Parents guilty, confused and stressed over child behaviour

Aussie parents are struggling with the daily stress of trying to manage their child’s behaviour according to a new poll.

The Royal Children’s Hospital National Child Health Poll uncovered an undercurrent of confusion, guilt and stress among parents who are trying to get the best behaviour from their children yet unsure of where to go for help.

Director of the RCH National Child Health Poll, Dr Anthea Rhodes says children behave in different ways depending on their age, temperament, developmental stage and the situation.

It is normal for them to push boundaries and to have difficulty regulating their emotions sometimes. “Understanding the reasons for a child’s behaviour will help parents respond sensitively and more effectively to challenging behaviours,” she said.

“Children’s brains are wired for attention. The best type of attention to give a child is a positive response to desired behaviour as it encourages them to behave that way again. Praise, praise and more praise. “

The poll of 2044 Australian parents caring for 3545 children aged one year to under 18 found:

• The vast majority of parents use positive strategies to promote good behaviour in their children, such as attention, praise and reward

• One in four parents (27%) report they feel stressed every day by their child’s behaviour

• A significant proportion of Australian children have been physically disciplined in the past month, according to parent report, with 4% being physically disciplined `quite a lot or most of the time’, 13% `some of the time’ and a further 24% `rarely’

• Almost half of parents (48%) said they become impatient too quickly, while one in three (36%) said they often lost their temper and later felt guilty

• One third (32%) said they often feel overwhelmed by managing their child’s behaviour

• And almost half (45%) of parents are not confident that they would know where to go for help if they had difficulty managing their child’s behaviour

The RCH Poll reveals that parents spend a lot of time thinking about how to manage their child’s behaviour yet many are critical of their own strategies.

Parents of younger children are especially more likely to feel stressed at least once a day by their child’s behaviour.

However, almost all parents use positive techniques to guide their child’s behaviour at least some of the time.

These include:

• Giving their child praise or attention when they behave well (95%)

• Rewarding good behaviour with an activity together (84%)

• Talking with their child about the type of behaviour they expect (93%)

• Talking with their children about their feelings when they misbehave (85%)

• Implementing non-physical consequences for undesired behaviour, such as time out or withdrawal of privileges (84%)