How to Change Your Child's Attitude
Children test boundaries as they grow and develop. This boundary-testing can manifest itself as a bossy, sassy, disruptive, or disobedient attitude. Recognize that these outbursts of poor behavior are a normal part of human development. Happily, by understanding how to redirect negative behavior and encourage a positive attitude you can teach your children to cope with life's challenges and develop good character.
Examining Your Expectations
Look at your own behavior.You are your child's first and most influential teacher. If your own attitude toward life is negative, your child's will be, too. How do you respond in a frustrating situation? How do you treat friends, loved ones, or service workers? What is your reaction if you feel a situation is unfair? Your child absorbs -- and mirrors -- the behaviors you teach him or her.
Understand your child's developmental stage.Attitude problems signify the challenges your child is facing as he or she grapples with the unique dimensions of each stage along the journey from infancy to adulthood.
- Toddlers and young children displaying attitude problems are likely testing your reactions to learn the boundaries of proper behavior. Ensure you are an attentive parent when your child is fully engaged in positive play; she'll learn that she needn't provoke your anger to get attention.
- Children in their early elementary years are old enough to learn from consequences. Elementary school-aged children are also increasingly influenced by the behavior of friends and playmates. Start setting rules about appropriate behavior around adults.
- As children reach their "tween" and teen years they are starting to "individuate," or develop their own, unique identity. Your role is to help them through this often-bewildering stage with clear expectations, respect (which they need to reciprocate), and plenty of personal attention.
Know your child's strengths (and weaknesses).Consider how your child learns best. Some kids, for example, respond well to auditory instruction, while others are very visual and may need written expectations or physical demonstrations of the behavior you wish to encourage.
- Understand what your child is and is not capable of achieving. A child struggling with ADHD, for example, may be "ignoring" you not because she has a poor attitude but because she struggles to process the waves of information she is receiving from the world around her.
- Children presented with unrealistic expectations can sometimes react by giving up entirely rather than continuing to grapple with what is, for them, an impossible task.
- Recognize your child's unique "starting point" and then work from there to set behavior expectations.
Reflect upon your hopes for your child.Look down the road and think about the attributes you'd like your child to possess. Would you like him to be kind? Prioritize teaching kindness. Would you like her to be responsible? Teach responsibility. If you would like your child to spend time with you during adolescence and young adulthood, spend time with your child while he or she is young.
Focus on one thing at a time.Pick one behavior to focus upon, and be specific about your parameters. Rather than setting a vague goal such as "I want my child to listen to me," for example, opt for something concrete: "I want my child to complete his or her homework daily." Once you and your child have made substantial progress toward that goal, you can move onto the next step: "I want our conversations about homework to be an attitude-free zone," or "I want to develop a practice of having a kind 5-minute conversation about school with my child daily."
Remember that goals are about progress.Improvement counts! None of us is capable of perfection. Focus on your child's progress toward meeting your behavior expectations. Avoid becoming discouraged if your child has a bad day; remember that each morning is a new beginning.
Redirecting Negative Behavior
Set clear boundaries.Children thrive when they feel secure in their environment and understand what is expected of them.Develop a consistent household structure, clear expectations, and logical consequences if these expectations are not met.
Remain calm.Avoid responding to your child's poor attitude with anger. Instead, calmly deliver your request and then disengage.If your child is younger or may place him or herself in a dangerous situation, disengaging may mean selectively ignoring your child's poor behavior while continuing to actively supervise. If your child is older or in safe circumstances, leave the room (always remain within earshot of a young child).
- While counting to three, five, or ten is often recommended as a tool to redirect achild'sbehavior, it may provide even greater benefit for a beleaguered parent. Count in your head before responding to your child's frustrating behavior. Doing so gives you a few seconds to regroup and calm your own frayed emotions.
Allow your child to reap what he or she sows.Let reality be your child's teacher. Follow through on the consequences you've set for poor behavior. If your child has been told, for example, that if she responds to your requests with sarcasm she cannot attend Friday's football game, hold firm in your resolve. She'll learn that poor behavior has real consequences.
- Issue reminders -- but hold your child responsible for following through. Developing brains do sometimes forget what they've been asked to do, so plan on allowing some leeway for a reminder or two. You might even try a written reminder. Consider developing a system of "warnings," but follow through with consequences if those warnings aren't heeded.
