How to Deal with Ungrateful & Disrespectful Children: 6 Steps
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Ill-mannered behavior in toddlers and preschoolers must be addressed.

It's not unusual for toddlers and preschoolers to act as if they're the center of entire the universe -- the little ingrates!. The truth is that parents are often at least partly to blame when their little ones act rudely. While bad behavior is actually a part of the natural maturation process, having a weak spine and giving into your little one's every whim -- and modeling disrespectful behavior yourself -- also contribute to your kiddo's bad behavior.


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    Pick your battles. There is a significant, as in big, huge and gargantuan, difference between ungrateful and disrespectful behavior. Acting ungrateful is just part of being a toddler and preschooler, but you need to take disrespectful behavior seriously and squash like a disease-carrying insect. At the early stage of mental development, toddlers and preschoolers are egocentric, meaning they simply cannot see anything from any viewpoint but their own -- and it is this inability to think on a higher level that results in what you interpret as ungrateful behavior. So cut your munchkins some slack, their brains are just little. However, you shouldn't tolerate flat out disrespectful behavior, anywhere or at any time. To understand the difference, think of disrespectful behavior as talking back or willfully and maliciously taking a toy away from a sibling. On the other hand, ungrateful behavior is simply failing to thank Granny for her birthday present -- even if it was the single ugliest scarf ever knitted.
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    Check yourself out -- and your partner. Referred to as “modeling,” toddlers and preschoolers are highly subject to imitating the people around them. If you and your partner are acting disrespectful toward each other, other members of your family or to people outside your family, it most certainly should not come as a boost to your ego that your little ones are emulating the behavior of the people they look up to the most. Even if appropriate, you and your partner calling each other a “big dumb head” in front of your impressionable mini selves will only result in your toddlers and preschoolers picking up the behavior and the lingo. So, take a look in the mirror. If you're part of the problem, you need to knock it off.
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    Take a breath. Don’t overreact when you little ones act up. Bad behavior is learned over time and it also takes a little time to correct it. Be patient with yourself and with you tykes.
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    Act like Darth Vader. You don’t have to strut around acting like the baddest villain in the universe, but you do need to command respect. Parents are all too often reluctant, occasionally called being spineless, to take action when their little "monsters" act out in public -- but that's when you must take swift and unmistakable action. In case you aren’t already clued in, toddlers and preschoolers never stop testing limits. They learn early on what they can get away with -- and when they can get away with it.
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    Practice your "I'm serious" stare, put your foot down, and keep it down, until your disrespectful little beasts start getting your drift. For example, if you're at the library attending a book reading and your preschooler disrespectfully starts jabbering -- after you've already reminded her once to stop -- take her by the hand and lead her out of the room. Get down on one knee, so you can look her square in the eye and say, “You are being very disrespectful to the librarian and I will not stand for it. If you can’t behave yourself we will leave the library.” Pause for dramatic effect while you stare a hole through the back of her head, and say “There is no talking during book reading. Do you understand?” Just be ready to follow through on your threat, or you will only compound the problem.
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    Walk your talk. If you don’t back up your warnings each and every time your little ones step across the line, you are just making empty threats -- and your toddler or preschooler will pick up on it like a spider knows a bug is stuck in its web. So, toughen up mom, and take control of your little ones -- it’s kind of like your job.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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