As much fun as it is to be a parent, we all know it’s not always easy. Raising kids to be well-adjusted, respectful adults means teaching them early. They learn but you learn too.
You learn what works, what to let go, and what you can’t allow to fly at all. Building in basic morals along with social skills and academics takes work! Challenges are inevitable, but so are the rewards. We’ve stacked a small of list of common kid issues that you may want to put in check, along with some strategies to help.
When my daughter was in first grade, the school sent home a “Tattletale Contract”, wanting the kids to avoid informing on one another. I laughed it off, thinking this won’t stop a bunch of 6-and-7-year-olds. But it turned out to be way too confusing for the kids. When someone did something bad like hitting another child, no one told because they thought they’d get in trouble for doing so.
Your child might tattle at home and at school for many reasons. Some kids do it to purposely get someone in trouble, for positive attention, or over hurt feelings. Others truly think they’re helping out by policing others. They need help sorting out problem solving, crises, and not being THE judge. Hear them out but guide your child on the difference between being a tattler and being vigilant.
- Sibling Fights
Anyone having flashbacks? Rivalry between siblings can get really nasty. There is no age limit on these either, as is evidenced by family gatherings where the tension’s worse than a Lannister family dinner.
Find out the root of the problem and put a ban on physical fights. Sometimes parents are the cause of conflict by placing labels on kids (e.g. smart one, nice one, athletic one), or by showing favoritism and taking sides. Watch out— these issues can be carried well into adulthood. Small rifts over territory, parental attention, or teasing can balloon into stressful situations.
Remind kids what it is to be a loving team, and teach them to resolve conflict fairly (with or without your help), which includes respecting feelings and boundaries. It’s also a good idea to set aside one-on-one time with each child so they can keep strong connections with each parent.
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- Sticky Fingers
It can start with something as simple as a box of crayons from a playdate, or a pack of gum at the grocery store when you’re not paying attention. Tiny tots don’t really know what ownership means, but older kids do. How you address an incident is what counts. If it’s the first time your child steals, find out why they did it, explain how it’s wrong and have them return (or pay for) the item with an apology.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry states there are many reasons a child gets sticky fingers. She may want attention from friends and family, is jealous over siblings receiving “things”, or thinks she has a need for the item. Many times they’ll outgrow the behavior. Try balancing your attention in a positive way but remind them that it’s a crime. If your child or teen displays a pattern of repeated offenses, it may be time for professional intervention.
- Being Disrespectful
Sarcasm. Back talk. Defiance. Attitude. Hey, we all have bad days, but there are some lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Teens aren’t the only ones mumbling under their breath and being champion eye rollers. Sassiness can be present as young as age 2.
Younger kids often parrot adults, older kids, or what they see on TV because they think it’s acceptable. Be mindful of what they’re absorbing firsthand and nip it. Teach kids to express themselves without being rude or angry, and stay calm and listen.
Tweens and teens have a lot of emotional and brain changes going on, which account for moody outbursts or power plays. Try not to react angrily or take things personally but be clear about respectful communication. If necessary, revoke privileges as a consequence of defiant behavior.
Do you have a habitual fibber on your hands? Age has a lot to do with how kids process reality, and those who are between 3 and 7 can have very active imaginations. By the time they’re 6 or 7, they understand what lying is and will try to test limits.
Experts say some reasons for lying include: to escape getting in trouble, need for negative attention, afraid of disappointing parents, or to get something from someone.
Explain the importance of honesty and trust, and issue a punishment as a way to show lying won’t be tolerated. But it’s also important to be forgiving once you understand the root of the lying. When lying becomes the norm, it may be a sign of a more serious issue like low self-esteem, emotional stress, or a behavioral disorder.
Sometimes this goes hand in hand with tantrums, but it’s always frustrating. My parents always said to us, “Would you like some cheese with that whine?” Before you go calling your child a brat in your mind, find out first if she’s whining because she’s injured or sick.
Once that’s ruled out, you can draw it up to wanting attention. Toddlers aren’t trying to grate your nerves on purpose, so they often express things by changing their voice to get your attention. Older kids do it as way to garner a response and get their way.
Your best tactic is the poker face. Institute a no whining rule with a consequence that you won’t respond. Reminding your child to use their regular voice or “nice voice” is also a way to get them to communicate without resorting to whines.
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- Ditching Manners
For the life of me I can’t figure out why my youngest started chewing with her mouth open. Basic manners are taught young. Saying “Please”, “Thank you”, “Excuse me”, and having table manners are reasonable expectations. Do kids truly forget?
Dr. Sears recommends not being forceful when teaching manners, but to remind kids about being gracious and considerate of others. It’s also important to model polite behavior yourself, as children do as they see.
Besides remaining calm, one of the best things you can do as a parent is to hold your child accountable for their behavior. No blame games but no excuses either. Making your health care provider aware of small or large problem behaviors can also provide valuable insight and tips into how to handle them. As always, follow up with a professional for advice.
Which of these kid behaviors have you ever had to address? Did your child outgrow them? Tell us in the comments!