Foster Parent Resource Center

Handling Misbehavior

First Home Care happy family As a parent, you need to know how to respond to specific behaviors. Here are a few tips to help you through those times:

Temper tantrums may occur when a child is frustrated and loses self-control. Here's what to do:

  • Ensure safety. Be sure the child can't hurt themselves or others. Remove all objects that might cause injury. Or, move your child to a safer, and if necessary, nonpublic place.
  • Ignore the tantrum. Let your child know you will respond as soon as he or she regains control. Try to stick with it, even in a public place.

Aggressive behavior, such as biting or hitting, may occur because children lack skills in getting along with others. Here's what to do:

  • Stop the behavior. It's important to prevent your child from hurting another person. Step in, when necessary.
  • Discuss other ways to respond. Help your child learn positive ways to express feelings. For example, teach him or her to say "I feel bad when you tease me," not "Stop it, you jerk!"
  • Use a timeout if needed. Timeouts are a good way to deal with aggressive behavior.

Bad language — children may use it to get attention. Here's what to do:

  • Set clear rules. Make it clear which words are OK and which words are not.
  • Plan your response. For example, you could: a) ignore the bad language — your child may stop if you don't reward the misbehavior by giving your attention or b) remind your child of the rules — and carry through with the consequences for breaking them.
  • Understand your child's need for attention. Remember, bad language is usually a cry for attention. Spend some time with your child, and take away the cause of the misbehavior.

Stealing and lying can occur when children have a hard time controlling their impulses. Here's what to do:

  • Help your child face the facts. Don't try to get your child to admit wrongdoing. He or she may lie in response. Simply confront him or her with the facts.
  • Explain the right way to get things. Children may steal or lie because it seems like the best way to get what they want. Teach them the right way to express their needs.
  • Arrange for return, payment or replacement of stolen items. This helps children understand the cost of stealing. Even young children can perform small jobs to "pay" for something.

Source: Handling Misbehavior: Tips for Parents
Real Style Scriptography, 1999

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