Dealing with misbehaviour

More than a few parents have expressed their feelings about their child by saying “I wish I knew what to do about my child’s behaviour.”

It would be nice to have a simple solution—like a magic wand—for parents to use when they feel frustrated by their child’s misbehaviour. Unfortunately, the reasons why children misbehave are too complicated for a simple solution.

We become aware of this complexity when we try to change the way a parent and child interact. For example, most of us can appreciate how hard it is sometimes for a parent to control his or her temper after a child has misbehaved. Even a simple analysis of such a negative interaction between parent and child would have to consider the characteristics of the parent, the child, and the specific situation in which the interaction occurred. To make matters more complicated, each of these characteristics change from year to year, from week to week, and even from one time of day to another.

It is also important to bear in mind that:
(1) What works for one parent in disciplining a child may not work for another parent with the same child.
(2) What proves to be an effective discipline strategy with one child may be ineffective or inappropriate for another child in the same family.
(3) An approach that has worked well in one situation may not bring about the same desired result with the same child in a different situation.

It helps parents to feel better about their children’s misbehaviour when they remember that it is normal for young children to misbehave occasionally. It is also normal for parents to make mistakes and to lose their temper from time to time. If you are thinking that you must be the only parent who can’t handle misbehaviour, then it is time to relax and realize you are not alone.

Don’t be too hard on yourself— try to take a good look at the situation. If you feel an extreme sense of “aloneness” in dealing with your child’s misbehaviour problems, you might consider joining a parent support group or parent education class in your area. Sharing concerns with a good friend or listening to the problems other parents are having can help remove that sense of aloneness.
There is more than one approach to dealing with discipline problems, and your local library can help you find books and articles that discuss various methods.

By becoming familiar with a variety of strategies for dealing with misbehaviour, parents will be able to choose the approach best suited to the child, the parent, and the specific situation in which the misbehaviour occurred.


Dealing with misbehaviour – using the ‘when/then’ rule

Most parents would agree that they get tired of saying “no” to their children. Some days it seems like all they say is “no.” Sometimes it seems like children know that if they keep asking, eventually
parents will get tired of saying “no” and change to “Oh, I suppose so,” just to end the confrontation.
Here’s an alternative, and you can use it as a rule. If you’ve been trying to get your child to pick up his toys, and he wants to watch a video instead, for example, the rule works like this: “When you’ve
picked up your toys, then you can watch the video.” Here’s another example: “When you’ve picked up your clothes, then you can go play with Jim.”

Be sure to keep the sequence in the right order because younger children may misunderstand if the statement is backwards. Children can understand how ‘when/then’ statements work, and this kind of training helps them learn to take responsibility for their own actions. And parents can avoid repeating the word “no.”

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Parenting programmes in Donegal

If you would like to develop your positive parenting skills sign up for a Parents Plus parenting course with Parent Hub Donegal. Early Years is for parents of 1-5 year olds, Children’s programme is for parents of 6-11 year olds and Adolescent programme is for parents of 11 – 16 year olds. If you have split from your partner but would like to cooperate on how you parent your children you could consider the Parenting When Separated programme. Just click the link  and sign up today and we will be in touch when there is a suitable programme in your area.

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.


The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books ( and also on  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.


In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  


Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  


In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from

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