Child behaviour; Whose fault is it anyway?

Just last week I published a post about my struggles with my lively two year old. In a stroke of luck, or fate, today I attended a government run course targeted for parents on child behaviour. Sadly, it was heavily unsubscribed, so I had managed to wangle a last minute space and whether it was the idea of the creche, the adult company or the educational environment, I have to say I had high hopes for a fine afternoon.

I wasn’t disappointed. Two hours later I left the children’s centre feeling incredibly proud of the Mouse and how she handled the creche, but more importantly, totally changed as a parent. Well, for now anyway.

What I hadn’t appreciated prior to walking into that room, was that this was going to be an opportunity to pause, reflect and consider my own impact on my child’s behaviour, and think about how I could make things a little better for all of us.

This isn’t a self-bashing session, or a Mum-shaming-shop, or even a guilt-fest. But what it is, is me holding my hands up, and saying I haven’t been so perfect either. I haven’t dealt with things in the best way, and in all honesty I need to change some of the ways I respond to my childrens behaviour.

Having missed the first two sessions due to the never ending lurgy in the G-unit, I picked up on week 3of5 when today we were discussing parenting approaches to behaviour. More specifically, Positive vs Negative approaches.

Negative approaches to behaviour

  • Punishment (Imprisonment, Exclusion, Confiscation)
  • Physical punishment (Hitting, hurting)
  • Shouting
  • Anger
  • Negative Language (No, Don’t)
  • Labels / Put Downs

Some of these approaches may seem traditional, and everyday (granted some conjure up barbaric images too, which sadly have existed in the past and still do in some societies). It’s highly likely that at any point every parent has turned to negative approaches occasionally, if not often. The message of today was that whilst these techniques may have a short term impact, in the long term they actually contribute to bad behaviour.

If a child see’s continuous shouting, anger, physical intervention and negativity, is it really rocket science that this is the behaviour that they will mimic? The scene which resonated in my mind is the classic, when you (I) am shouting at the top of my voice at the children to “STOP SHOUTING”.

Of course, we all slip up when pushed to our limits – particularly when under another external factor like a time pressure, tiredness, stress or upset. That’s okay – we are all human. What’s important is that you do realise you lost a certain level of control, and reflect on how it made everyone feel – chances are, not great. Have an open chat with the kids, and say sorry to each other. They need to see Mummy (or Daddy) makes mistakes too, and can apologise to them; to treat them with respect.

One of the really cutting lessons I picked up on was the damaging effect of labels on a child. I hadn’t ever really considered the consequences of constantly referring to a child as naughty – even when they are actually being really good. Yep, I hold my hands up. I’m guilty of that one. Imagine being constantly told you are bad; that’s actually a really upsetting thought that you might be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. The ‘correct’ approach is to address the behaviour, not the child ( I feel sad that you won’t get ready…I’m disappointed that we can’t go to the park now…). As opposed to ‘You are naughty / bad / not very nice’ etc.

Now clearly, my school line banter of ‘don’t be fooled by her cuteness’ isn’t (hopefully) enough to long term damage the Mouse into her adult years – but it certainly made me think. We have some making up to do.

Positive approaches to behaviour

  • Encouraging
  • Honesty
  • Open communication
  • Praise
  • Distraction
  • Reflection / Time out (as an alternative to Naughty step)
  • Giving choices
  • Explaining consequences and reasons why
  • Modelling (Being happy, positive, starting afresh)
  • Allocating responsibility
  • Affirming
  • Age appropriate boundaries
  • Ignoring (Tantrums for example)
  • Respect

I can do this. Surely this isn’t too challenging and worth a try? I’ve definitely had enough of yelling, the naughty step is a big fat failure, and I don’t want my child to grow up believing she is rotten to the core. Because, whilst we have had a rough time lately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. She is a remarkably bright, funny and loveable two year old.

A huge part of frustrations between us all lies with attention and communication. I probably need to engage in a little more active listening to the Mouse, instead of constantly being on a mission to get somewhere, do something or be super efficient. Even if I am listening; As Dr Albert Mehrabians 7-38-55 rule states, only 7% of communication is verbal. 38% is tone of voice, and 55% is body language. So, that half hearted conversation whilst I’m washing up, or scrolling my phone, or pushing her in the pushchair maybe just isn’t enough.

