7 Bad Behaviors Parents Should Correct ASAP

Why you should correct these bad behaviors now, before kids get older

rude behavior in kids - girl sticking out her tongue
Bad behavior becomes less and less charming as kids get older. PhotoAlto/Milena Boniek/Getty Images

Recently, I witnessed SEVERAL examples of bad behavior in three different preteen kids, just in one weekend. These were all different kids of different genders and backgrounds from different families, and in different settings. The only thing they had in common was that they seemed to be between 10 and 12, and were behaving abominably.

In the first incident, a girl spoke to me in a rude way when I asked her parents and her a simple question.

The parents were lovely, but their daughter snapped at me and all but called me stupid for asking them for information about something. (And no, my question was actually not stupid.) The one thing that I noticed--besides her shocking rudeness--was that her parents made no move to correct or even comment on her behavior.

The second example of bad behavior involved a boy who kept clowning around despite the teacher's repeated requests to stop during a trip to a museum. She had limited time to teach an important lesson, and this child basically caused things to run late and took the teacher's time and energy away from the rest of the class because she had to repeatedly deal with his horrible behavior.

The third example involved a boy who seemed to be with a group of of kids at a birthday party at the movies. The child began throwing popcorn everywhere without any regard for those around him, and continued to do this despite the host parents repeatedly asking him to stop.

(They finally had to take the popcorn away, but he continued to be disruptive.)

After I witnessed these examples of horrible, no good, very bad behavior in kids, I thought about how important it is to nip some of these bad behaviors in the bud while kids are still young. If you allow a child to get used to acting surly, disrespectful, or defiant and then try to correct these behaviors when they're reaching adolescence, it's gonna be a lot tougher to turn that ship around.

1. Being disrespectful
There's a reason this bad behavior is number one on this list. When kids are routinely not respectful to you or another adult, they are basically sending a loud and clear message that they don't think they need to consider how others may feel or think. Not treating you with respect and being rude to other adults is a bad habit that kids can quickly grow into unless you let them know straight away that it will not be tolerated.

If your child speaks to your or another adult rudely or uses backtalk, then take him aside as soon as possible after the incident and let him know in private that he will not be allowed to participate in fun things or will lose access to things he likes, such as video games or TV time, unless he learns how to treat others the way he wants to be treated. And be sure to always show good manners when you interact with your child so that he can learn by example. Thank him when he does something for you, say "please," and treat him respectfully.

2. Defiance, not listening
Often, kids who don't respect authority don't listen.

While your child may truly be distracted or dawdling when you have to repeat yourself several times, it can also be the case that she's not listening because she doesn't think there will be any consequences for not listening.

If she's willfully ignoring you and doing something you ask her not to do (or vice versa), discipline her right away. Take her away from the action, whether it's a family dinner or a play date, and ask her to reset herself while she thinks about why her choice to ignore you is not acceptable. Allow her to come back and show you how she can "do over" that last few moments and be a better listener. If she refuses, give her consequences (such as not getting something she wants to losing privileges like time with friends or TV or computer time).

3. Being ungrateful and greedy
There are few things more unattractive than kids who are spoiled, greedy, and full of self-entitlement and affluenza. While it's natural for parents to want to give their kids the things they want and need, giving kids nearly everything they want and need is definitely the opposite of good.

To avoid spoiling kids and prevent them from focusing on getting the things they want, let them earn or save allowance money to buy some of the things they want. Teach them how to experience and express gratitude and volunteer with them to help others. Teaching kids how to be charitable and think about those who don't have the things they do is a great way to tone down greed and encourage them to appreciate what they have.

4. Tantruming, pouting
While it can be understandable for a toddler or preschooler to be cranky and have meltdowns, seeing a full-blown screaming and crying fit (and its equally bad behavior cousins pouting and whining) in a school-age child is less acceptable. A 5- or 6-year-old may have an occasional meltdown, but they should be on their way to learning how to express their frustrations in a more controlled, calm, and respectful way.

The next time your child throws a fit, ask him to go into a room or a corner and sit down until he feels calmer. Once he has reset his emotions and can listen, talk about why tantrums will make it less likely that he'll get what he wants. Talk about how he could have handled the situation better and ask him to stop, take a deep breath, and think about those better choices the next time he feels frustrated.

5. Bullying
Parents often worry that their child may be bullied, and talk to their kids about what to do if that happens. But what if your child is the bully? Talk with your child immediately if you suspect or find out that she's been mean and aggressive toward someone and has engaged in gossiping, teasing, or insulting behavior. Find out why she did these things and talk to her about why bullying is absolutely unacceptable and harmful for the victim as well as for her.

6. Lying
All kids engage in lying at some point, and very young children are often unable to distinguish between lying and imaginative play. But as kids get older, they may deliberately tell lies for specific reasons (to avoid getting into trouble, for instance).

If your child is making a habit of telling fibs, take steps immediately to find out what's behind the behavior, make it clear that you want them to stop, and show them why lying can be harmful to relationships.

7. Cheating
Whether it's a board game or other playful competition, some younger kids may cheat simply because they want to win. But older kids, who develop a sense of right and wrong, may cheat deliberately (say, on a test at school). Talk to your child about how cheating lessens their achievements and emphasize the importance of fair play.

Handling these bad behaviors now will leave you feeling grateful later if/when you see other kids doing the wrong thing and behaving horribly. After all, who wants to hang out with a rude or tantruming teenager?

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