Bad Behavior - Is it just a Phase?

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A typical issue that parents face is dealing with their children's behaviors. Let's say you are a parent of a five year old child that has just started school. She was a polite, considerate, and helpful young lady at home and in front of her teachers. However, her behavior has become inappropriate at home as it includes talking back, swearing, and discussing sex in general terms. She learned these behaviors from other children at her school.

I am not sure how I should teach her to make the right choices about right vs. wrong. She has already skipped school at the urging of her 5 year old friend. How can I help her when she is out of my supervision at school? How do I instruct to make the right decision on her own?

That is a great question. First we should discuss the fundamentals regarding this issue.

Kids, like you and me, are doing their best to succeed in life. So their behaviors are their attempts to get good results for themselves, as they themselves would define them. Those "good results" might be to satisfy basic urges such as hunger and warmth, they might be to get approval and love - from their parents, or from their friends, or they might be simply to have fun and excitement.

They will exhibit the behavior they believe will get them the need they have at that time.

Of course, not all behaviors are successful - and that is the whole learning process. Constantly through life we are experimenting with behaviors to find the ones that work best for us. In choosing what behaviors to experiment with, we take input from past experiences, from what we have been told, and from what we have seen others do (in real life and on TV) and we combine this with the skills, abilities, and personality that we have. From all of this we get a range of possible behaviors, and out of those we pick what we hope will serve us best.

After trial and error we will find the behaviors that meet our needs. We will use these behaviors to get what we want. The more we are successful with a certain behavior, the more we engage in that behavior.

Back to your 5 year old daughter. Her behavior signals that she is in the process of trial and error. She is in a new situation at school and this has expanded her world. She is not sure how to react and is excited and nervous at the same time. She is testing different behaviors to determine which behaviors will yield a successful result.