Only last week we had an unusual bedtime meltdown with Tigs. A battle to get her to settle down and stop messing around with craft stuff in her bedroom. Getting increasingly frustrated with her inability to be able to leave it until the morning (both with work commitments to tend to) we took it in turns to go in and get cross with her that went on for over 45 minutes. In the end, when I really listened to what was causing her such distress, it came to light that she was trying to wrap up little presents she’d made for each of us that she wanted to leave out like Christmas morning. 5 minutes of helping her wrap later she was sound asleep. Not our finest parenting moment, but another huge lesson learnt along the way.

There are some other tactics I want to try too – maybe drawing up some House Rules, with a positive angle as opposed to an old school ‘No Hitting, No biting, No shouting’. Something along the lines of ‘In our home we are kind, we are gentle, we talk, we listen’.

Another idea discussed was instead of a behaviour or reward chart (which we have used in the past with mixed success – Tigs could NOT cope at all with receiving a negative stamp); a family jar filled with buttons for good behaviour for a common goal. Even Mummy & Daddy get a button for being kind, and when we have enough we get a family treat. It’s a lovely concept isn’t it?

Finally, the last thing to reflect on is that some behavioural traits are just a stage of development. In the same way a baby naps, or a 9 month old has separation anxiety; a two year old is finding their boundaries physically and emotionally. So ultimately, try to breathe through the frustrations and remember it’s not your fault, but it’s also not their fault; this too shall pass.


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22 thoughts on “Child behaviour; Whose fault is it anyway?

  1. Nicole Reply

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this! I agree with all that’s said here. How we communicate with our children, and what they hear and see every day forms the basis of their character. Some brilliant tips here. Sharing.

  2. anywaytostayathome Reply

    This is what I try to do. Sometimes I fail, because the kid knows how to push my buttons. What I always do though is apologise. I’ll be the first to say sorry if I’ve shouted but I’ll also explain went his behaviour turned me into the shouty mum I don’t want to be #coolmumclub

  3. Hattie Reply

    I really needed to read this, I feel my temper has been raging recently and I am always quick to shout and punch. I definitely use ‘naughty’ far too often too. Thank you for some sound advice which I will really take to heart! #coolmumclub

  4. motherhoodtherealdeal Reply

    Well said mama! Our children learn by mirroring….I know all of the above but this week I have been totally losing it and not modelling good behaviour whatsoever. Tomorrow is a new day and hurrah for our #coolmumclub reunion xoxo

  5. Tubbs Reply

    I try so hard. Sometimes successfully and other times, not so much! Thank you for some great advice. 🙂 Shared everywhere!

  6. rockandrosesmama Reply

    This is all so true! Luckily my own Mama is wells schooled in these ideals and has prepped me not hem before so we are luckily already aware of the negative and harmful effects of certain things on behaviour! My husband at first was a bit like ‘he’s fine if we call him naughty… you and your mum read too much stuff online and in books…’ but he’s warming to the idea! <3

  7. One Messy Mama (@onemessymama4) Reply

    Wow, what a thought provoking read! Couldn’t agree more! I love the idea of a button jar, I have been looking for something to do with my kids, but having 5 kids I think having Behaviour Charts would just annoy me. Can you imagine filling a chart every few minutes – for each kid…. I’m definitely starting a jar tonight. So nice that the entire family gets a treat! #coolmumclub

  8. Aleena Brown Reply

    What a beautifuly written and honest post. I couldn’t agree more with absolutely everything you’ve said, and some days I really frustrate myself because I know all of the above and still lose my you-know-what… Is it any wonder my kids do?! I absolutely agree that the behaviour we model will inevitably be the behaviour we get in return, and I try to remind myself of this every single day. My mum told me the day Amelia was born that the baby feeds off my emotions; if I’m stressed because she won’t stop crying, she’ll be stressed and cry more. We forget that continues throughout childhood. Love this post SO much! #coolmumclub

