How to Understand Your Child at Any Age through Problematic Behavior

How to Understand Your Child at Any Age through Problematic Behavior

Welcome to The Determined Mom Show. I am your host, Amanda Tento. Today I have with me the lovely Dr. Kristen Cook and she is a pediatrician today she’s going to be talking about how to understand your child at any age through problematic behavior. So welcome and tell us about yourself.

So I have been in practice in pediatric medicine for almost a decade. I have a busy medical practice in the Midwest. I recently published my first book and it’s called “I Got You Mama: A Pediatrician’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Pregnancy, Childbirth and the First Year of Your Baby’s Life” and I recently found out that I was named one of Castle Connelly’s top doctors of 2021 and that was cool.

When it comes to children’s behavior, I have been talking about the same thing for years and I just wanted to expand my reach. I wanted to be able to help, not just my patients and their families but parents everywhere because let’s face it being a parent is hard.

Being a parent becomes a little bit easier and less stressful if you can understand where your child is coming from. This takes work and it’s hard but it’s achievable. So one of the things that I always tell families is that the human brain does not fully develop until a person is in their mid-twenties.

So all of the major parts are present but the right kind of connections of the brain is constantly wiring and rewiring itself based upon experiences with other people and the interpretation of the world around the person.

So really when it comes to children of any age, you’re dealing with a brain that’s under construction and if you can understand a little bit about that construction process, you can understand and that helps manage your children’s behavior in a much more effective, positive and calm way.” 

I love that and I just want to also add that that explains a lot of the mistakes that I made in my early twenties.

Another thing, don’t assume that your child has any capacity to be rational in terms of their development. They have big emotions and they can’t explain them. They’re also really highly reactive and not logical. They’re kind of functioning from a very primitive portion of the brain, which is why they’re so prone to temper tantrums.

What I’m talking about, are those unintentional temper tantrums. The way I like to think about them is the brain just gets hijacked. It gets hijacked by a portion of itself called the amygdala.

The amygdala is a portion of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response, and a temper tantrum is just an expression of the fight or flight response.

How to Understand Your Child at Any Age through Problematic Behavior

A toddler has perceived a threat and then they react and that’s what a temper tantrum is. That makes sense to best manage a temper tantrum, our adult brain wants to try to talk them out of it and wants to reason with them but that type of response is going to make a temper tantrum worse.

So when a temper tantrum happens and the brain is in amygdala hijack, the best thing a parent can do is stay with the child. If they’re so worked up that you can’t soothe them at that time, then that’s okay.

Then keep the area around them safe, ignore what they’re doing, and try to redirect them until the temper tantrum is over. Once the child is calm, then you first off validate their emotions but then bring the logic back in and explain very briefly why the behavior was problematic.

So for example, at the end of a temper tantrum, you can say to a child while it looks like you were really mad, it’s okay to be mad but you cannot hit or damage things. So that’s kind of my approach to managing temper tantrums because they’re going to happen. 

You know, kids don’t throw temper tantrums because they’re jerks. They’re not trying to be annoying. They’re not trying to mess up our day. They’re not trying to attract attention from strangers in the grocery store. They’re doing it because their brain just gets overwhelmed and that’s their response. 

Our job as parents is to teach our children right, to empower them, to help them grow into healthy, productive, empathetic adults, and giving them choices is a way that kind of validates them and gives them a little bit of a sense of power.  The other very important thing when it comes to all of this type of problematic behavior, whether it’s whining or temper tantrums is don’t give in.

If kids get what they want, cause they’re acting fools, they’re going to do that more. You have got to be distant in your approach and you have got to follow through on consequences, which means that you have to set realistic consequences. 

You know, if your kid is acting up and you say if you don’t stop it, we’re not going on vacation next week. Are you not going on vacation next week? So We have to be consistent and that clear expectations and then follow through, the fortune is in the follow-up.

Thank you for unpacking all of these tactics and strategies for us on how to properly manage our children without being damaging and making things worst. There are deeper strategies that Dr. Kristen has outlined which can be found in the episode of the podcast and it contains all the details you’ll need. Thank you Dr. Cook and to our readers, have a great week.

If you have any questions, let us know! Reach out to us!

Connect with Dr. Kristen Cook:

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