Is My Child a Troublemaker?
Learn how to tell whether a child's bad behavior is just typical kid stuff or something more -- and what to do about it.
Step 2: Be Honest
Before you take any steps to correct your child's behavior, you need to
admit there's a problem. Taking the "My child is perfect -- someone else must
be instigating these fights" attitude won't solve anything.
"Honestly appraise it and recognize that he does need an intervention, that
it will not go away on its own and it's not a phase," Borba says.
Another thing you shouldn't do is put yourself in the middle of the
situation to protect your child. "Parents sometimes throw themselves under the
bus to keep the kid from having consequences from their behaviors, which makes
the behaviors even worse," Kashurba says. In other words, if your child gets
detention for being disruptive in class, let him serve it out. When your child
consistently has to face the consequences of his actions, he'll eventually
Step 3: Get Help
Now that you've described the problem, find the right person to help you
solve it. Start with someone you trust who already knows your child, like a
teacher, school counselor, or your pediatrician.
If that person can't solve the problem, or the issue is so severe that it's
threatening your child's safety or relationships, your doctor may refer you to
a child psychologist or psychiatrist for further evaluation. That evaluation
will help determine whether your child's actions are a sign of a behavioral
problem or some underlying biological problem, such as ADHD
Step 4: Accentuate the Positive. Eliminate the Negative.
Being branded a "troublemaker" can be brutal to a child's self-esteem and
self-image. "It has a disastrous effect on him, because the child begins to act
the way he perceives that everyone thinks of him," Borba says. Constantly
telling your child he's being bad will only perpetuate that perception.
Instead, as the old Johnny Mercer song goes, "accentuate the positive" and
"eliminate the negative."
"You want to reinforce the positive behaviors, reinforce the pro-social
behaviors, and reinforce the things you really want to see," Kashurba says.
"You want to stay away from intentionally or inadvertently reinforcing the
behaviors you don't want to see."
Eliminating the negative means letting your child know, in no uncertain
terms, that you're not going to tolerate bad behaviors. That won't always be
easy. You might have to walk out of the supermarket and leave your full
shopping cart in the aisle to stop a tantrum, or take your child out of the
theater in the middle of a movie when she won't quit hitting her brother.
Expect at least some resistance. "Any time you change those behaviors, the
child is going to test that," Kashurba says.
While you're discouraging bad behaviors, show your child the good behaviors
you want him to emulate. For example, say, "Use your words instead of hitting."
Practice that same good behavior over and over again, and praise him when he
gets it right.