7 Bad Behaviors Parents Should Correct ASAP

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Recently, I witnessed several examples of bad behavior in three different preteen kids, just in one weekend. These were all different kids of different genders and backgrounds from different families, and in different settings. The only thing they had in common was that they seemed to be between 10 years old and 12 years old, and were behaving abominably.

In the first incident, a girl spoke to me in a rude way when I asked her parents and her a simple question. The parents were lovely, but their daughter snapped at me and all but called me stupid. (And no, my question was actually not stupid.) Her parents made no move to correct or even comment on her behavior.

The second example was a boy who kept clowning around, despite a teacher's repeated requests to stop, during a trip to a museum. She had limited time to teach an important lesson, and this child took her time and energy away from the rest of the class.

The third example involved a boy who seemed to be with a group of of kids at a birthday party at a movie theater. The child began throwing popcorn everywhere without any regard for those around him, and continued to do this despite the host parents repeatedly asking him to stop. (They finally took the popcorn away, but he continued to be disruptive.)

Witnessing these scenes made me think about how important it is to nip bad behaviors in the bud while kids are still young. If you allow a child to get used to acting surly, disrespectful, or defiant and then try to correct these behaviors when they're reaching adolescence, it's a lot tougher to turn that ship around.

Disrespect

There's a reason this bad behavior is number one on this list. When kids are routinely not respectful to you or another adult, they are sending a message that they don't think they need to consider how others may feel or think.

If your child speaks to you or another adult rudely or uses backtalk, take them aside as soon as possible after the incident and let them know that they will not be allowed to participate in fun activities or will lose access to things they like, such as video games or TV time, unless they learn how to treat others kindly and respectfully.

Always use good manners when you interact with your child, or with other people in your child's presence, so that they can learn by example. Thank them when they do something for you, say "please," and model respectful behavior.

Defiance

Often, kids who don't respect authority don't listen. While your child may truly be distracted or dawdling when you have to repeat yourself several times, they may not listening because they don't think there will be any consequences for this behavior.

If your child is willfully ignoring you and doing something you asked them not to do, discipline them right away. Take them away from the action, whether it's a family dinner or a play date, and ask them to reset themself while they think about why their choice to ignore you is not acceptable.

Allow them to come back and show you how they can "do over" those last few moments and be a better listener. If they refuse, give them consequences (such as losing privileges like time with friends or TV or computer time).

Entitlement

While it's natural for parents to want to give their kids the things they want and need, giving kids nearly everything they want and need does not benefit anyone. To avoid spoiling your child, let them earn or save allowance money to buy some of the things they want. Teach them how to experience and express gratitude (helping others through volunteer projects is one way to do this).

Helping kids think about those who don't have the things they do is a great way to tone down greed and encourage them to appreciate what they have.

Tantrums

While it can be understandable in a toddler or preschooler, a screaming and crying fit (and its equally bad behavior cousins, pouting and whining) in a school-age child is less acceptable. A 5- or 6-year-old may have an occasional meltdown, but they should be on their way to learning how to handle frustration in a more controlled, calm, and respectful way.

If your child has a tantrum, ask them to go to a safe, quiet place and sit down until they feel calmer. Some kids may need help doing this. You can provide assistance by remaining present and modeling calm.

Once they have reset their emotions and can listen, talk about why tantrums will make it less likely that they'll get what they want. Talk about how they could have handled the situation better and ask them to stop, take a deep breath, and think about those better choices the next time they feel frustrated.

Bullying

Parents often worry that their child may be bullied, and talk to their kids about what to do if that happens. But what if your child is the bully?

Talk with your child immediately if you suspect or find out that they've been mean and aggressive toward someone or have engaged in gossiping, teasing, or insulting behavior. Find out why they did these things and talk to them about why bullying is absolutely unacceptable and harmful for the victim as well as for them.

Lying

All kids engage in lying at some point, and very young children are often unable to distinguish between lying and imaginative play. But as kids get older, they may deliberately tell lies for specific reasons (to avoid getting into trouble, for instance).

If your child is making a habit of telling fibs, take steps immediately to find out what's behind the behavior, make it clear that you want them to stop, and show them why lying can be harmful to relationships.

Cheating

Whether it's a board game or other playful competition, some younger kids may cheat simply because they want to win. But older kids, who have a better developed sense of right and wrong, may cheat deliberately (and in riskier situations, such as on a test at school). Talk to your child about how cheating lessens their achievements and emphasize the importance of fair play.

A Word From Verywell

Handling bad behaviors when your child is younger will leave you feeling grateful later. No one wants to hang out with a rude or tantruming teenager, and the older your child is, the more difficult it is to make changes.

As a society and as parents, it is important to view children in a positive light: They want to make good choices. These choices shouldn't be forced, and kids shouldn't be given the message that pleasing others is the goal. Rather, focus on cultivating an internal desire to treat others with respect simply because it is the right thing to do.

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