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Sep
Are Your Kids Really Being Naughty?

Are Your Kids Really Being Naughty?

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Are Your Kids Really Being Naughty?

As I joined the field of psychology, I have been meeting lots of parents who came to me for “remedies” or “solution” for naughty behaviours. It seems to be a common challenge that parents came across this along the pathway of raising their kids.

Until I read through an article by Dr. Erin Leyba on psychologytoday.com, it is important for parents nowadays to obtain the awareness of “why my children are being cranky?”.

This remind us to look at children’s behaviour through a thoughtful lens, recognizing how unpleasant behaviours as a response to environmental conditions, developmental phases, or our own actions. It will let us respond proactively and definitely with much more compassion.

Impulses Control

“Ever say to your kid, “Don’t throw that!” and they throw it anyway? Research suggests that the brain regions involved in self-control are immature at birth and don’t fully mature until the end of adolescence, which explains why developing self-control is a “long, slow process”. A recent survey revealed that many parents assume children can do things at earlier ages than child-development experts know to be true.

For example, 56 percent of parents felt that children under the age of 3 should be able to resist the desire to do something forbidden, whereas most children don’t master this skill until age three-and-a-half or four. Reminding ourselves that kids can't always manage impulses (because their brains aren't fully developed) can inspire gentler reactions to their behaviour.”

To control impulses is not to totally ignore the unwanted behaviour, but our responses to the behaviour itself would play a crucial role. If a more level, gentler manner of responses are given, the child might have felt being respected and would be more likely to follow the instructions given.

Never Overstimulate

“We take our kids to Target, the park, and their sister’s play in a single morning, and inevitably see meltdowns, hyperactivity, or outright resistance. Jam-packed schedules, overstimulation, and exhaustion are hallmarks of modern family life. Research suggests that 28 percent of Americans “always feel rushed” and 45 percent report having “no excess time” (Robinson, 2013). Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, argues that children experience a “cumulative stress reaction” from too much enrichment, activity, choice, and toys. He asserts that kids need tons of “down time” to balance their “up time” (Payne, 2010). When we build in plenty of quiet time, playtime, and rest time, children’s behavior often improves dramatically.”

Most parents never expected their children to have high stress level until they came to SOL and did a brain assessment. Even after I interpreted and explained the brainwaves that their children have, they usually gave me the confused look and wondered how kids could contaminate higher stress level. We often expect kids to have the same levels of interest and stamina that we have as adults, and in doing so we neglect that kids need a lot of time to just relax. Not only parents but also from school and teachers nowadays that they are expecting a lot more, especially academically, hence fully scheduled tuition, enrichment classes etc. that could have contributed to overstimulation. A meltdown could be the result of the circumstances – no nap, late bedtime, skipping a meal, too much sugar (mentioned in previous article).

Be Aware of Core Conditions

“Ever been “hangry” — angry because you’re hungry — or completely out of patience due to sleep deprivation? Little kids are affected tenfold by such “core conditions” of being tired, hungry, thirsty, over-sugared, or sick. Kids' ability to manage emotions and behavior is greatly diminished when they're tired. Many parents also notice a sharp change in children’s behavior about an hour before meals, if they woke up in the night, or if they are coming down with an illness. Kids can’t always communicate or “help themselves” to a snack, a Tylenol, water, or a nap like adults can.”

Core conditions being as a result of being overstimulated, kids usually get cranky and difficult to be soothed when they are tired, that makes them difficult to manage their emotions. This is because their physical and emotional capabilities are much lower as compared to adults. As they grow, they will definitely have higher ability to resolve with any conditions that they encounter, but if kids were being punished when they were experiencing “core conditions”, it will only worsen the whole condition and may cause the kid to be more emotional. Hence, it is important for parents and caregivers to be aware of the appearance of core conditions so to respond at a more level and gentler manner (just as impulses control).

Never Suppress Big Feelings

“As adults, we’ve been taught to tame and hide our big emotions, often by stuffing them, displacing them, or distracting from them. Kids can’t do that yet. Early childhood educator Janet Lansbury has a great phrase for when kids display powerful feelings such as screaming, yelling, or crying. She suggests that parents “Let feelings be” by not reacting or punishing kids when they express powerful emotions.”

I guess this is the most obvious of kids being cranky and is one of those that parents seem to concern the most. Asian parents always found themselves to be blamed when their children is not “properly” behave, which is to behave as per the parents wanted them to. Often, parents used to punish or threat to get punishment if the inappropriate behaviour continues. Punishment may be able to suppress the unwanted behaviour, but it might cause a further effect mentally in the children. At here, it’s not that such behaviour shouldn’t be addressed or confronted; rather it’s about teaching and coaching kids on how to deal with their feelings. It can be as simple as “Use your words,” rather than going into a punishment mode. Some parents found using words itself difficult as they often moving back and forth of their words, allowing very limited or no boundaries. This contributes to kids not sticking to boundaries but continuing testing water of the parents, may also lead to emotional unstable as kids would never know when they would be rejected.

Developmental Need for Tons of Movement

"Sit still!" "Stop chasing your brother around the table!" "Stop sword fighting with those pieces of cardboard!" "Stop jumping off the couch!” Kids have a developmental need for tons of movement. They have a tremendous need to spend time outside, ride bikes and scooters, do rough and tumble play, crawl under things, swing from things, jump off things, and race around things. Instead of calling a child "bad" when they’re acting energetic, it may be better to organize a quick trip to the playground or a stroll around the block.”

Parents often tried to stop their children from lots of movement but without realizing that is part of their developmental need. Additionally, children always being suppressed as parents assumed that they might have disturbed the others. Rather than recognizing movements as behaving bad, it is stillness that must be justified, not movement.

