Ask yourself: How is she feeling? What is she thinking? Difficult behaviour is prompted by a feeling and therefore when you understand how your child feel/thinks; you deal with it better and the behaviour disappears. Behaviour is often about attention seeking or frustration, so ask yourself the question: ‘What is the intention of this behaviour?’ ‘Is it to get my attention? Perhaps they feel less seen or loved than their sibling?
Naughty Step/ Time out does not work and is the emotional equivalent of slapping
When I work with a group of parents, I often ask them how they would feel if sent to the ‘naughty step’ and their response is “I would feel hurt, humiliated, unloved, confused, sad” therefore; it does not work! Instead give time into the feeling that underlies the behaviour and this approach will work better. A calm parent who speak gently with the child, and soothes the child can reduce the child’s defensive behaviour and ‘ground’ the child.
What about Punishment?
Punishment is counterproductive; it lowers self-esteem and damages the relationship between the parent and the child. A consequence may work the first time, but a child who experiences consequences every time feels the parent is punitive and punishing and internalises a feeling of ‘I’m bad’ and shows that in their behaviour.
Positive reinforcement works in parenting
Instead, tell them what they are doing right and they will do more of it as you are literally reinforcing behaviour by noticing it and ensuring that you see more of it. You will find they like being praised, so even when they are playing nicely, reward their good behaviour with your attention. Otherwise, they learn at an early age that when they misbehave, they get your attention, and negative attention is better than no attention.
Use Distraction, redirection and offer a choice when conflict starting
Guide and direct their behaviour by speaking up earlier and redirecting them when you see conflict arising or offering a choice: “If you play nicely you can stay here, if you choose to rough house, you are choosing to play outside, and which you choose?” Therefore, much of parenting is staying close, reading things before they become an issue and distracting them, lending a hand or sometimes ignoring them and avoiding the bait!
“I love you, but I cannot accept that behaviour. when you calm down we can talk and sort it out, but I cannot talk to you until you calm down”