Steps Used to Control an Unruly Child

Whether a parent/guardian, instructor, child care provider, or even innocent bystander, many people have likely seen or dealt with an unruly child at least once. This may range from a brief encounter with a tantrum-throwing child at the local grocery store to a full-blown screaming match at home. Those tasked with controlling a rowdy child face many challenges, but steps can be taken to gradually improve the situation.

The ABCs of Behavior Problems

When attempting to change a child’s unwanted behaviors, many people want to jump right to punishment. It’s almost a natural instinct: something bad occurs and it must be countered with a punishment. In some cases, this approach just doesn’t work on its own. If you find yourself consistently punishing a child without any change in his or her behavior, try instead looking at their actions. The ABCs of behavior are Antecedent (what happens immediately before the behavior happens) Behavior (what happens) and Consequence (what happens in response to the behavior.)

The antecedent is a very important part of behavior. Knowing what will set off a behavior is incredibly valuable and can help prevent many problems before they ever start. Consider stopping to look for the antecedent if your child constantly repeats unwanted behaviors. It may save a lot of future trouble if the antecedent is easily controlled.

Finding the Right System

Variety is a great thing, however consistency is key when dealing with behavior. Find something that works and stick with it. Every child is different, and saying, “Time out will work,” or “Rewarding good behavior is the best option,”will never work in every situation. One child may react well to positive reinforcement because they want to be rewarded for good behavior. Some children don’t mind sitting in their rooms alone while others couldn’t care less about getting gold stars. Some children just need a gentle reminder to behave, while others seem to lose all control of themselves. The key here is to know the child in question and find a system fitting their needs.

Consistency in Actions

Once you find a system of punishment or reward (or both) that works for a child, be consistent! Create a list of rules, rewards, and consequences. Let the child know that this is the way things are and you won’t compromise. If you set a rule, follow it and make your child follow it. Do not deviate unless you find one of your new laws is ineffective. Think, if you will, of a traffic officer. A van in front of you is speeding, but the officer ignores it, but pulls you over for speeding and writes you a hefty fine. That’s pretty infuriating. So say you’ve found a successful system to control your child’s bad behavior and he’s doing well, but then you stop reinforcing good behavior and punishing bad behavior, or one member of the family implements the rules and another lets the child run crazy. Be consistent.

Forming Partnerships

Finally, don’t feel like you need to go at it alone. If you’ve received countless notes from school or daycare, try to get everyone on board to help. This includes school staff, childcare providers, family and friends. As mentioned above, everyone should be on the same page: same rules, rewards, and punishments. Of course, your child might have different consequences at school and home, but teachers and parents can work together to create a plan. For example, if a student behaves well in school, he may be praised or rewarded at home. If he or she misbehaves, the computer or favorite game might be locked up after school.

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