Why kids behave perfectly for everyone else except mum and dad

Posted in Family.

“Everyone says my kids are well-behaved, but it’s never with me!” Sound familiar? Mothercraft nurse Chris Minogue has some brilliant advice for exhausted parents to encourage better behaviour at home.

Home is where the brat is?!

Chris says ignoring the bad behaviour and praising the good behaviour is a great approach and that if you take a step back, you can often spot the reasons for your child’s challenging behaviour.

“Think about how they behave and how the family functions. So, if you’ve got a four-year-old child who goes to daycare four days out of five, and they’ve been really good for four days in a row, and then they get home to their parents and their behaviour becomes really erratic – it’s because they’ve spent four days being really good.”

Home is where the heart is, and it’s also where kids feel secure enough to express themselves – and perhaps test some boundaries. This can be really challenging for exhausted parents (and not much fun for kids either!)

“Home is the space where they can release and they can practice and they can try,” Chris says. “That can really overwhelm parents who are working, or who just haven’t got that mental energy for a four-year-old.”

Pick your battles

While it can be tempting to call your child out on every misstep, Chris advises parents to start small and aim to address the most serious behaviours first.

“What you have to do is pick your battles,” she explains. “Pick the things that really matter to you and your partner, and focus in on those. If there is a family value or a social behaviour that she’s doing that’s really unattractive, then stick with [disciplining] that one thing.

“The most common one is, ‘No, I’m not getting dressed’. Just because. And that slows the whole house down.”

Chris’ top tip for this particular issue? “Get them dressed as soon as they get out of bed. So they haven’t even worked out that you are dressing them.” 

Lots of parents also swear by letting the kids sleep in the clothes they will wear the next day, rather than pyjamas. Hey, whatever works! 

Toddler on floor having tantrum - feature

The art of gentle consequences

While it can be easy to fall into the trap of dealing out increasingly escalating reactions, Chris says that ‘gentle consequences’ such as limiting bedtime stories could be the answer. 

“A very gentle consequence, i.e. saying: if you do this, then we’ll do that. If you’re rude to people, then there will be no story from Mummy and Daddy tonight. It’s not something that impacts their life, but it’s effective because that is a time when they get your attention.”

Importantly, just because she isn’t getting a story, doesn’t mean she’s not going to get love. 

“It doesn’t mean she’s not going to get a hug before she goes to bed,” says Chris. “[But] she’s not getting that one-on-one attention. She’ll work it out if she wants that story, she’ll need to change her behaviour.”

 Other gentle consequences may be things such as no dessert after dinner or no TV before bed. 

So, the next time you’re feeling like your kid is a perfect angel for everybody else but you, take it as a compliment! They know you are their safe space, that you’ll love them no matter the boundaries they test. Which means you’re nailing this parenting gig.


This post was originally published in June, 2018.

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