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Influencing the Behavior of Your Children - Understanding Behaviorial Patterns

by Greg Baker  
4/15/2010 / Parenting

There is no easy answer to this problem. There are thousands of books out there on this subject alone, and they all have different answers. We must remember that children are unique. There has never been a child like yours, nor will there ever be again.

There are, I believe, principles that are true for all children across the board. But in other areas, it is largely up to the parent to figure out what will work.

To correct behavior in a child (or an adult for that matter), you must first understand the source of the behavior. Tackling the most obvious visual and verbal results of the problem is usually fruitless.


A person's attitude will largely dictate a person's behavior. If they have a negative attitude, then there will be a negative behavior. If a child doesn't like what another child does, there will most likely be a resulting negative action.

Before you can begin to correct a behavior, you need to work on a child's attitude. Telling a child. "That's not nice," or "You shouldn't throw things," is good, but usually insufficient. If the child harbors resentment, or frustration, then the behavior will simply exert itself in other ways.

You need to examine the attitude.


How a person sees something will largely determine his attitude which then determines his behavior.

If someone cuts you off in your car, and your perception is, "That guy is a jerk!" Then your attitude is negative, and you're a lot more apt to honk your horn, tailgate him, or give him the finger. But, if you believe that the guy is on his way to the hospital to see his wife who is in labor, your attitude is positive and you wish the guy godspeed.

But it starts with perception. Even an infant, if he sees something he wants but cannot have, will have a negative perception on this, and then will begin to pout, and then throw a fit.

I have a 1 year old that throws a fit every single time he sees someone swinging in his swing. He has two older brothers and I have three swings in the yard. Each boy has claimed one of the swings as his. However, if my 3 year old gets in my 1 year old's swing, my 1 year old throws a fit even though there is still an open swing for him to sit in.

He has formed a perception that that particular swing is his. So if anyone sits in it besides him, that is wrong in his opinion. Therefore his attitude is bad, and so he throws a fit.


What a person is exposed to in life will greatly effect a person's perceptions on life. Is it any wonder to you that people who go to Church usually have some belief in God? Often more so than those that don't?

I know a 16 year old girl that believes that life is out to get her. That perception might come from the fact that her parents gave her up; she's bounced from family to family, foster care to foster care. Worse, her perceptions are reinforced, because her attitude and behavior is so bad that even the foster care families have a hard time with her, and they often foist her off on others just to get some peace and quiet. She sees that as proof of her perceptions, and she enters a vicious cycle of even worse attitudes and behaviors.

Parents who are afraid to take charge of what their children are exposed to are making a mistake in my opinion. Those influences are going to shape your children's perceptions, and then will shape their attitudes, which will shape their behavior. If you really think that that TV show is harmless, or that friend is inconsequential then you are probably deceiving yourself.

Let me give you a good example. Two men observe a third man running towards the edge of a cliff with the intention of jumping off. One man shouts in horror and rushes after the apparently suicidal man to stop him. The other shouts encouragement to the man, hoping he'll jump off so he can go home to his family.

Why such different behavior? It's simple. One man has been there all day, watching as this stunt man jumps off the cliff into a net. He's bored, tired, and hungry. He wants the guy to jump so he can go home. He knows it's safe. The other man just came onto the scene and can't see the net or the safety crew. From his point of view and exposure to the situation, he believes that the man is attempting suicide. He is going to try to stop him.

All of that is dependent upon a person's exposure and perceptions. These determined the attitude and the behavior.

So too will it be for your children. Exposure to the right influences will greatly affect your children's behavior in the long run.

When I was in college, I spent some time around a man who was part Italian. It wasn't long before I noticed that I was waving my arms around as much as he was, all because I was exposed to it.

Children often spend time with other children and then come home and act like the other child.

Exposure and influence.

What is your child exposed to? Maybe that has something to do with your child's behavior in the long run.

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