Stop That!

Since starting primary school, your seven-year-old has morphed from respectful to outright rude. Learn to deal with these strategies by DR RICHARD C. WOOLFSON.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

He mutters under his breath at you when he can’t get his way, uses phrases like “OMG” instead of full sentences, and even thinks it’s cool to swear.

He began behaving badly only after going to Primary 1, so he must have picked it up from the naughty kids at school, right?

It is important to understand why. Part of the reason for this change is that your child wants to fit in at school. He wants to be accepted by his friends, so he decides to behave like them.

To manage his behaviour, remind him that there are rules at home (like at school) and they must be observed. 

Consider the possibility that these habits werpicked up at home

Naturally, you attribute this new unpleasant behaviour to others, and are likely to blame his peers for the change. But bear in mind that he could be copying behaviour he sees or hears at home.

Do you and your husband use foul language during an argument? Has he seen his older brother make annoying faces at you when he doesn’t get what he wants?

Think about the way everyone behaves at home, and make changes where necessary.

Respond appropriately

You may be shocked to hear him swear because this is completely out of character, but try to moderate your reaction. He thinks it is cool to do so because his friends do that, too. He will gradually believe this is normal.

Let him know you are unhappy with his behaviour, but never over-react. Make it clear that you disapprove of his swearing, but don’t terrify him with threats of extreme punishment.

Explain why you disapprove

Instead of making him feel guilty for behaving like his classmates, tell him there is nothing wrong in admitting that he uses bad language just because his pals speak that way.

Listen to what he says, and encourage him not to act on such pressure. Remind him that he has many talents and abilities, and his friends will like him for these reasons.

These bad habits make you – and other important people such as his grandparents – disappointed and upset.

Encourage him to think for himself

Junior wants to make friends with his classmates and to be accepted by them. Although peer pressure is hard to resist, point out that he should think for himself.

Allow him to make minor choices, for example, he gets to choose what jumper to wear, what cereal to eat for breakfast, or how to spend his pocket money. Involving him in these daily decisions fosters his ability to decide what’s best for himself, and not to simply follow the crowd.

To boost his independence in school, it is crucial to boost his independence at home.

Remind your child that he has many talents and abilities, and his friends will like him for these reasons.