What Causes Repeated Bad Behaviour And How To Fix It.

advice/correction Aug 08, 2022

Can I tell you what the number one cause of consistent bad behaviors is?

Whether it’s your toddler’s perpetual hitting or your tween’s huge tantrums or your teen’s utter defiance... the underlying reason is always the same.

In fact, this applies to yourself too. And it’s a simple formula.

Poor behaviors = Feeling poorly about oneself = Feeling judged/boxed

If you want to take away someone’s motivation to do well, the fastest way is to make them feel like they suck.

If you want to evaluate if you’ve unerringly sent your child this message about them, here’s a quick exercise to ascertain that:

Take a pen and paper and write down at least FOUR adjectives that come to your mind when you think of your child.

For this to work, you have to write without filtering. No one is “checking” your work. The purpose is to improve your relationship with your child and improve their behaviors so honesty is the best policy here and be gentle with yourself. Don’t drown in a pool of shame if the first words you wrote aren’t positive.

Pause here. Move on when you have your list.


Now score yourself. The first three words should be 100% positive and can’t include things like “energetic” or “strong-willed”... we all know those aren’t REALLY positive words 😉

Here’s a hint, the adjectives should be ones that if someone used them about YOU, you’d be very very touched and happy 😊

Now if you do this exercise and find out that you were barely able to come up with one or two truly positive adjectives then we have a serious problem but I’d say even two solid negative words on the list indicate a rupture. And hey, if you got all adjectives positive then this post isn’t for you (Hint; don’t comment here and make other parents feel poorly 💗)

Pause here: What are you feelings right now? Take stock of your internal world.

If you’re thinking “I’m a horrible parent!” That’s shame, let it go. Say instead, “I did the best I could do and now I’m learning more and will do better.” (Actually say it 💗)

If you’re thinking, “This is just stupid! Of course I love my kid and that’s all that matters!” That’s called being defensive. Also let that go 💗

And now before I share what we can do to remedy the problem, here are some additional thoughts:

1- If you’re thinking “But Maryam.. my kid really IS a screw up and he really doesn’t have any positive attributes...” I’ll say that’s simply not possible. ALL children are innocent and good-hearted by nature. That’s sort of kind of the point of being a kid.

2- Even parents who are very frustrated with their kids will say to me, “He does have his good moments though...” Those sliver of good moments?! They ARE his good qualities and not just coincidences.

3- Society expects little kids to act like mini-adults and so in our bid to avoid judgement (because it’s so so hard not to!) we sort of start to expect perfection from them from a young age and only notice their (very age-appropriate) fails.

Ok, so here you are now. Things are hard. Your child is totally (or partly) out of control and you’re getting judged left and right and have resorted to feeling frustrated with your child for being such a disappointment.

As I said before, the only way to turn things around is to start seeing her as a wonderful human being again. There’s no hope in a relationship where we’ve lost real respect and admiration for the other person (be it our child or spouse or friend).

Here are some things you can do to regain that respect for your child:

1- Completely stop ALL lectures of all kinds. This is what we call in Urdu “rok tok” - “reprimands” if you will. Physically stop unsafe behaviors but 100% curb the actual words. They’re what landed you in this place so we gotta let them go- all they do is add negativity and toxicity to your relationship.

2- Enforce boundaries respectfully (Unit 10) and limit them only to health and safety issues. Ease off on “studies” if they’re a cause of frequent battles. No your child won’t be left behind. We have to focus on the big picture.. that formula up there. When your relationship improves, the studies will improve leaps and bounds.

3- View all behavior as a form of communication and co-regulate only (Unit 3). Your co-regulation skills have to be on point. Your validation has to be 10/10. Read Unit 3 50 times if you have to, ask questions about it here if you need to but MASTER it. Without this skill, you’ll go back to old ways.

4- Start acknowledging EVERY tiny positive thing you see. Learn the difference between acknowledgements and praise (Unit 14). Avoid praise except minimally. Acknowledge more

5- Start treating your child as if she’s already all the amazing things you want her to be. I don’t care if you have to lie... just do it. This is because she probably really would’ve been those things if society hadn’t stepped in with it’s unfair expectations. When we SEE someone as amazing, they become amazing. When we SEE them as broken, they act broken.

This is going to take time. This is going to take work. And all of it is going to be you. Don’t even worry about your spouse. Just ONE parent believing in us is all we need. You can do this 💗