True, a typical 12-year-old doesn’t eat paste or bite his baby brother and no kid ever went to college in diapers. Many behaviors and stages that put parents at their wit's end disappear as a child matures. Yet some behaviors, if left unchecked, not only endure but become more entrenched over time. Here are six behaviors and attitudes that will only worsen if left unaddressed.
Parents are often shocked at their teen’s backtalk, yet when disrespectful language is tolerated or minimized in early childhood it should be no surprise if it worsens in adolescence. When parents joke that their 3-year-old “runs the house,” it can be a prequel to potential disrespect down the road. Parents should promote respectful language and communication early on and not permit children to be on the same level as an adult. Emphasize politeness, manners and teaching a child to control his or her tone when upset or angry. Focusing on appropriate self-expression as an alternative to yelling, backtalking, or throwing tantrums assists children with anger management, frustration tolerance and healthier communication.
When manners are not encouraged at home, an impolite child can grow into a rude teen, then a discourteous adult. Manners reinforce politeness, a necessary skill for interpersonal success in the “real world.” Start the “pleases“ and “thank yous“ early and not just when company is around.
When parents try to spare their child disappointment and frustration they may unwittingly raise not just a “spoiled child” but an entitled adult. Promote gratitude by having children write thank you notes for gifts received. Lessons in money management foster an appreciation of money and fiscal responsibility. It is a disservice to a child to never let them experience moments of deprivation or disappointment, so allow them to be denied things they want and manage delayed gratification.
Toddler temper tantrums, if mismanaged, can transform into a grown-up version. Tantrums, hissy fits, or anger outbursts at any age are all versions of poor emotional regulation and frustration tolerance. If tantrums are reinforced by parents giving in, a child learns that tantrums can be a method of getting what he or she wants. Assisting a child in managing his or her frustration, anger, disappointment or overstimulation is key. Some examples include: Counting to 10, using a “calm jar” or taking deep breaths.
When a parent acts as their child’s personal maid for too many years, it should be no surprise when that same child is 15 and won’t clean her room. Teaching a child to pick up their toys, make their bed, set and clear the table as early as ages 2 and 3 instills a sense of responsibility and fosters a good work ethic.
Resistance to going to bed, late bedtimes, and other problematic bedtime routines have negative consequences in both the short and long term. Studies show that problem sleep behaviors early in life persist into adulthood. Promote good sleep habits early on by establishing consistent, sleep-healthy bedtimes, routines and habits.
The goal of parenthood is not just to survive the day, but to have the foresight to recognize that parenthood is not simply about managing our children, but about raising future adults.
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