Some children exhibit demanding behavior–expecting parents, peers and other family members to drop what they are doing and tend to whatever it is they want at the moment. It is frustrating for parents, especially when children display demanding behavior in public settings, such as at the mall or at family functions. While your first instinct may be to give into your child’s demands, resist the urge to give in, or risk creating a larger problem as your child gets older.
Use Rules Wisely
Use an authoritative but mild tone to explain basic rules and boundaries to your child. Reinforce rules daily, not just when there’s a problem. In an interview with Bottom Line Secrets, Nancy Samalin, author of “Loving Your Child is Not Enough,” expressed that using too many rules may make a child unresponsive to his parents.
Needs vs. Wants
Explain the difference between “needs” and “wants” to your child. At a young age, children use the two terms synonymously. Explain to your child that basic “needs” are things like food, shelter and clothing, while “wants” are things such as snacks, toys and watching television.
Find the Source
Find out what triggers your child’s demanding behavior. Dr. Michelle Borba, author of “The Big Book of Parenting Solutions,” notes that determining the source of your child’s demanding behavior may help you find solutions to change it.
Set an Example
Set a positive example for your children through the words you use and behaviors you exhibit. Children pay close attention to how adults interact with each other. Using “please” and “thank you” can also help your child to learn how he should respond to his needs and wants being met.
Pick Your Battles
Pick your battles when dealing with demanding behavior, rather than trying to combat every incident. A child who rudely demands a snack can be easily corrected by instructing him to say, “Mommy, may I please have a snack.” A child who is using aggression and angry words to demand a toy from another child should be removed from the situation and disciplined accordingly.
Learn How to Say No
Say no. Learn the power of “no.” Use it when necessary. The worse thing you can do is to give into every demand a child makes. When you say no, give the child a brief reason why. She will learn why her request is being denied.
Work With Your Spouse
Work with your spouse to come up with a discipline method you can apply when your child is exhibiting demanding behavior.
Show that You Care
Recognize your child’s emotions. Show sensitivity and understanding. If your child is upset because he wants something he can’t have, take the time to appreciate how he feels, explain the rule you have in place, and why it’s important to follow it.
Reward Good Behavior
Reward good behavior; don’t always focus on the negative. Tell your child you appreciate him asking nicely for his snack or that you recognized him sharing with a friend. Reinforce positive behavior with positive words and praise.
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