Behavior issues can be exhausting, especially when they’re an ongoing struggle. In those times, however, it’s more important than ever to parent with love, joy, and intention. Here are 6 things we need to do when managing misbehavior.
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A while back, I went through a rough patch with one of my kids. Some behavior issues I thought we had worked through dramatically worsened, leaving me reeling from the sudden (and significant) step backwards. I scrabbled for several months, desperate, discouraged, and disoriented before finally finding my footing again.
As it turned out, my child wasn’t the only one who needed some reformation. I needed to make some changes, too – in my perspective, my heart, and my actions.
It didn’t happen overnight, but as I adjusted how I approached my child, I slowly-but-steadily saw changes in his behavior, as well. For the better! And now, not only have we regained the ground we lost, we’ve made new progress.
Of course, just when I started making headway with that child, another one regressed. Isn’t that always the way it goes? This is why I often say parenting is like a never-ending game of Whack-A-Mole!
So, as I enter this new set of issues, I’m turning yet again (and more quickly this time) to those valuable lessons I learned a few months ago. The next time you’re navigating turbulent parenting waters, I hope the following tips help you manage your kids’ misbehavior in wholehearted, love-centered, child-affirming ways.
6 Things You Need to Do When Managing Misbehavior
We all go through periodic rough patches with our kids. They’re human… and so are we. They’re learning… and so are we! If there’s anything I’ve learned in the last eight years it’s that raising kids is NOT a linear process. And it’s definitely not easy.
Dealing with misbehavior is part and parcel of the parenting life. We’re constantly teaching, correcting, and disciplining our kids. We have to – that’s how they learn and grow!
But some seasons are extra-challenging. And in those times, it’s more important than ever to parent with love, joy, and intention. It’s not easy, but here are 6 things we need to do when managing misbehavior.
1. Make extra deposits
When our kids’ behaviors have us pulling our hair out, our natural response is often to pull away from them. But those times are exactly when we need to be the MOST intentional about filling their attention and love banks. Make it a point to lean into, not away from, your kids and lead with lots of love.
2. Get to the root
Dealing with a behavior issue that’s frustrating and confounding you? Put on your detective hat and start investigating! Ask questions, such as:
- Why are they acting this way?
- What needs are they trying to meet?
- Are they struggling with something?
- Have they gone through any big changes recently?
- Am I interacting with them differently than I used to?
Misbehavior is almost always a sign of deeper issues, so keep digging until you get to the root of the problem.
3. Connect with the heart
Once you’ve identified possible sources or reasons for the misbehavior, try to connect with their hearts BEFORE you attempt to change the behavior. That way, your parenting will be more than simple behavior modification (i.e. changing a behavior to avoid a consequence or get a reward), which is not an effective long-term strategy for developing lasting character.
4. Look for the positives
This might sound strange, but every challenging behavior or personality trait has an associated strength. Strong-willed kids are determined, perseverant, and resistant to peer pressure. Dramatic kids are often highly empathetic and emotionally intelligent. Argumentative kids stand strong in their convictions. Loud kids are enthusiastic. Nosy kids are curious. And so on and so forth.
As you navigate tough seasons with your kids, make it a practice to flip the challenging behaviors into their positive perspectives. Then, work with your kids to GUIDE those traits, affirming and redirecting them, rather than trying to squelch them.
There is a fabulous section on this in Paul David Tripp’s book Parenting that was a total game-changer for me. (Actually, the entire book was a game-changer!)
5. Choose your battles
When you’re going through an especially trying parenting season, you don’t need any more battles than are absolutely necessary! Ask yourself, then, “Is this an issue that needs to be corrected, or is it simply an annoyance/inconvenience to me? Is it a character deficiency, or is it merely a personality difference or normal childhood behavior?” You might be surprised at your answers. So many of the battles we choose to fight with our kids are not worth the casualties required to win.
6. Balance consistency with consideration
I have a couple of VERY strong-willed kids, and I’ve learned that if I give them an inch of leeway, they will stretch it into a mile. So, during those exhausting struggles, I know I cannot give in simply because I’m tired. And I’m not suggesting you do, either. As we discipline our kids, especially during those extra-challenging seasons, it’s vital that we remain consistent and diligent.
However, it is just as important that we make sure our consequences make sense and are appropriate for their stage of development. And that we’re delivering them calmly and compassionately. We should always strive, therefore, to balance consistency in our discipline with careful consideration of our kids’ needs.
I’m certainly not any kind of expert on parenting or child development, but those are a few key things that have helped me navigate tough parenting seasons with peace, joy, and intention. Through these strategies and approaches, I’ve been able to manage misbehavior in more wholehearted, love-centered, child-affirming ways, and I hope they inspire you to do the same.
SHARE WITH US: Do you have any tips or advice for traversing tough times in parenting with peace, joy, and intention? Share them in the comments below!
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