How to manage challenging behaviour in children (Photo: iStock)

Parenting is an ever-evolving journey, and as children grow older, new challenges arise.

Addressing and correcting bad behaviour in older children requires wisdom, understanding, and patience. Why? Because the approach can make or break whatever it is you are trying to instil in them at this later stage of their lives.

Before you start reprimanding them, create an environment that encourages open dialogue where your children feel safe enough to express their thoughts and emotions without fear of judgment.

Active listening, empathy, and clear, respectful communication lay the foundation for understanding the root causes of challenging behaviour and finding constructive solutions. Older children thrive in an environment where they need consistent boundaries.

Set clear expectations and guidelines for behaviour, ensuring they understand the consequences of their actions. Consistency reinforces structure and provides a sense of security, thus helping them develop self-discipline and understand the impact of their choices.

Highlight and reinforce positive behaviour as a tool for correcting bad behaviour by acknowledging their strengths and accomplishments. Give them praise that nurtures their self-esteem and motivates them to make better choices.


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When you emphasise on the positive, this can redirect their attention away from negative behaviours, encouraging them to strive for personal growth.

And as much as older children crave autonomy and independence, engage them in collaborative problem-solving, giving them a voice in finding solutions to challenging situations.

Encouraging them to think critically and consider the consequences of their actions establishes responsibility. That way, they can start to make better-informed choices.

When they err, teach them to identify and manage their emotions healthily. Encourage empathy and understanding by helping them recognise the effects of their actions.

By developing emotional intelligence, they can start to gain the tools to communicate their feelings constructively and navigate conflict with empathy.

When all that fails, instead of focusing solely on punishment it is better to explore redirection techniques.

Encourage involvement in positive activities such as hobbies, sports or creative outlets that channel their energy and interests. Redirecting their focus helps steer them away from negative behaviours.

In some cases, you may require professional support. Recognise when their behaviour becomes persistent or significantly impacts their well-being or relationships.