Empty Hearts Fuel Bad Behaviour

May 2, 2010
<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/andy_bernay-roman/380005234/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=

http://www.flickr.com/photos/andy_bernay-roman/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

Did you give your child a hug today just because…? Did you take the time to understand his need to go on the computer for another hour? Did you listen and look her in the eye when she was talking to you? Did you tell him that you still loved him when he told you that he failed his exams?

There is no such thing as bad children, only bad behaviour.

Bad behaviour is behaviour that intentionally hurts other people and includes acts like hitting, fighting, teasing, telling tales, spreading rumours about someone, ignoring or excluding someone, calling names, biting and scratching (the last two popular among younger children!).

They disrupt classroom time in schools and playtime everywhere, which adults often find troublesome.

Bad behaviour that is carried out repeatedly over time to gain physical and psychological advantage over someone else is called bullying. Some kids seem to be perpetual bullies. Other kids are natural targets for bullies.

When children behave badly we need to look beneath the surface and search for the cause of the bad behaviour. Often we will find there a tangle of inner turmoil that the child does not know how to articulate in words.

Many children do not possess sufficient emotional vocabulary to express how they are feeling, especially if the feelings are not nice.

Just like grown-ups, children get hurt, scared, angry, anxious, depressed or jealous. But unlike adults, children are often unable to express these feelings without getting told off, ignored or punished.

<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckln/3549174764/in/photostream/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mckln/ / CC BY-ND 2.0

The sight of a crying child being hushed up and told, “good boys/girls don’t cry” is an all too common one in our shopping malls and public places.

With no outlet or respect for their emotions, children tend to either keep it all in, to slink into a corner and withdraw into themselves, or to get physically rowdy, sometimes to the extent of hurting someone else.

The first type of kid tends to be the victims of bullies, while the second type may end up as bullies in the school compound and the playgrounds.

Children need to have their feelings reflected back to them. They need validation of what they feel, more so if it’s a ‘negative’ feeling. A parent might say, “I sense that you are feeling very angry that I have to go to work and leave you with the maid. It’s ok to feel this way.”

‘I hear you’ is powerful validation that children need to hear all the time. It keeps their emotional tanks filled.

They also need acceptance of their feelings—an understanding parent or teacher goes a long way towards making up the healthy mental landscape of a child. Finally, children may need some guidance on how to deal with it all.

We have our own issues to resolve as parents. A lot of times when we take it out on our children, we are acting out what we learned and retained from our own childhoods. Our parents would have likely meted out harsher punishment when we misbehaved as children. As did their parents before them…

However, as we become aware of the issues that are at work inside us, we gain the opportunity to break this cycle.

<div xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" about="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lancesh/175612144/"><a rel="cc:attributionURL" href=

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lancesh/ / CC BY 2.0

The solution to a child’s bad behaviour, therefore, really lies within us. If we are willing to do the very painful work of sorting out our own inner turmoil, we would then be able to take steps towards raising ‘well-behaved’ kids.

Just as we would never dream of sending our kids off to school or out to play on an empty stomach, let’s also make sure that we do not send them out on an empty heart.

Tags: ,

Comments are closed.

Search this blog