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“Bad” Behavior- How Do You Handle It?

March 19, 2012

What has happened over the last 2 weeks that has caused our 5 year old son to keep picking on his 3 year old sister? We can’t figure it out- and I’m not sure that we’ll get the answer by looking into his psyche. It is probably more basic: attention-seeking, jealousy, anxiety….? But, after a weekend of him slyly tripping her, messing up her chalk drawings and generally doing I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-you kind of actions, my husband and I are at our wit’s end.

So, it was with great appreciation that I received a “parenting” hand-out from my son’s teacher at drop-off this morning. It was an article that was going to all the parents, but it seemed just meant for me today.

It appears our kid isn’t the only one who makes the same mistake/wrong decision over and over again. (Phew!) Instead, as Jennifer Rogers in her article “Guiding Children’s Spirits”, says, “effectively parenting a child through his mistakes, especially when he makes the very same mistake repeatedly, involves a tremendous amount of faith in the child’s potential.” That’s the part I keep forgetting. I have to have faith that his current actions are a phase- a blip in his whole development – and that he is a “good” kid. I just need to believe in that and not get sidetracked by his current aggressive behavior.

So, how to strike a balance between letting your kid know that they are making bad decisions but that you believe in him nonetheless?  Rogers says, “parents’ consistent, unconditional acceptance of a child gives him the courage to accept himself and to learn from his errors.”

But, that doesn’t mean there aren’t repercussions for taking your sister’s glasses from her and taunting her. He needs to understand that that behavior is cruel and results in discipline. But, if I show him that I have faith in him as a person and that I love him unconditionally, he can be in a mental space to learn from his errors. If I show him that his behaviors are temporary- but my love is not- he will progress and make the right decisions.  It’s going to take a lot of patience. That’s my mantra all week: patience, patience, patience.