Developmentally-wired to Resist and Become Independent

“Every 40- and 50-degree day resulted in an argument at one family’s home. A first-grader insisted that it was warm enough to wear shorts, while mom said the temperature called for pants. Erik Erikson’s (1963) model posits that toddlers try to do things for themselves, and that preschoolers take initiative and carry out their own plans. Even though it’s annoying when a child picks your tomatoes while they’re still green, cuts their own hair, or makes a fort with 8 freshly-washed sheets, they’re doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing—trying to carry out their own plans, separate, make their own decisions, and become their own little independent people.”

As parents and teachers, our goal is to help our children become independent as soon as possible. Such independence doesn’t mean “aloneness,” though, as learning to be interdependent is also a needed life skill. However, to save time and the effort of cleaning up as well as to cause less hassles, parents or caregivers often opt to provide aid, which may actually cause them to be less independent.

Core Strengths that Trip Them Up

“We all have core strengths that can also trip us up. Maybe we’re incredibly focused, but can’t transition very easily. Maybe we’re intuitive and sensitive, but take on other people’s negative moods like a sponge. Kids are similar: They may be driven in school, but have difficulty coping when they mess up (e.g. yelling when they make a mistake). They may be cautious and safe, but resistant to new activities (e.g. refusing to go to baseball practice). They may live in the moment, but aren't that organized (e.g. letting their bedroom floor become covered with toys). Recognizing when a child's unwelcome behaviors are really the flip side of their strengths—just like ours—can help us react with more understanding.”

We are human being, who are never perfect. Not to say kids but also adults, every individual has their own strengths and weaknesses. To think in this way, it may be easier for parents to fully accept how their children are and react to negative situations positively.

Fierce Need for Play

“Your kid paints her face with yogurt, wants you to chase her and "catch her" when you're trying to brush her teeth, or puts on daddy's shoes instead of her own when you're racing out the door. Some of kids' seemingly "bad" behaviors are what John Gottman calls "bids" for you to play with them. Kids love to be silly and goofy. They delight in the connection that comes from shared laughter and love the elements of novelty, surprise, and excitement. Play often takes extra time and therefore gets in the way of parents' own timelines and agendas, which may look like resistance and naughtiness even when it's not. When parents build lots of playtime into the day, kids don't need to beg for it so hard when you're trying to get them out the door.”

Play time is very important in developmental stages. With “play”, children learn how to express themselves socially, emotionally and it also helps in learning as it affects the development of the brain. Without play, children might get into depression mood and have higher anxiety level. Hence, there is a trend rising among the early childhood education that they implement the use of play in educating. With the use of metaphors and play, it “activates” neuroplasticity, creating new pathway in the brain and more brain cells firing up. Watch the video below to know how play affects the brain!

Reaction to Parents’ Moods

“Multiple research studies on emotional contagion have found that it only takes milliseconds for emotions like enthusiasm and joy, as well as sadness, fear, and anger, to pass from person to person, and this often occurs without either person realizing it (Goleman, 1991, Hatfield et al., 2014). Kids especially pick up on their parents’ moods. If we are stressed, distracted, down, or always-on-the-verge-of-frustrated, kids emulate these moods. When we are peaceful and grounded, kids model off that instead.”

As per I mentioned previously, parents usually did not realize the stress level of their children as they never thought of emotions could pass from person to person. Due to inflation, mainly both parents have to work to support and supply the needs for their children as well as the whole family. This usually leads to higher stress level and caused emotional regulation issues among parents. Kids easily mimic all those moods and contribute to higher stress level in them. On the other hand, if parents are calm and relax most of the time, kids would then mirror those positive moods as well. Hence, parents are recommended to learn how to regulate their own emotions that it will not only benefits their children but also themselves as better moods will also improve performance, well-being and also their own physical health.

Response to Inconsistent Limits

“At one ball game, you buy your kid M & Ms. At the next, you say, “No, it’ll ruin your dinner,” and your kid screams and whines. One night you read your kids five books, but the next you insist you only have time to read one, and they beg for more. One night you ask your child, "What do you want for dinner?" and the next night you say, "We're having lasagna, you can't have anything different," and your kids protest the incongruence. When parents are inconsistent with limits, it naturally sets off kids’ frustration and invites whining, crying, or yelling. Just like adults, kids want (and need) to know what to expect. Any effort toward being 100 percent consistent with boundaries, limits, and routines will seriously improve children’s behavior.”

Now that you see why boundaries are important as I mentioned above. How could we expect kids to be consistent and calm when the adults are inconsistent in their words and behaviour? This may lead to frustration and/ or upsetting the kid for not being a good model of keeping own words or promises. The anxiety level of kid could also increase as they will never know when they will be rejected. Let’s take the example of “reading books” above, the first night kids get 5 stories but the next, when the parents only have time for 1 story, they could have asked for more but that’s under the risk of being rejected. In this circumstances, the stress level and anxiety level could have increased due to inconsistency of rules set.

There isn’t a manual in parenting and being inconsistent in treating their children making parenting difficult. With better understanding and acknowledgement in children’s behaviour, setting consistent boundaries helps kids to develop more positive behaviour. It is possible to avoid making assumptions that kids are being naughty when we see unwelcomed behaviour when we responds according to situations, treating them as an individual instead of an inferior.

Last but not least, besides of improving parenting style and reacting accordingly to the behaviour of kids, SOL is now bringing a new hope in for busy parents nowadays.

We are providing trainings directly on the brain, which not only improve emotionally, but also the attention span, performance as well as restlessness of kids.

Wondering how the trainings help your kids? You may find out more here: http://www.sol.com.my/health-services/health-therapies/brain-trainer 

Contributed by:

Vernice Si Toh

Psychologist of Spectrum of Life