How to Deal with Your Child's Inappropriate Behaviour

Michael Rayel

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Children bombard parents with many challenging behaviours. We are delighted if their behaviour is mostly positive. But what if your child constantly demonstrates negative behaviour? How are you going to deal with it?

It can get very frustrating for a mother who is yelled at every time she says ‘no’ to a child. In my clinic, I’ve seen parents who feel desperate when their son or daughter who used to behave like a “saint” is now rebellious, oppositional, and involved in drugs.

As a parent, what are your options?

Establish a Hierarchy of Consequences for Inappropriate Behaviour

Different behaviours require varying degrees of discipline. There is no single method effective for all individuals and all types of unacceptable behaviour.

One effective way of instilling order is by creating a graduated form of discipline — from a simple and effortless method to a more serious way of dealing with the behaviour.

Ignoring the Behaviour

Certain behaviour becomes worse if you pay attention to the child. Temper tantrum is one example. An effective way to deal with some behaviour like temper tantrum is to ignore it. By doing this, you don’t reward it with too much attention.

Granny Gestures

This is the second line of offence against inappropriate behaviour. This type of discipline can deal with the first infractions regardless of whether they are major or minor. Granny gestures involve hand movements such as waving the right pointing finger back and forth after an incident. Immediately after an inappropriate behaviour such as not cleaning up or not making the bed, wave your pointing finger.

Counting One to Five

Counting one to five is the next level if your child remains defiant or unresponsive to your granny gestures. This process requires a reminder that the unacceptable behaviour still exists and if it continues after you count to five, then a more serious form of consequence will be enforced. Also, counting provides children the time to think and to realize their mistake.


Time-out is a more serious form of discipline. If the inappropriate behaviour persists, you tell your child to go to one corner of your house. The corner should be well lit, safe, and not isolated. It should be a place where you can still see what your child is doing.

What should be the appropriate duration for time-out? In my opinion, the duration should depend upon the nature of the infraction, the frequency of such infraction, and the age of your child.

Taking Away Privileges

Taking away privileges requires that you first identify your child’s likes and interests at home and that you take one or more of them away for a certain period of time as a consequence of inappropriate behaviour.

Take away the toy or activity that interests your child. Taking away privileges should be time-limited, realistic, and feasible.

Copyright © 2005. Dr. Michael G. Rayel – author (First Aid to Mental Illness–Finalist, Reader’s Preference Choice Award 2002) psychiatrist, and inventor of Oikos Game: An Emotional Intelligence or EQ Game. For more information, visit and


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