- Remember that to attain the long-term goal of a well-behaved child you may have to deal with short-term personal discomfort. You may have heard the adage, "punishing the child punishes the parent," and while you're listening to a temper tantrum or dealing with an angry teenager you'll recognize the truth of this saying. In the end, though, your job as a parent is to struggle through the immediate discomfort of a situation, recognizing the long-term benefits at stake.
Use time-outs as a consequence.Children often display poor attitudes and other bad behavior because they feel out of control. Employing a time-out interrupts the cycle of this behavior, giving the child a moment to regroup and reflect. Consider targeting the length of a time-out to the age of your child (for a 2-year-old, for example, set a timer for two minutes).
Withdraw privileges.Ensure the privilege withdrawn relates in some way to the poor behavior you're trying to correct. A child who refuses to put down his video game console, for example, may lose the use of this toy for a day.
- This technique works best as part of a pre-arranged behavior management strategy. Sit down with your children and decide upon behaviors you expect -- and privileges they'll receive in return. For example, you might agree that your child will receive the privilege of watching a favorite television program if she completes her homework without fussing. Creating a system helps children learn that with increased privileges come increased responsibilities.
Using Positive Reinforcement
Praise your child.Let your child know when he or she is displaying a great attitude. Praise your child's behavior; rather than saying "good boy," for example, compliment him on the great way he played with his younger brother. No one can be "good" all the time, but praise for a specific action helps your child recognize that you're noticing his efforts.
- Vary your praise. Consider leaving your child a note, or complimenting her on different aspects of her behavior.
- Don't overdo it. Offer praise for genuine effort and respond to your child's cues -- if she is excited about her hard work or success, reinforce that sense of self-worth with words of praise.
- Teach your child to be comfortable giving and receiving compliments.
- Avoid using words of praise to promote a hidden agenda. Children are smart. "I like your new wardrobe" will easily be re-interpreted as "thank goodness you've moved on from that style I didn't care for."
Take advantage of teachable moments.When you see evidence of poor attitudes -- or good attitudes -- in everyday life, point these out to your child. They'll absorb the lessons of seeing someone throw a fit (and look ridiculous!) or politely serve a table (and perhaps receive a tip for their efforts).
- Children's books can be a great way to provide younger children with examples of how (and how not) to behave.
Instill self-worth by developing your child's sense of competence.Compensating for your child's poor attitude by taking on tasks she should be doing does her no favors. Children develop a sense of self-worth through learning responsibility for their actions and becoming competent at the basic tasks of life. Use praise and other motivators to provide your child with positive reinforcement when he takes on responsibility.
Offer motivation.Younger children may benefit from a rewards chart. Connect rewards to the behavior itself. A child working on not throwing a fit when asked to take a bath, for example, might earn a fluffy new towel set in his favorite color.
- Beware of excessive rewards. Your ultimate goal is to instill self-discipline. Use praise and encouragement to help your child understand that rewards are short-term ways to instill positive behavior.
Respect your child's point of view.Sometimes parents worry that if they compromise at all, they will lose authority. While you should hold firm on expectations and consequences once rules are set, engaging your child in the rule-making process teaches them valuable decision-making skills. Setting rules together also helps older children feel respected as they start to assert their independence. You may, for example, negotiate a slightly later bedtime -- with the proviso that your child spends the extra half-hour in bed, reading.
Use humor.Enjoy your relationship with your child. Be sure you work opportunities for simple fun and enjoyment into your routine. If your relationship with your child is on firm footing, he's much more likely to respond well to gentle, kind-hearted comments that shed light on the sillier elements of a poor attitude.
QuestionMy child is 2 years old. When he see any child, he suddenly will hug or bite. How do I change his behavior?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerStart giving consequences to your child if he is constantly biting and hugging other children. You might want to take your child to the doctor to see if there is something going on with him.Thanks!
QuestionMy younger sister is only 10 but acts like a moody teenager and won't listen to me. What should I do to fix her bad attitude?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerShe probably won't listen to you because you're not an authority figure like her mom. Have your mom talk to her about her attitude.Thanks!
QuestionMy daughter is 6 years old; her attitude used to be good but now she's changed. She's fighting with another student at her school because they are bullying her about a boy that she doesn't really like. What do I do?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerIf she's being bullied talk to her about it tell and her some ways to stop it. If it continues talk to her teacher.Thanks!
- Attitude problems can sometimes be a sign of more significant mental problems. Trust your instincts. If your child does not respond to common correctives and you have serious concerns about his or her behavior, please consult a physician.
Video: Change Your Child's Attitude 1/5 - Kevin Leman
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