Parents, are you experiencing moments of anger or outbursts with your child?

Does your child verbally react, have outbursts, fight with siblings or friends, or they are just behaviorally difficult at home or school? Parenting children is challenging at the best of times, and as you are probably well aware, each age brings a new set of challenges you need to learn to navigate. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone.

Did you know around 12% of Australian children aged 4–12 years old experience externalising behavioural problems such as aggression and hyperactivity?

Children fighting siblings family angry misbehaves outbursts

This can include:

  • Verbal and/or physical behavioural outbursts (often when you least expect it, like in the supermarket!).
  • Fighting or being defiant with friends, at home with parents and siblings, or at school with teachers.

These sorts of behaviours ongoing can exhaust and overwhelm parents/carers, so let’s uncover some at-home strategies you can adopt and use in your own family life.

As a Parent, what can I do?

Be a role model and lead by example with the way you navigate situations. This includes your own responses to life’s challenges when they come up, and the outcomes. Approach each circumstance with the behavioural response you would want from your own child. Think about your actions, your movements, what you say and how you say it. Your child is always watching and listening, and they will model their behaviour from you.

How Can I Make the Situation Better?

  • Educating that behaviours have consequences – explain these consequences to your child, why it is not acceptable, and discuss how this could be done differently next time. Give them suggestions of what they could do instead. Help and assist them with possible solutions.
  • Consistency – this is really important for both the parent/carer, and the child. The negative outcome needs to receive the same response from you each time. By doing this you will ensure they understand this consistency and that the behaviour is unacceptable.
  • Selective Ignoring – choose when to ignore lesser non-aggressive behaviour by ignoring them (which takes a lot of discipline!). Only call out the ones you deem the most inappropriate.

At Home Solutions

  • Try praising the positives and positive behaviours. Ignore the minor negative behaviours. This will deter your child from trying to get a response or reaction out of you, and deter them from engaging in negative behaviours.
  • A routine is so important. Ensure your child has a structured routine, allowing them to feel comfortable in their home and school environments. Actively prepare them for what will be occurring each day.

Remember, you’re doing your best! If you catch yourself reacting to something in a way your child shouldn’t be witnessing, e.g. you swear out loud, or you’re furious about how the electrician hasn’t fixed what he was meant to, and it’s cost you double; don’t be too harsh on yourself. Learn from each situation and improve for the future. Take time for yourself to ensure you are rested and able to navigate these behaviours appropriately without over-reaction.

Taking this time means you can be a more aware parent and role model for your child.

Written by Cassandra Wesley-Klements – Provisional Psychologist