Hamilton, ON


By Appointment Only





Behaviour Burst

ngry Afro Mother Shouting At Offended Daughter Sitting On Couch At Home. Family Problems, Quarrels And Aggression

It gets better before it gets worse.

One of the greatest challenges as a parent is staying consistent with consequences.  One of the many reasons includes a child’s reaction.  It’s an age-old story:  you set a limit, the child tries to push the boundaries, you reinforce the limit, and the child explodes.  Your child may hit, scream, yell, swear, throw objects, as they are doing everything in their power to push your buttons.  Perhaps, in most cases, it’s very effective.  Having to deal with this big reaction, on top of everything else you must do (mortgage, work, clean, take care of other children) is exhausting.  In many cases, caregivers feel like they would rather give in, and avoid the reaction, to maintain some level of peace.  Avoiding this reaction is understandable, the hard line is that it also reinforces this behaviour.  If a child learns that a big reaction helps them get what they want, most often they will continue to do it, or even escalate this behaviour to get their needs met.

In this post, I want to talk about a principle called behaviour bursts.  This principle described a pattern of behaviour that a child exhibits to get what they want.  When you introduce a new limit for the child, they will express how much they do not like this change.  An example would be limiting screen time.  Let’s say you add a timer to their iPad which would make it turn off after one hour of usage.  The first time this happens, your child will clearly state their dislike by crying, name calling, screaming, etc.  When a new limit is introduced, the behaviours your child shows will increase before they decrease.  If you give into their behaviour, this reinforces that them acting this way, will get them what they want and therefore they will do this again.  On the other hand, if you stick with the limit, over time their reaction tends to decrease as they accept this limit as a new part of their reality.

The star in the diagram above, represents when parents add a new limit to their child’s life, and demonstrated the common experience of children’s behaviours “bursting” before the decrease.

The hardest part as a parent is learning how to stick with the limits and coping with your own emotions when your child’s behaviours increase  Counselling and parent coaching are great options for caregivers who are struggling to do this.

I also want to say that this cycle is completely normal for a lot of children.  When something in their environment is changing, especially from a way that they like, it is common for them to have a big reaction.  This big reaction does not mean that something is wrong with them or that they will grow up to be bad people, it just means that they are communicating their discomfort with this change to us in the ways that they know how.  Children do not often have the language or ability to communicate with us and so this is how they express their emotions.  Be patient, stick with the limits and offer support to your child.  Over time, they will adjust to these changes.  We cannot always stick with the limit, but overall consistency is important.

I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave me a comment below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured Articles

Our Newsletter

If you’d like to stay in touch with what’s new at Lemons Into Lemonade, just give us your e-mail and join our mailing list.  You may unsubscribe at any time, by just clicking on the link in the bottom of the e-mail.