Not following instructions

These are some common challenges parents faced when they are dealing with their child’s behavior. According to Carol Dweck, a Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University who is renowned for her work on growth mindset states that normal young children misbehave every three minutes.

That is 20 occurrences of misbehaviors within an hour!


Behavior is how one conducts or acts oneself especially towards others. Young children learn behavior through your daily interaction with them and modelling (i.e. what you do or what they watches).

As parents, you spend time to teach your child to eat, use a spoon and learning how to walk. You will also need to teach your child about behavior. How would you expect your child to behave when they make their request or when they want to refuse your request. In addition to behavior, you will also be teaching them how to communicate.


Behavior is a form of communication. Young children may not have sufficient language skills to communicate their requests. Or they have yet to develop enough understanding on the emotions or frustrations that are happening in their body. Therefore, they rely on alternative method of communication – gestures, pictures and behavior. Consequently, children who has yet to acquire their verbal communication skill may seemed to have more behavior issues.

Tips on Managing Behavior

We will share some tips on how you can manage your child’s behavior. Prior to addressing your child’s behavior, firstly, you would need to understand the underlying reason for your child’s behavior.

If behavior occurs due to sensory, for example, head banging, repetitive movement, these issues will not be resolved with any behavior management techniques. For a child whose behavior is due to sensory issue, it must be addressed by occupational therapist. (If you are not sure if your child’s behavior is due to sensory, contact us for sensory profile assessment for your child).

If behavior occurs due to need for attention, lack of communication or ways of communicating, or a behavior they picked up during their daily exposure to certain media, these can be resolved through behavior management techniques.


One of the easier ways is to set the boundary of where or when certain behavior can occurs. For example, a child loves to throw things. You can set boundary by 1) what are the items a child can throw (e.g., balls, soft toys) or 2) where a child can throw (e.g., throw into a basket, in a dedicated room). Similarly, for a child who loves to hit, you can set what are the items a child can hit (e.g., drums, pillow).

Thus, when your child starts to throw things, you can provide them with choices of choosing “appropriate” item to throw or if they want to be excused to a certain room for them to start throwing “appropriately”.

Setting Expectations

Parents or caregiver will restrict behavior of a child which they deemed inappropriate. However, a child may not be able to comprehend on their own what is the alternative appropriate behavior. Hence, parents or caregivers must teach the alternative appropriate behavior that you would expect your child to demonstrate.

For example, a child closes the door loudly. You may want to demonstrate how you would expect him / her to close a door. A child screams when his request is being refused. You may want to address that screaming is not appropriate and demonstrate to him the appropriate way of refusing a request.

Improving Communication

Finally, improving communication skills for your child is essential to reduce their behaviors. Pictures or sign language are useful for a child with limited verbal skills. Baby as young as 6 months old can pick up sign language to communicate their needs, thus reducing their crying. Teaching your child to identify their emotions and demonstrate the emotions appropriately will increase their understanding of what they are feeling.

Providing opportunities for your child to express their needs and fulfilling their needs would also reduces behavior and improves understanding between parent-child.

Additional Resource

Dr Alan E. Kadzin, Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry, Department of Psychology of Yale University offers a FREE online course Everyday Parenting where he addresses the ABCs of Child Rearing.

The ABCs are referred to as Antecedent – Behaviors – Consequences. It is a useful skill for parents to learn to identify the underlying reasons of certain behavior and methods parents can use to change the behavior.


When your child misbehaves, it is essential for parents or caregiver to first identify the underlying cause of the misbehavior. For sensory-related behavior, do seek professional help. For all other behavior, parents can use various behavior management techniques or seek out behavior therapist for more severe interventions.

Read more for tips:
Simple ways to manage behaviors at home
How to manage challenging behaviors

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *