and that is not okay. Talking honestly to them about these issues can help you build a strong relationship with your child. Before the next playdate, remind them that they shouldn’t play rough. Teach them what to do if they get angry or want a turn with a toy or on the playground. If they still play too roughly, end the playdate or leave the playground.
Interrupting You When You Are Having a Conversation
Why it shouldn’t be ignored: Kids interrupting is normal. They often get super excited about things and want to tell you right away. Or have an urgent question they want to ask. It’s okay if it’s an emergency or there is a situation that needs your attention. It’s not okay if they are acting out of jealousy, showing off, or seeking attention. Letting them interrupt your conversations doesn’t teach them how to be considerate of others or to entertain themselves when you are busy.
As a result, they often think they are entitled to other people’s attention and won’t be able to handle the frustration if they have to wait their turn to talk to someone. Better to handle this issue as soon as you notice it, to avoid a possible public temper tantrum.
A GR8 way to stop it: The best way to deal with interruptive behavior is to prevent it. The next time you are going to make a call or talk with a friend, tell your child ahead of time that they need to be quiet and not interrupt you. Give them a special toy or book, engage them in a quitet activity to keep your child from disrupting you. If they try to get your attention, let them know to wait until you are finished. You can also encourage them to politely ask for your attention by saying “Excuse me” instead of just butting in.
Ignoring You When You Ask Them to Do Something
Why it shouldn’t be ignored: Telling your child over and over to do something they don’t want to do sends the message that they don’t have to listen to you. In addition, it sets up a bad pattern of communication between you and your child. They may think that they, not you, are in charge. Constant reminders just train them to wait for the next time you tell them instead of doing it the first time you ask them to.
A GR8 way to stop it: Instead of talking to your child from across the room, walk over to them and tell them what you want them to do. Have them look at you when you’re talking and have them respond to let you know they’ve heard you. Get their attention by saying their name and touching their shoulder. That way, they can’t say they didn’t hear you.
If they don’t do as you ask, give them a consequence. Be clear and let your child know what the consequence of ignoring you is. Take away a privilege, such as missing a trip to the game store, a play date, or limit their time playing video games at home.
Getting Treats or Taking Things without Permission
Why it shouldn’t be ignored: When your child can do things for themselves, it can be a convenience for you. Rules are a natural part of life and gives them the framework to understand what is expected of them. Letting them do things without permission teaches them that they don’t have to follow the rules. You may be amused at their problem-solving abilities when they climb up on the counter to get a treat for themselves, but when they decide to visit a friend down the street without telling you, it’s another story altogether.
A GR8 way to stop it: Establish clear, definite house rules and discuss them with your children. When they are old enough, explain why. When they are younger, they need to respect that you’ve made the rule, and they need to follow it. It’s up to you what rules you want, just make sure your children are clear on what they are.
Overstating the Truth
Why it shouldn’t be ignored: Kids like to exaggerate, and so do adults sometimes. But letting your child get away with saying they’ve eaten all their vegetables when they haven’t or straightened their room when they’ve really just shoved things under the bed paves the way for worse behavior in the future. It’s important to confront any type of dishonesty right away. If your child learns that lying is a way to get out of doing something or make themselves look better, it can quickly become a habit.
A GR8 way to stop it: If your child tells little lies or over exaggerates, sit down with them and explain the dangers of being known as a liar. Explain that no one will believe what they say if they become known as a liar. Explore their motivation for lying. For example, they didn’t want to clean up their room because they’d rather play outside. Then, add consequences, such as having them clean their room and removing privileges. For younger kids, telling a story such as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” helps them understand the dangers of being known as a habitual liar. It’s a tale as old as time, but it still has legs in modern life.
Copping an Attitude
Why it shouldn’t be ignored: Some call it attitude, some call it sass, but no matter what you call it, it shouldn’t be ignored. You may not expect to have to deal with it until your child is nearing their teens, but this behavior often happens when younger kids mimic the behavior of older kids. You may be tempted to ignore it because you think it is a phase, but if you don’t nip it in the bud, you may find you have a disrespectful third grader on your hands.
A GR8 way to stop it: Make your child aware of their behavior. Let them know how they look or sound when they talk back or roll their eyes. If the behavior continues, you can refuse to interact, or let them know you won’t listen to them until they’re ready to talk nicely.