Five-year-old Bobby is a natural performer. He turns on the charm for family and friends, his cute little capers eliciting “oohs” and “aahs” from smitten observers. Recently, however, his mother Lisa has been attacked by a case of bad behavior. Switched on almost as quickly as his song-and-dance routines, Bobby’s new antics are more irksome than they are adorable. Bobby interrupts Lisa’s adult conversations, or cuts in her sentences without letting her finish speaking. Normally well behaved, he suddenly turns disagreeable once he’s in front of other people.
“I was having a dinner party, when Bobby entered the room asking for cake,” recalls Lisa. “When I said he could have a slice for dessert, he threw a major tantrum, screaming, ‘I want cake right now!’”
Embarrassed, Lisa gave in and Bobby had his cake. “It frustrates me to know that he can be well mannered, but chooses to misbehave,” sighs Lisa. “I just want the bad behavior to disappear.”
Even the most patient of parents can’t help but feel frustrated and irritated in the face of annoying habits, especially when they start becoming repetitive. Interrupting your conversations, screaming, kicking, or throwing a temper tantrum, whining, or back talking are some ways in which your child can test your limits—and get your attention.
Ma. Bernardita Dela Rama, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and head of the Education Department at Assumption College, explains, “Children learn very quickly how to get your attention and keep it focused on them. If you want to change negative behavior, it helps to understand the reasons why your child is acting in such manner.”
Bad behavior can result from stress, boredom, tiredness, frustration, unhappiness, or insecurity—feelings that your child cannot communicate verbally. For example, it isn’t unlikely for you to experience some of these habits right when your child needs a nap and is most irritable or after the birth of a new sibling, when feelings of envy or anxiety oftentimes arise. Sometimes, your child may also just be mimicking something he saw on television. Unless the bad behaviors are unusual for your child’s age or affect others significantly, they should not be cause for any alarm.
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