Parenting would be so much easier if we could prevent misbehavior from even starting. Turns out, we can. Here’s one sure way to do so.
Do you ever get those days when it feels like your kids didn’t act up? Every day, you’re consoling another tantrum or dealing with whining.
Well, I learned there’s one thing we could do to avoid most of these outbursts—and it wasn’t just waiting until “it gets better.”
By making changes, we can reduce and even prevent misbehavior in children.
One sure way to prevent misbehavior in children
And it all starts with this:
Meet your child’s needs.
By taking care of her needs, you ensure that she’s able to behave, learn, and function.
Here are a few common culprits:
- Hunger: Could she be hungry? When was the last time she had something to eat?
- Fatigue: Did she get enough sleep at night or during nap time? Has she had a long day?
- Attention: Have you spent enough time with her, especially one-on-one?
- Emotions: Could she be going through difficult feelings she’s not able to express?
- Wellness: Is she feeling sick or coming down with a cold?
Problem is, they have limited resources. They can only behave so much before they feel depleted. Everyday challenges are hard enough—imagine going through them when we don’t meet their basic needs.
Let’s say your child was playing at the park. She gets frustrated when another child takes the ball away, so, in retaliation, she pushes him.
You try to explain why the other child is crying, but she isn’t able to show any empathy when she feels overtired from skipping a nap. She feels too tired and grumpy to think about how others might feel.
How to meet your child’s needs
This isn’t about bending to your child’s every demand, though. When it’s 30 minutes away from dinnertime and she wants a snack, she can benefit from waiting for dinner. And not all misbehavior can be prevented, no matter how hard you try.
Instead, it’s about alerting yourself to potential culprits contributing to her misbehavior. Take a look at these tips on how to do just that:
1. Establish routines
Many parents misunderstand routines as strict schedules they can’t divert from. I see routines instead as “pillars” that mark your day, such as eating and sleeping. Stick to the same meal and nap times, then revolve the rest of your activities around these pillars.
By using routines, you don’t have to try to remember when your child last had a snack. That’s because you know she eats at 9am every day. You’re less likely to skip naps when you usually go home from an outing at 12pm.
Children also thrive with predictability and routine. They don’t like not knowing what’s next, or feeling anxious about potential chaos and change.
And in an ironic twist, the consistency of a routine actually allows for more flexibility. Yup—the more you follow a routine, the more your child will be willing to go with the flow.
After all, she has been following the same routine at home for weeks and months. She sees any changes—a vacation, a whole day at the beach—as a thrill, not a threat to normalcy. She can even mimic the routine she’s grown used to away from home.
Routines ensure you’re meeting her basic needs with the consistency she craves.
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2. Ask yourself why your child is misbehaving
It’s too easy to react when our kids misbehave.
One of my kids threw a surprise tantrum first thing in the morning because he wasn’t the first to wake up. I felt frustrated and impatient, but I had to ask myself why he could be behaving this way. My first guess was that he had a bad dream, or didn’t sleep well. He may have also been adjusting to his first week at school.
By asking ourselves why our kids behave the way they do, we can pinpoint any needs we can meet. If it’s fatigue, we can adjust for an earlier bedtime. If it’s adapting to new changes, we can spend one-on-one time talking about it.
The biggest benefit of asking why? It forces you to be a detective and dig around for a reason instead of reacting out of anger. You become more empathetic to your child’s needs instead of frustrated or withdrawn.
3. Acknowledge the need before disciplining
When kids misbehave, we tend to focus on the actual behavior rather than what led up to it. You might think your child is throwing a tantrum because she didn’t get a turn to kick the ball. But dig a little deeper and you realize that she’s also upset because it happens to be her favorite ball.
But go even further and you see that she didn’t eat much at lunch, and that her hunger is making her cranky.
By finding potential needs you haven’t met, you can acknowledge them first before disciplining. For instance, you can tell her, “You must be hungry, which might be making you feel bad and cry.”
You can even take it a step further and provide her with what she needs. You can say, “After you calm down, let’s grab a snack to fill you up.”
It’s pretty rare for kids to act up “for no reason,” and one of the many times they misbehave is because we haven’t met their needs.
You can reduce and prevent outbursts by meeting your child’s needs ahead of time. Establish routines to ensure she’s taken care of. Ask yourself why she’s behaving this way so you can discover the real reasons behind it. And once you do, acknowledge the void and even provide her with what she’s looking for.
By meeting her needs, you can prevent misbehavior—with something as simple as a good night’s sleep or a snack to quiet the tummy.
Get more tips:
- Why Teaching Kids about Emotions Reduces Misbehavior
- Small Habits to Improve Your Parenting
- Are You Balancing Your Children’s Needs Fairly?
- 7 Techniques to Discipline Children
- Why Parents Really Need to Stop Hovering
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