NZ Woman's Weekly

Dealing with difficult behaviour in children

Dealing with difficult behaviour in children

Dear Diane,
Why is it every time I pick up the phone to call a friend or have a catch-up with my mother or stepmother, my children go berserk? They make an incredible amount of noise and start asking for things such as drinks or an apple, then they whine when I say, “Just a minute.” Finally, they start screaming and pushing at me until I give in and hang up. I’m home with them all day (they’re three and four) and I need adult conversation at some point or I would go completely insane. We live rurally, so going out is a bit of a major.

Kylie, via email

Hi Kylie,
I am frequently asked about annoying behaviours – “Why do they do it?” – and mostly the answer is “Because they can.” A bit of preparation and willingness to act swiftly when it goes wrong should convince them that noise and requests are not appropriate ways to respond to a mother on the phone. Have a small box of toys permanently nearby so that, if you get a call unexpectedly, you can (silently) hand them something quiet to do.

If you know you are going to make a call, anticipate their needs and wants by getting them a drink, an apple and some toys and inviting them to sit near you quietly while you talk. The moment they start to get rowdy or demanding, excuse yourself to the person you are speaking to. Say “Excuse me! I need to deal with this noise.”

This is both a commitment to immediate action and a warning to the noisy people. Put down the phone and scoop them off to separate rooms. After a few minutes, go back and invite them to join you if they can play quietly. If you consistently show them you are not going to tolerate their intolerable behaviour, they will learn to choose a better option.

Diane Levy provides expert answers to your parenting queries. Send your questions to: family@nzww.co.nz. Diane’s parenting books are available in book shops.

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