Expert Advice to Stop Frustrating Behaviors
Your kid’s growing up and usually it shows: He’s more responsible about brushing his teeth, doing his homework, and cleaning up after himself. Naturally, you’re proud of him, yet you can’t help notice that somewhere along the way, he seems to have picked up some pretty frustrating habits, too.
Getting him to see the error of his ways – and change them – will be challenging, but not impossible. Heed this expert advice to banish your child’s exasperating behaviors for good.
Grownup Gripe: My 8-year-old wants to know it all, even when the topic of conversation doesn’t pertain to her. She listens to my phone calls or conversations with other adults and then asks questions. How do I get her to mind her own business?
Kids today are used to people publicly broadcasting their business to the world as they chat on cell phones and push grocery carts, ride public transportation and even use the bathroom. It’s no wonder they’re under the mistaken impression that every conversation is meant for their ears.
“Eavesdropping is annoying, but it’s also sort of healthy that kids are interested in what’s happening in their parents’ lives,” says Fred Rothbaum, Ph.D., president of Tufts University’s Child & Family Web Guide, in Boston.
The next time your child rudely interrupts or makes unsolicited comments about an adult conversation, remind her of a basic etiquette rule: Say excuse me and wait to be acknowledged before jumping into a discussion. Better yet, keep your little eavesdropper occupied in a different room when you chat. When she sticks her nose where it doesn’t belong, remember that the time will soon come when you’ll be the one straining to hear her conversations with friends and pestering her with all sorts of questions.
Grownup Gripe: My son can’t keep track of his stuff. My 7-year-old is constantly misplacing his library books, his coat, his baseball mitt – you name it. I encourage him to look on his own, but he complains, whines and cries until I give in and help search. What else can I do?
Even in the most organized of homes, items sometime have a way of sprouting legs and walking off. For reasons unknown, this phenomenon occurs even more frequently at your child’s school. Though you may be confident that you can track down the missing item in under a minute, don’t. Helping is certainly faster and easier on your nerves. Nonetheless, your child will never learn to accept personal responsibility for his belongings if you’re always coming to his rescue, says Todd Cartmell, author of “Respectful Kids.” “It’s your child’s possession, so he needs to at least make a valiant effort to find it.”
This doesn’t mean you can’t offer some pointers. Ask: “Where were you going when you last wore the jacket? What did you do after you returned?”
“By guiding him, you’re teaching him to think and act independently. He’s honing his problem-solving skills,” says Cartmell.
If the item’s still missing-in-action after your child’s put forth a genuine effort to find it (give him at least 15 minutes to look at home and two days to search the school’s lost-and-found box), then you may want to don your detective hat and help out. If your search efforts fail, don’t rush to replace it.
“There’s no need for a guilt trip,” says Cartmell. “Still, kids need to understand that there’s not always money to replace things.”
Your child will soon learn that if an item is that important to him, he should look after it better. If your child loses a must-have item like his basketball jersey or coat, consider having him pay for part, if not all, of the item’s replacement cost either with his allowance money or by giving him extra chores.
Grownup Gripe: My 6-year-old has selective hearing. My first grader can hear the ice cream truck when it’s five blocks away, but she can’t hear my request to turn off the Wii even when I’m in the same room. How can I get her to listen better?
“You know your child listens and pays attention in school, so you naturally expect the same behavior at home,” says Rothbaum.
The problem is that your child’s more comfortable and relaxed with you, so she’s not going to be as responsive as she is with her teachers. Getting in trouble at home for not paying attention isn’t nearly as mortifying as being reprimanded in front of her classmates. One simple, yet effective, way to nip this silencing treatment in the bud is by stating your expectations before your child becomes engrossed in an activity. Cartmell calls this the “three S’s” for doing a fun activity.
“Kids should be able to start right, stay on right (i.e., play with their toys or game and still interact respectfully), and stop right (turn off the game or stop what they’re doing when told).”
Establish consequences beforehand, such as: “If I have to ask more than once for you to turn off the game, you’ll lose video game privileges for the rest of the weekend.” Encourage good listening by acknowledging times when your child responds respectfully: “Thanks for answering me the first time I called. I really appreciate it.”
Grownup Gripe: My precocious 8-year-old acts like he’s going on 18. Some days I feel like I’m raising a teenager and not an 8-year-old. My child rolls his eyes, shrugs his shoulders, and mutters “whatever” when I tell him to shape up. How do I nip this behavior in the bud now?
Chances are your child’s picked up this behavior from an older sibling or peers, so it’s important that every family member behaves respectfully toward one another to show that it’s possible to feel frustrated or put upon by someone else, yet still act civilly. It’s also possible that your child’s adopted a surly attitude as a way of getting your attention.
“As kids get older and become more independent, parents sometimes forget that they still need one-on-one time,” says Cartmell. This is especially true if younger siblings take up more of your time. Regardless of why your child’s acting so defiantly, you should never let him get away with being disrespectful.
“Negative behaviors should net negative consequences every time,” says Cartmell. Ignoring the eye roll one day, and then chastising your kid for doing it the next day, only encourages him to continue to test you. It’s only when your child understands that his disrespectful choices will always bring quick, negative results (such as no trip to the playground or losing television time), that he’ll make the extra effort to make a better choice.