11.3 Common PU Behaviors
COMMON PU BEHAVIORS
Now let’s look at some common PU behaviors that can occur at each developmental stage that we haven’t already mentioned. While every possible PU problem isn’t listed, Parent’s Toolshop® parenting classes and the next series of books (T.I.P.S.: Tools for Improving Parenting Skills) take each age group, tots, tweens, and teens, and apply the universal skills to the topics of interest for that age.
- Clinginess. Older infants and toddlers can be clingy, because they need to feel secure in unfamiliar situations. Be a “home base” that children can come and touch, to reassure themselves you are still there. Pat their backs or stroke their hair, without picking them up. This tells them you know they are there, but are not going to carry them constantly. As their walking skills improve, hold their hands, walk at their pace, and use descriptive encouragement to build independence. (See the “Separation anxiety” and “Delaying” sections below.
- Curiosity. We can discourage our children’s natural desire to learn by reacting negatively to their curiosity and exploring. We can encourage children to learn by allowing them to explore safely and childproofing dangerous areas. Make a game of putting things up and exchange dangerous objects with acceptable alternatives. Use positive words to set limits and physically (gently) redirect toddlers’ to other activities.
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(See “Infants” and “Toddlers” sections above for behaviors that still remain in the preschool years.)
- Bragging and telling fantastic stories are often related to a child’s age or moral development and are not necessarily intentional lies. (Since lying is usually intentional misbehavior, there is a section devoted entirely to this topic and its developmental factors in the PO Toolset.)
- Peer conflicts. Use the Child Problem Toolbox to mediate and teach peaceful conflict-resolution skills. Instead of saying, “Be nice” or “Use words,” be specific. Describe what nice means and suggest specific words they can use. (See the “Sibling Conflicts” section of Chapter 8, “Problem Solving Toolset” for more ideas.)
- Picky eaters. Everyone has food preferences and being “picky” can be a personality trait (PU). Do not fix special meals. Make foods child-friendly. Involve children in meal planning and preparation; they will take a greater interest in eating what they have helped prepare. Let the child pick some foods to serve themselves. Plan to have one favorite food available, in addition to new or less favored foods. If children are too young to cook on the stove or cut with a knife, let them stir, pour, or wash vegetables. Involving children in gardening is also a great way to spark interest in eating healthy foods.(See Chapter 5, “Cooperation Toolset.”)
Parents can have several bottom-line limits: eating nutritious foods before sweets, allowing a reasonable but limited time to eat, and trying foods before rejecting them. Within these bottom line limits, children can choose how much they eat, when they eat, and if they eat. Encourage children to take a little of everything. These are “no thank-you helpings.” Children’s stomachs are about the size of their fists, so allow small portions. They can always have more. Many small meals are actually better for the body than a few large meals. Appetites vary greatly during and between growth spurts. Focus on well-balanced weeks, not days; nutrition rather than timing or amount. Make mealtime conversation pleasant. Do not criticize or nag about eating habits. Do not use food or dessert as a reward or incentive to eat. If parents become controlling about food issues, pickiness can become a PO problem. (See the index for pages numbers of other advice on picky eaters.)
- Testing limits. Be consistent and offer choices within limits. When preschoolers ask a million questions, ask what they think is the answer. (See the PO Toolset for suggestions that can prevent this behavior from turning into a PO problem.)
- Arguing. Children enjoy using information they have learned or think others don’t know. This is why they correct others, especially parents and younger children. They might pick apart words, arguing about what you really said or meant. Encourage children to share what they are learning. If they use that information to make others feel inferior or stupid, point out the hurt feelings. If they pick apart your words, simply clarify what you meant to say and refuse to argue. If they persist, it is PO behavior.
- Testing limits and rules. Use the Cooperation Toolset to make requests and reveal rules in positive words. Use the Clear Communication Toolset to set limits and use parent/child problem solving to reach win/win solutions.
- More opinionated. Respect different opinions. Don’t force your opinions, just share them. They are testing morals and rules. Ask, “What do you think?” and “What would happen if you did that?”
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- Noticing the opposite gender. Don’t tease. Respect their perspective and feelings. Discuss puberty before age nine. Explain emotional and physical differences between genders to help them understand immature or confusing behavior.
In addition to the books mentioned in this and other chapters, there are other resources that address the causes of PU behavior. Here are some possible topics and recommended resources:
Personality traits (also called “temperaments”):
- Raising Your Spirited Child, by Mary Sheedy Kurchinka (HarperCollins, 1991).
- Is this Your Child? Discovering and Treating Unrecognized Allergies, Doris Rapp, (W. Morrow, 1991).
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder:
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