Struggles of Parenting: Dealing With “Destructive” Behavior

It’s human nature for children to misbehave once in a while. This attitude is a form of exploration in the unknown, to learn oneself and its’ environment. How so? From these actions come with consequences, and these consequences is another way of learning.

But there will be a distinction between normal and abnormal behavior. It’s just how fast you can perceive the signs and solve the issue. Below, we will discuss about:

  • the types of child behavior,
  • parenting styles and how it affects a child,
  • influence between nature and/or nurture, and
  • possibility of eliminating bad behavior.

What you need to know about child behavior

Why does my child behave “this way”? Is it just a phase or grave signs of abnormality? When will you know if it’s too much? These are a few questions parents bring up during a doctor’s visit.

First, you need to know the difference between normal and abnormal behavior. Children, especially toddlers, is in a stage of knowing what they like and dislike. This is where they show independence and the ability to express oneself through actions.

Coincidentally, toddlers don’t know how to control ones’ emotions. They’re still learning how to be empathetic and patient. Now, not all toddlers are the same, some can control their emotions early on but others need guidance from parents.

Abnormal behavior is when the attitude of your child is too much. Does he/she throw tantrums more than thrice a day? Or maybe, your child hits, bites, and screams at everyone regularly? There are some cases wherein your child doesn’t respond well to discipline.

In order to know when to tolerate a certain attitude, you need to be aware of three types of behavior:

1. Normative

This type of behavior is the norms or acceptable attitude in the society. It may include the ability for a child to clean up his/her toys, potty-training, making friends, and many more.

2. Occasional

It’s a behavior which is only acceptable during certain circumstances. Such as throwing tantrums during an uncomfortable event, not playing or eating while the child is sick, etc.

3. Destructive

A child’s attitude that is harmful for oneself and others. Includes hitting other children, acting out in public, screaming or cursing towards parents, etc.

Parent’s response elicits child’s reaction

Do you feel that your child doesn’t listen to you? Or reacts in a different way than you expected him/her to do? From the title itself, have you reflected on the kind of reaction you show to your child?

A child’s behavior is the reflection of the parent’s reaction. The type of parenting style you use may impact your child either positively or negatively. How so? Because the way you react is often copied by your child.

When a child witnesses how you talk to your husband/wife, your child behaves the same way. Are you in doubt?

Well, how about the type of food your child consumes. One parent eats everything while the other is a picky eater especially in vegetables. The child will soon think it’s fine not to eat the veggies because one parent doesn’t.

Now, how can you make your child love eating vegetables when he/she sees you’re not eating them? Isn’t it hypocrisy? When it comes to attitude, your reaction takes on a toll. Below are three types of responses:

1. Ignoring as a way of discipline

Parents believe that ignoring your child is the best form of parenting. In a way, it can be helpful but only on certain situations. Ignoring your child during his tantrums will send a message that you’re not tolerating his behavior, or you won’t “buy” it.

The wrong way of using this is when your toddler is aggressively pulling your hair or not sharing his toys. If you use this type of parenting style, your toddler will interpret that it’s alright to continue the action/ it’s not bad.

2. Active Control

Being too controlling may backfire. If you’re strict and scold your child every time he/she makes a mistake, they’ll be passive and will grow up a rebel. Yes, this may be good, temporarily, because your child will want to avoid any punishment.

But sooner or later, your child won’t follow your orders or will hide secrets from you. Strict parenting style can also develop a dependent child with low self-esteem.

3. Two-way negotiation

Keep in mind that your toddler is adjusting to a new phase, the phase of learning more of what he/she feels and wants. If your child misbehaves, you’d resort to talking it out saying, “No, that’s not the right way” instead of “NO! Go and have your time out now!”.

“Time out” is only necessary when your child repeated a certain misbehavior. So, as a way to avoid any repetition, you need to make sure to deliver the message that won’t make the child feel accused or scolded.

As parents, make sure to control your emotions and expressions so as not to impact your child’s attitude negatively.

Nature or Nurture: What is the most influential?

Many people debate on the influence of environment and genetics in an individual’s behavior. Nature, known as genetics, are seen as the reason why an individual reacts differently from others. While Nurture is also known as the environmental effects.

What do you believe in? Are behavior and/or attitude affected by what a person experiences in his/her day to day life? Or, the cause of it is through what he/she got from ones’ ancestors?


There are studies that measured the influence of both factors. One case is about twins who was separated as soon as they came out of their mother’s womb. Years later, they were reunited and there were a lot of similarities on the twin’s attitude.

Now, the environment they live in is different from each other. One went to a prestigious college with a room of her own while the other was left in foster care, sharing a room with 5 children and attending a public school. But why is there attitude alike?

It’s because of genetics. Genetics play a huge role on an individual’s well-being. Just like illnesses and physical attributes, attitude can be passed down.


Meanwhile, when it comes down to environment you would have to consider several factors:

  • Interaction with different kinds of people,
  • Family circle, and
  • Type of place or home.

Culture is a perfect example of an environmental influence. Each group has different norms and beliefs, people follow these set of rules through observation. When a group of people looks up while walking, others will too, and that’s what we call bystander effect.

If a child was taught to clean up his/her room everyday, the kid will adapt it until he/she grow up. Instead of a child who wasn’t taught on cleaning.

Now, how can we relate this to a child’s destructive behavior? Don’t limit yourself on one side, make sure to study and find the possible causes of your toddler’s attitude.

Is it because you were too harsh while teaching your toddler (environment)? Or maybe, your child has some kind of disorder (genetics)?

Is it too late to fix bad behavior?

Studies have found that once an individual grows up into his/her 30s to 40s, it’ll be difficult to change ones’ behavior. It means it’s too late for them to revamp themselves because they got used to a certain pattern.

Cite for example a woman who’s an impulsive buyer, a way to “change” this is through limiting her choices. The truth is, she won’t be able to remove that behavior completely, what she did was divert her attention to something else. This is different in the case of toddlers.

Toddlers between 18 months to 3 years old is still “looking” for who they are. So, there may be cases when the child vents out of anger suddenly, or throws every toy he has.

As long as you don’t tolerate this kind of behavior, it won’t go on that way forever. Is it possible to fix this? Of course! How?

1. No to “shaming”

Embarrassing your child in front of friends and family is a form of shaming. Nowadays, some parents post their children’s “punishments” as a way of teaching them a lesson.

Shaming won’t do any good for your parent-child relationship, all it’ll do is create conflict.

2. Punishment isn’t the answer

Belts, clothes hangers, and sometimes a broom, is what some parents use to punish their child. Other forms of punishment is verbal from shouting while pointing a finger. Once a child witnesses a form of violence, they’ll do the same to something/someone else.

3. Step in your child’s shoes

Before you shout or do something rash, step into your child’s shoes and look at their perspective. What will they feel once they see you react a certain way? People say children will repeat the same behavior when you accuse/correct too much.

The best way is to teach your child on how to behave through being a good example. It starts from you, you define your child’s behavior.