Dr. Beth Grosshans, an experienced child psychologist, shares her professional insights and expertise as author of Beyond Time Out: From Chaos to Calm. In this book, Dr. Beth Grosshans explains many of the reasons for childhood misbehavior and presents strategies for restoring family balance.
First and foremost, a child’s temper communicates something to his or her caregiver. Some children are testing limits to see if their parents’ authority is strong enough to provide a sense of safety, while others feel as though they have the power in the parent-child relationship and are acting on that dynamic. Regardless of motivation, it falls to the parent to reinforce rules for appropriate behavior and help the child manage his or her perceived crisis.
The first rule in mitigating defiant behavior is to maintain poise. Children need the adults in their lives to be the steady and reliable ones, particularly when the child is having trouble following the rules. In some situations, this may mean walking away from undesirable behavior and positively recognizing when the child has been able to calm him or herself down.
Similarly, it is important for adults to uphold expectations and enforce consequences if the child has broken an established rule. Otherwise, children will learn that they can find exceptions to normal rules simply by behaving badly.