There are many challenges parents encounter in their efforts to raise children to be competent, well-adjusted individuals who are able to respond to frustrations in non-violent and effective ways. One of the most commons issues parents face is how to manage their child’s behaviour effectively, without aggression.
The key to managing a child’s behaviour is for parents to have positive interactions with their child that encourages good behaviour, rather than focusing on the negative behaviour. At the same time, it’s important for parents to establish and enforce some household rules that are age appropriate, reasonable and meaningful for the child.
Effective discipline is essential
To parent your kids effectively, it’s important that you focus on interacting with them when they do something good, rather than when it’s something bad and you’re reprimanding them.
Do so by making as few rules as possible, but ensure they’re clear and fair. Where possible, explain why rules are important and agree on the consequences for breaking them. Be consistent when it comes to consequences. Avoid smacking or using physical punishment; research has shown that it’s not an effective method of disciplining. Children who are punished physically may develop mental health problems in adulthood and use aggression with their own children or spouse.
Be aware of the signs of bullying
One in four children and young people have been bullied in various social settings, including at school, online, home, and at sporting fields. Although it can be difficult for parents to discern between typical normal interaction between children and bullying, it helps for parents to decide on what behaviours they don’t consider bullying.
All children and young people with have conflict with their peers, and one single nasty act or random intimidation is not generally regarded as bullying. It’s necessary, no matter how upsetting it is for them (and their parents) to have disagreements from time-to-time so they can learn how to work through differences with others, which is an important skill to have in adulthood.
Bullying, however, is the deliberate and repeated abuse of power by one person over another. The National Centre Against Bullying defines five different types of bullying:
- Physical Bullying: Hitting, poking, tripping, pushing or damaging someone’s belongings.
- Verbal Bullying: Name-calling, insults, homophobic or racist remarks, and verbal abuse.
- Social/ Covert Bullying: Spreading lies or rumours; someone playing a nasty joke, mimics, or deliberately excludes someone else.
- Psychological Bullying: Where someone is threatened, manipulated or stalked.
- Cyber Bullying: Where someone uses technology, such as email, mobile phones, or social media to bully verbally, socially, or psychologically.
Generally speaking, boys are physically bullied more often than girls, who tend to be more involved in indirect forms of aggression, such as excluding others, spreading rumours or pear-group rejection.
Is your child displaying bullying behaviour?
Sometimes children don’t realise the impact their behaviour can have on others, especially if their participation in bullying began innocently and then developed into something more serious. It’s important that parents tell their children why they think this behaviour is unacceptable and that they want it to end.
Parents should explain to their child what bullying is and ask why they’re doing it. Some children bully because they have been bullied themselves; others sometimes participate in group bullying to avoid being bullied or to fit in at school.
If parent’s suspect or determine that their child is participating in bullying behaviour, they should notify the organisation (the school, for example) where it’s taking place and ask about their procedures for dealing with bullying.
Parents should also monitor their child’s use of the internet and mobile phones, and check back with the school or the organisation where the bullying is happening to see how their child is behaving.
It’s best to do something about bullying sooner rather than later. As parents, you can have the most positive and lasting influence on your child’s behaviour while they are young. Use the techniques discussed above to help encourage good behaviour.
Marcus Andrews is the founder and director of Life Supports, which was established in 2002. He has extensive professional experience working as a counsellor and family therapist across a broad range of issues. The core component of his role at Life Supports involves the supervision of other counsellors, including secondary consultations. Marcus has worked in many sectors, including private, government, non-profit, health, forensic and community practice.