All children behave badly or are difficult from time to time, usually when you haven't got enough time for them or when they are simply tired and irritable. This is a normal part of growing up and their behaviour should generally be taken with a pinch of salt. At some point in their lives they are very likely to do one of a number of things, such as: attention seeking, having temper tantrums, telling lies, hitting and stealing. The extent to which a child goes to depends on a number of things, the reasons for a child to behave like this usually depends on the nurture of the child and the way in which they are dealt with by their parents. If parents do not deal with a child's behaviour in the correct way this could lead to the child thinking that their behaviour is perfectly normal, thus meaning that they carry on their bad behaviour well into their adulthood.

It is very much a normal occurrence for a child between the ages of nine months to three years to go through a period of time when their answer to everything is simply "NO!" Children of this age generally want to do the exact opposite to anything anyone asks them to do; something that can make this worse is how the child is feeling. Being tired, hungry or unwell tends to make the mood of a child very much worse. Active, determined children are likely to be more troublesome in this respect than placid ones. A child can be very difficult to manage at this stage and it helps if parents are patient and tolerant of their behaviour. Parents need to understand that this is just a negative phrase that they are going through, not naughtiness, and it will pass if they are patient.

Although behaviourist theories suggest that ignoring unwanted behaviour is the best thing to do this is sometimes hard for the carer in charge at the time. It can be difficult to ignore a child if they are harming themselves or someone else so in these cases action needs to be taken. Parents can take action on their child in a number of ways, they may feel that come sort of sanction or punishment is the best route to go by; it just depends on the parenting skills. How they will cope with the punishment depends on many factors in a child’s life, such as: the age of the child, the behaviour they are conducting, the place were they have bad behaviour, their values and beliefs and even their mood and feelings at the time.

Ways of coping

When a child behaves badly parents have to make sure that they react in the correct way to not make the situation any worse. Ways of doing this are:

  • Say No! - If the parent says this statement firmly enough this will often stop the bad, unwanted behaviour. The best way to say this to the child is whilst looking them directly in the eye to that them know that you mean business.
  • Distract the child - Younger children do not always understand why they are doing something wrong and sometimes it is easier to just distract the child than risk having to explain. Also, offering a different activity will often distract the child and distraction is always better than confrontation in many cases.
  • Setting clear rules and boundaries - Although this may seem like an impossible task but often if you are firm with the child them what is acceptable and what isn't they stick to the rules perfectly. Another way to put your rules across well is to write them down and stick them to the playroom well, obviously this only works with older children.
  • Explaining to the child - If the child is old enough, unwanted behaviour can be stopped by explaining why it is wrong or what harm they may do if they carry on sticking to this behaviour.
  • Using sanctions - Sometimes parents may feel that by taking away a child's favourite treat, such as a bedtime story or a favourite toy is a fitting punishment. However, a sanction is an extreme punishment and should only be put into place as a last resort. If a sanction is threatened and that not used the child then comes to think that they can do what they like and still get away with it. If you say you are going to give a sanction, keep to it!< br />
  • Using eye contact and facial expressions - Sometimes a look is enough to tell a child that what they are doing is unacceptable and with this they realise that when they do something good they will get praise.
  • Comfort habits

    Many children, inside of becoming aggressive or withdrawn, develop comfort habits to help them cope with situations they find difficult to deal with.
    Many chose to have imaginary friends and use them to shift the blame of what they have done onto them. Children tend to talk to their imaginary friend, including them in everything that they do and often trying to make their parents include their friend in family activities too. Children feel comforted by imaginary friends because they are only their friend, they will take the blame and they always agree with what they have to say.
    Other children will chose to use comforters such as blankets and soft toys, which they will talk with them all the time, because they are soft and make the child feel safe. If the a child is ever unsure about something, or is separated from a parent, they will take the comforter with them to give them the security they think they will need on their journey.

    Can toys and games help?

    As with all other forms of development within childhood toys and games are a good way of expressing a child's mood and feeling at certain times. If a child has negative emotions about something for any reason they can be expressed using toys and games and this can often relax the situation.

  • Hammer toys - Children can be encouraged to let off steam with a hammering toy. This could involve them hitting blocks into gaps or just hitting it on the floor if parents do not object. Hammering can help the child to get rid of tension and any destructive feelings that they may have for many reasons.
  • Drawing and painting - Children do not often have enough language to express exactly why they are feeling angry and upset. However, if a child can paint or draw how they are feeling parents can often find out exactly what is wrong. Moods can often be shown by what they actually draw, the colours the use and how they draw it.
  • Play dough - Play dough is very good for a child to use when they want to release excess anger. Play dough can by squashed, poked, battered, squeezed and thrown around without it being hurt! Handling it can soothe the child, often the smooth texture calms the child.
  • Role play - Children love to pretend to be someone else, often dressing up too - and by doing this they are able to act out what they are feeling or certain fears that they have about things.
  • Chasing - Older children run around the playground to let off steam at break time and sometimes younger children find it good to run around too as it helps them to feel more relaxed and free.
  • Soft toys - Playing with soft toys can give a child comfort and by teaching the child how to look after the teddy or toy they are learning how to have a caring nature.
  • With thanks and information from:
  • My own notes: on toddlers and behaviour,
  • My Mother: how she managed to cope with me!
  • The health section of:
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