Effective Parenting Strategies in Managing
Demanding Behaviors in Young Children
It can be extremely discouraging and depleting when faced with demanding behaviors exhibited by people outside of ourselves, no matter the age. When our boundaries are pushed and eventually crossed and we feel a sense of powerlessness, it can be difficult to manage our own emotional discomfort and defensive reactions to these perceived threats.
As parents, it can be especially challenging to experience these emotions in the moment, and trying to push through initial urges stemming from hurt, frustration or helplessness in order to remain secure in our roles as parents and stable support systems for our children.
From a cognitive standpoint, it is important to remember that there is a developmental imbalance in our relationship with children and, therefore, expectations for our behaviors and theirs will need to be different. For many young children, certain behaviors at certain ages may be ‘normal’ or expected and it is important to consider what would be reasonable expectations for a child’s behavior given their developmental stage as well as the current stressors that they may be facing.
Emotional development occurs over time and often young children are still learning to identify their emotions and learn how to express them in an appropriate way.
It is important for parents to understand that most young children’s demanding behaviors are reasonably aligned with their stage in brain development and are a way for them to communicate their needs. According to a well known child development specialist, Dr. Siggie, “…the portion of their brain (prefrontal cortex) that controls their higher reasoning functions such as impulse control, emotional regulation, decision making, attention span, etc. is not yet fully developed,” which suggests that children are not intentionally acting on impulse or breaking down into a tantrum based on rationale, but rather this is the best way their brains know how to process and deal with their emotions and information around them.
As parents, it is our responsibility to help our children learn how to communicate their needs in a constructive way. Every child is different and will have different needs, but there are some general parenting strategies that can be effective in managing demanding behaviors in young children.
- The first step is to understand the reason for the behavior.
When a child is demanding, it is usually a sign that they are feeling insecure or anxious. It is important to understand what is motivating the behavior so that you can address it effectively.
- Set clear expectations for your child.
One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to set clear expectations and rules for your child. These rules should be simple, age-appropriate, and easy to understand. It is important to enforce these rules consistently and to praise your child when they follow them.
- Another important thing to keep in mind is to set clear and consistent limits.
Make sure your child knows what is expected of them and what the consequences are for not following rules. Be sure to enforce the consequences consistently.
- Establish a routine for your child.
A routine can be very helpful in managing demanding behaviors in young children. A routine provides structure and predictability for your child, which can help to reduce stress and anxiety.
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