Mighty Mommy discusses four annoying behaviors that kids easily rely on and common sense fixes to nip them in the bud.
Before I had kids, I must admit that I was sometimes a bit too quick to judge when I saw a child displaying an inappropriate behavior out in public. Whether it be the all-out tantrum at the grocery store checkout lane or overhearing a seemingly stubborn tween spouting off a colorful mouthful of nasty backtalk to her dazed mother, I would repeatedly tell myself, “This will not be how my kids behave once I become a parent.”
It wasn’t that I was looking to be judgmental in these instances, but I honestly believed that parenting was going to be so much easier for me because—get this—my kids were actually going to listen to me!
Then my fantasy ended when I had eight kids in one decade. Payback is not always pleasant as I learned the hard way about the interesting variety of unpleasant behaviors all children were capable of, including my own. Twenty-four years later, let's discuss four annoying behaviors that kids easily rely on, and some common sense fixes to nip them in the bud.
4 Annoying Behaviors in Kids
Annoying Behavior #1: Manipulation
If your kids are like most, they are masterful at finding creative ways to wear you down to get their way. In many cases, you just can’t blame them. Kids learn pretty darn fast that if they really want something, like that shiny toy they see in the store when you’ve already told them you’re just running in to get milk. Or maybe they want their best friend to sleep over on a school night and they ask you right in front of all the adults at the playground because they know you waiver when you have an audience. They push your buttons just the right way, or catch you at your weakest moment, say after you’re home from an exhausting day at work, and you’ll finally cave and give in to their daunting request just to quiet them down.
I learned this right away in my role as a parent of a small army. One of the first valuable lessons I gleaned from our family pediatrician was about how kids (young and old) are masters at manipulation. She basically said that it’s our kids' job to make demands and then figure out whatever way they can to have these requests fulfilled, no matter what!
Examples of manipulation are endless. One of my favorites was when one of my eight kids would ask for something, say going to the late movie with friends and then wanting to hang out at the mall until it closed. “Mom, Dad said it was fine with him. I’m going to call Sam and Jack and arrange for a ride.” Wait a minute, Dad’s not even here tonight, he’s at a meeting! Playing one parent against another is a classic form of manipulation.
Another is emotional blackmail. “Mom, everyone in my grade has an iPhone, except for me. Kids are always making fun of me because I still have a flip phone. Now I’m the big joke at practice every day. There’s no way I can go to school anymore, it’s way too embarrassing!” (Note: This is also said with a loud voice and lots of sighing, head shaking, and puppy dog eyes.)
Course Correction: Our pediatrician’s advice was to not get all riled up in front of our kids when they were in manipulation mode, and not to give in but instead teach them about self-control and that they weren’t always going to get their way. If you have firm boundaries in place to begin with—a regular curfew time, a schedule your kids must keep in helping with chores around the house, ways they can earn extra money to help offset the cost of a high-ticket item like a new phone—when they do try and play on your emotions to get you to give in, you can much more easily stick to the rules you’ve established.
Remain calm and respond in a positive manner so your child will see that you’re not falling for his shenanigans. “Cameron, your father is away on a business trip, so I’m not sure how you found a way to reach him about going out tonight. You can enjoy the movie with your friends, and if Jack’s mom can’t pick you up right when it’s ended, I’d be happy to come get you.”
Annoying Behavior #2: Whining
If there’s one behavior that can grate on any parent’s nerves, whining is definitely at the top of the list. Much like manipulation, whining is a young child’s “go to” coping skill to express themselves when they're bored, not feeling well, hungry, cranky, or not pleased with something—the list goes on and on. Whining is effective because the shrill sound that a whiner makes can cut you to the core, particularly when they drone on for endless amounts of time until they finally get their way.
The key to a child’s whining is the reaction he/she knows they will get the minute they start. It’s developmentally appropriate for young toddlers and preschoolers to communicate their needs with an annoying whine because the whole point is for an adult to respond and satisfy their want. That jar of cookies high up on the kitchen counter look delicious, but it’s difficult for a child who is three feet tall to reach them. Open mouth, make noise and whine, nearby adult will come running to give him a cookie and ultimately shut him up. Ten minutes later, same child has spilled a little juice on his pants. It’s no fun being a little wet, but it’s not a problem because a mere stint of whining from the playroom will grab mom’s attention down the hall where she’s doing laundry. Now that we’re dry and mom has gone back to the laundry room, the child is now bored and wants mom to come entertain him. Whining has worked for the past two problems, so it’s sure to work this time as well, and so the cycle continues.