Why do they save the bad behaviour for us?

Aug 31, 2021

Do you love change?

I'm great with change when I am in a good emotional state but if I'm feeling at all wobbly, which often happens, then I start to get anxious and difficult to be around.

Not long after Nico, my eldest, had started in reception*, he came out of school in a really foul mood.
(Note: *Reception in the UK is the year they start school aged 4-5).

“Where’s my snack?” he barked at me.

“Here it is darling”

“Why have I got an apple and cheese squares. Why can’t you make nice snacks like the other mums? I’m not eating it” at which point he threw the bag back at me and said “I’m not walking home. Why didn’t you bring the car?”

Every ounce of me wanted to tell him that apple and cheese were nice healthy snacks and he liked them normally. I wanted to get tell him off for him being rude to me and tell him that he had to walk home or threaten to leave him there.

But I knew enough then to zip my lip and wait...

So read on to find out this week's 10 top reasons why change such as starting school, can trigger a change in behaviour and how to deal with it. I'm telling you why it is FAR more effective to zip our lips than to jump on it.

Is that because we just need to turn a blind eye and accept everything our kids do? No! But getting into arguments means we risk missing the cause of the behaviour.

Have you ever asked your child “How was school?” and got no response?

If your child is new to starting school this year, you’ll find out that you rarely get an answer to that question.
So I avoided the ‘How was school?” question and changed the subject for a while.

I asked “Do you know what Felix told me today?” – those types of questions are great distractors.

Inevitably they ask “what?” and you can think of something or make up a funny story to shift the focus and lift the mood.

As we walked back home and I managed to persuade Nico to have a bite of his snack – kids often come out of school with low blood sugar so a healthy snack is great at that point – I started to engage him a little about his day.

“When you line up to go to playtime, does Miss Andrews put you next to people or do you choose?”

Specific questions like that can get an answer other examples are:

 “What activity did you like the most?”

 “At playtime, what game did you like?”

We were home by this point and when I asked “At playtime what game did you like?” I noticed his chin wobbled a bit.

There are so many times in the chaos of family life that we miss the cues our kids are giving us. We mustn’t beat ourselves up about this. Life just is chaotic and we can only do our best.

But I recommend that you fine-tune your antenna to notice things.  I sensed that that little wobble of the chin was a clue to his bad mood when he came out of school.

“I think I can see from your face that playtime wasn’t so much fun. Do you remember anything about it?”

At that point the lip curled, the eyes welled up and he needed a cuddle to help him release the emotion.

“I went and sat on the friendship bench and nobody came to get me” he sobbed.

It is so excruciating to think of our precious children struggling to cope. 

The idea that our child might not make friends or might feel lonely at school is like a stake in our hearts.

However, it is crucial that we stay strong, don’t try to fix things and help them through it.

So here are some things that will help us help our children to navigate the difficulties of being in a new environment. It helps them to learn to be resilient and cope with all the different experiences they have when they start a new school year. Actually it isn’t just the new school year. These things are important throughout their childhood. 

  1. Remember that starting somewhere new uses an enormous amount of their mental, physical and emotional energy. They will mostly hold it together during the school day but can’t keep that up when they get home. 
  2. Even in the nicest of school environments, our kids will have moments when they will be reprimanded, are confused, feel embarrassed, lost, left out, will miss us, will feel tired but unable to stop and rest...
  3. We need to think of home as a safe space for them to release pent up emotions. Therefore never criticise a child for an outburst or make any kind of threat when we experience challenging behaviour at home.We can address unwanted behaviour far more effectively once we’ve found the cause.
  4. Hunger and tiredness will often trigger outbursts but emotions are most likely to be the cause.
  5. Watch out for tell-tale physical signs that something is up – scrutinise their facial clues like watery eyes, clenched jaw, pursed lips, wobbly chin, avoiding eye-contact, clenching their fists, complaining of tummy or headache . You can then comment on what you see by saying something like “I notice that your eyes are watery” or “I wonder if your tummy is hurting because you feel upset about something”
  6. We need to put things into context. At the beginning of the school year, we often see a child being shy or reluctant to join in, no firm friendships forming, being upset to leave you. These things are mostly temporary. We need to keep an eye on them and have a good relationship with our child’s teacher but once kids adjust to new environments and feel more comfortable there, these issues usually disappear. So therefore if a child doesn’t immediately make friends, don’t panic!
  7. Make our children aware of the great qualities they possess. Praise them whenever you see examples of qualities like bravery, kindness, curiosity, following the rules, speaking up for themselves, thoughtfulness, being friendly, independence, volunteering to do something, asking questions, being flexible.
  8. Young children often struggle with the concept of time and might fear that the school or nursery day is never going to end. It’s good to map out the day for them so that they understand what happens ‘In the morning I drop you off (or name whoever is going to do that), then you line up and go to your classroom. Then your teacher takes the register and you have circle time and put your hand up to share…. Then snack time, lunchtime, playtime, and home time… Try to find out what the consistent landmarks of the day and go over them with your child – even when you think they know them.
  9. Practice saying goodbye and ask what kind of ‘hello’ hug they want at the end of the day.
  10. Get them to do some tasks at home to develop their independence. This is so much more important for them than us trying to rescue them. It isn’t just physical independence such as doing things for themselves but also independent thought – ask them to come up with solutions for things or pose questions rather than telling them what to do.

I hope you find this helpful. 

If you have any parenting concern or worry, then please do get in touch - I will have something which will help you.  If you are interested in my Parent Survival Academy course, then click here to find out more!



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