In my work as a Parenting Consultant I work with parents who approach me for different reasons. I have parents who want reassurance that their child is developing as they ‘should’ ie that they are meeting the milestones for development in the areas of Language, Intellectual skills, Motor skills – both gross and fine motor, and Social-Emotional skills. Some parents contact me when they think there may be a possible delay in one of these areas – that their child isn’t talking as much as his peers, or not moving as well. Other parents contact me when Mum is returning to work and they want to check on how to best ensure that the child will cope with this new change of routine and people in childcare. And other parents contact me when there is an issue with their child eg around bedtime routines, or when they are approaching toilet-learning, or when they are behavioural issues.
When there are behavioural challenges, I listen to how the parents or carers speak about the child and their actions. Some parents detail the issues and the strategies they use, and are looking for other options. Other parents describe their child to me using really negative language such as: ‘he’s so naughty’; she never listens to me’; and the worst… ‘s/he is feral or a brat’. When a parent has such a negative frame of mind about the child, that is a major part of the problem, and my work is cut out for me!
Children are NOT born knowing what to do in terms of behaviour. They copy what they see in their world, and use the resources they have to make decisions. Some of those decisions are good ones and others not. If I asked you to mix liquid A and liquid B together, unless you were a scientist, you wouldn’t know if mixing them was a good idea or not! Children are the same, especially young ones. They learn through trial and error, and by repeating a task or action, to see if it produces the same results.
I do not believe young children are ‘bad’ or ‘naughty’ and definitely not ‘feral’. If the child is pushing boundaries and behaving poorly it is always linked to either their development or their environment or both.
By development I mean…. if a 2 year old doesn’t have the words to tell you they want an orange not a banana, and you don’t understand their grunting and pointing, then a full on tantrum may ensue. Or if a 3 year old is developing bladder control, and they have an ‘accident’ – they didn’t do it deliberately, but haven’t quite mastered it yet! Or when an 18month old continues to go to ‘play’ with the power points despite your repeated ‘No’s’ – developmentally their intellect has no understanding of danger, and to them it’s a ‘fun’ thing to switch on and off. In all of these examples the child’s behaviour is a result of where they are at developmentally.
The other key factor in poor behaviour is Environment. By that I mean the environment provided by the parents ‘rules’ and their responding actions. Think about a 3 year old who grabs a toy off their 1 year old sibling. If one day the parent says ‘Give it back to her’, and another day yells ‘Stop right now’ and another day ignores the child because they (the parent) are busy on the phone. The 3 year old has had inconsistent messages about taking toys off others. They are unsure if today they can or can’t do it with a consequence.
Children learn best using my mantra of ‘Calm and Consistent’ ie when the parents calmly state the rules or expected behaviour and they consistently say the same thing.
Children live up to the standards we set for them….. if we tell them that they are helpful, clever, amazing and loving that is what they will aim to do. If we tell them they are naughty, slow and a brat, they will live up to that standard – it’s called Self-Fulfilling prophecy ie: you can often predict the nature of the child based on the description given by his/her parents.
Does this mean that children who receive supportive language from their parents never misbehave – of course not! Children learn through testing boundaries and experimenting. However they will learn those rules and consequences quicker when the parents use nurturing language.
If you’d like to organise a parenting session, in person or via Skype, please contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org