One of the truest pieces of advice about parenting is that you have to pick your battles. Clothes, food, whether or not the bed is made or the kid greets other humans the way you expect…those are things that you can let go on a day-to-day basis and feel pretty sure that neither of you are going to be any worse off for the decision.
These 5 behavior issues are different. They may seem small at the time, but if you let them go, they’re going to rear their very ugly heads at some point down the road – when it may be too late to fix them without some major elbow grease.
So read on, take heed, and remember to nip these 5 behavior issues right in the bud.
5. Intentionally hurting others
Every kid is going to kick, hit, scratch, bite, etc. They simply don’t have the tools to appropriately express their anger – it’s our job to help them develop those. In the meantime, we don’t want this behavior to get out of hand, so you definitely want to address it when it inevitably rears its ugly head.
First, gently stop the child from hitting/kicking/etc., and tel them that you understand they’re upset but they’re not allowed to hurt other people when they’re feeling that way. Next, attempt to get to the root of what upset your child and work with them on better ways of expressing themselves.
Also, it’s important to model the behavior you wish to see. Don’t hit a child you’re trying to teach not to hit, and don’t buy into the “bite them back” mentality. Most young children’s brains aren’t developed enough to understand or practice empathy.
All kids will lie or exaggerate at one time or another. We’re human and we love stories, after all. But as fun as it can be to let your child spin a yarn, they need to understand that it’s not okay to lie to you.
With very small children, don’t give them the opportunity to lie. If you know they took 3 cookies when you told them they could only have one, just let them know you’re aware of exactly what happened and discuss why it’s not okay. Going forward, talking about lying is a great opportunity to let your children know that you want to hear the truth no matter what happened.
Everyone makes mistakes, and teaching your kids to own up to them is a big part of helping them become functional adults.
3. Running away
It might be cute – or at least, not seem like that big a deal – when your toddler takes off running when you announce that it’s time to get ready for bed, but if it happens when you’re in public, the danger could be very real.
Respectful parenting expert Janet Lansbury suggests simply not giving your child the chance to try this little trick. Keep them secured in some way – either with your hand or in a cart or stroller. If they do manage to slip away, secure them and then quietly tell them that you’re there to help them stay safe.
2. Ignoring you when you talk
We all make those jokes about asking our kids 100 times to put on their shoes, but the truth is, life doesn’t have to be that way. Our children can learn to listen and respond if we take the time to teach them the behavior. Does this sound amazing or what?
Here’s how: Natural consequences.
Don’t repeat yourself. Make eye contact and ensure that the child is listening the first time, and if they do not comply, impose the natural consequence (ie: you didn’t put on your shoes so you can’t go outside and play or you may not play video games because you did not pick up your toys).
Y’all. This was one of my pet peeves before becoming a parent – the one thing I loathed when trying to have a conversation with a friend while their children interrupted (and the parent allowed it). Now, we all know that we eat our words when actually becoming parents, but this behavior is definitely something that can (and should) be curbed early and often.
Here’s a trick: devise a plan with your child that will let them silently tell you they need you – such as putting a hand on your leg – and one to let them know that you heard them and will respond to them as soon as you can. A lot of moms will make eye contact, put a hand over theirs, or give them the universal “one minute” with a finger.
It may not work the first time or the fifth, but you’ll be glad you stuck with it as they get older.