Expert Parenting Advice
Practical parenting tips and advice from experts around the world

"Bad news...I don't like you"

How to reframe bad behavior into useful information about what your child needs. And one question to ask yourself when your child behaves badly.

A while back, my 4 year old daughter was "zooming" with her grandparents, when she said something that made me red with embarrassment.

You see, my parents live in a different country, and have never met my daughter in person. They only speak every few months over video calls.

Last night, while speaking to her grandparents, she first asked to speak to grandma. "Bad news...I don't like you," she told her poor grandma. Then, just before saying bye, she told her grandpa "I want to tell you something...I don't like your voice."

My first reaction to this was to get angry and to tell her to call her grandparents back and say sorry.

Then, I remembered something that Dr Hilary Mandzik, a licensed psychologist and parenting coach, said when I interviewed her for our book How To Get Your Kids To Listen.

During our interview, we started speaking about how to deal with bad behavior. Dr. Hilary said:

I don't believe in bad kids or bad behavior. I think that everything our kids do that looks like bad behavior is for a reason. And we have to, as parents, get curious about that reason.

"What's going on? What does my kid need?"

Dr Hilary Mandzik

So, instead of getting mad at my daughter for saying bad things, or taking my embarrassment out on her, I tried to rather to become curious about why she said those things.

Then I realized that maybe it is because she was uncomfortable, because she does not know them well enough, and she used her jokes as a way to deal with that discomfort.

So, instead of placing the focus on the bad behavior, I am now planning to instead schedule more regular calls for her to talk to her grandparents.

Using this approach gives me a lot more options for improving this situation, and also maybe improving her relationship with her grandparents.

In the interview with Dr Hilary, she shares a lot more on how to understand what your child’s “bad” behavior is telling you about them, and how to help your child develop emotional self-regulation skills.

You can find the full interview with Dr Hilary - Why connection leads to cooperation - in our ebook How To Get Kids To Listen, available for free download here.