  9. Reply

    This is a good reminder, I don’t think i’ve been handling things well lately due to stress from work. It’s not fair on my boy, he is incredibly well behaved yet I don’t praise him enough. Thanks for giving me the push to see what I need to do to make things right xx #coolmumclub

  10. Confessions of a Working Mum Reply

    Reading this is really timely for me. Our 17 month old has started to randomly lash out and hit people. It just comes out of the blue. She’s not angry or stressed at the time so it’s really puzzling. We try and be firm with her but when she does it in public I feel almost pressured to shout so it looks like we’re doing something. We do call her a naughty girl but always make sure she shows she’s sorry and gives hugs then we move on. I’ll def do a bit more reading about handling things positively after this. Thank you! Xx #coolmumclub

  11. Mom Of Two Little Girls Reply

    Beautiful. Really & Truly. I am so far from perfect. Sometimes I really hate myself for the way I react to my girls. They deserve better. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. Stephanie Reply

    Interesting post. I also like that the positive approaches outnumber the negative approaches on the list. 🙂 #coolmumclub

  13. Surrey mama Reply

    A really really interesting post and something I’ve read about 3 times over! It’s always good to do these things to remind yourself about how things like you shouting for example can set a bad example to your children. Since I had my second I’m so guilty of shouting at times when we just can’t get out of the door and it never helps, it can just be so hard sometimes. I’ll be book marking this as a good reminder post. Thanks. #coolmumclub

  14. JakiJellz Reply

    This came at a really good time. Despite knowing all about using positive behaviour as opposed to negative when my little man is naughty, it can sometimes be so hard. He’s been a nightmare this week if I’m honest, but this has been a handy reminder that there are different ways to deal with his behaviour. Thank you. #coolmumclub

  15. Muffintopmummyblog Reply

    This is so thought provoking! I grew up with the classic negative stuff constantly being thrown at me when in truth, I was a pretty quiet, well-behaved child. I have always sworn I’d be different with my own – and this is a really helpful place to start. #coolmumclub

  16. Rhyming with Wine Reply

    I was very lucky to attend a very similar course run by our Children’s Centre a couple of years ago when our eldest was 2 and we had a 4 month old Mstr Tot. Back in those days it was actually a 10 week course and there was toast and tea waiting for my sleep deprived little self every Tuesday morning. It was heaven! In all seriousness though it really helped me to look at how I communicate with my two and the “positive instructions” in particular has stayed with me. Saying “Walk nicely” instead of “Don’t run” and “Keep the water in the bath please” instead of “Don’t throw water all over the bathroom”, really seemed to make a difference to how they responded. I have to keep reminding myself, but I think this is such powerful advice and can be a real game changer if we take a minute to reflect. Thanks for hosting lovely x #Coolmumclub

  17. Helena Reply

    Children are great mimics and it’s understandable that they will copy what they see. #coolmumclub

  18. Peachy Reply

    I’m finding the stage we are at now (17 months) paricularly challenging because Peachy is old enough to have preferences and opinions but she is not old enough for verbal communication. There is only so much reasoning you can do with mommy, daddy, Daisy (cat’s name), and uh-oh. #coolmumclub

  19. Jo (Mother of Teenagers) Reply

    This sounds like a really impressive course. We are all guilty of negative behaviour and even now all these years on I find myself with my teens adopting a less than positive approach and excuse it in my head because I think they are old enough to handle it but of course they are still impressionable and in need of correct communication just like all of us really. It is great that you are dealing with this sooner rather than later. Good luck. #coolmumclub

  20. Lucy At Home Reply

    I love this post so much! I was lucky enough to go on a similar-sounding parenting course when my eldest was 6mths old. It radically altered my views on parenthood and discipline, and definitely made me a better mum. We try our best to use the positive approaches rather than the negative, and it really has made for a happier household. Thank you for the reminder of the things I learnt (as some of it has fallen to the wayside a bit) #coolmumclub

    1. MMT Reply

      Pop back for the sequel tomorrow then Lucy! Thanks for reading x

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