4 Bad Kid Habits and What You Can Do

Angry-BoyEven the best behaved kids have bad habits.

“There’s no such thing as a bad kid,” says Nicole Florence, MD, an internal medicine physician and pediatrician with Memorial Physician Services-Koke Mill, part of Memorial Health System. “There might be bad choices, but every kid is a good kid.”

Dr. Florence spoke to Ray Lytle recently on radio station WTAX’s Ask The Expert program about some of the bad habits that even your little angel can get into–and how parents should handle them.

Mealtime Misery

If you have a child who is a picky eater, meals can be a major source of frustration. So how do you get those finicky eaters to try something new?

“One of the greatest ways to get your child to eat better is to make them part of making dinner,” Dr. Florence says. They can help with the groceries, help you prepare the meal or set the table. Find ways to get them invested in the process.

Declare a new-food day, where you both agree to pick out a new food, look up recipes together and cook it.

Get Off the Couch

Our society is centered around entertainment: video games, TV, movies. That means our kids are racking up lots of screen time. Dr. Florence recommends children should have less than two hours of screen time per day.

To encourage kids to be more active, parents need to model an active lifestyle. The choices are limitless. Go to the park. Ride bikes together. Walk the dog. Go bowling. Explore a walking trail. Youth sports are a great activity, but if your child doesn’t like sports, check out alternatives like dance classes or karate.

“I encourage my families to get your kids to try all these things,” Dr. Florence said. “Hopefully, they’ll find something that they like.”

Rage Monsters

How do you handle your sweet child when he or she turns into an unexpected rage monster? Here’s what you shouldn’t do: match or one-up your child’s reaction. They’ll respond by trying to outshine your anger, and then you’re in a full-blown, take-no-prisoners battle.

Instead, take a deep breath. Remember, your child is learning how to handle all of their crazy emotions. You may assume that your kids’ day-to-day lives aren’t that difficult, but you have to remember that what they’re going through is equally as stressful. You have bad days and so do they.

Be empathetic and don’t minimize their struggles. Instead of exploding at them, always give them a warning.

“It’s OK to say, ‘I realize you’re really mad and upset, but you’ve got about 30 seconds to take a deep breath and calm down so we can talk,’” Dr. Florence said.

Social Media Butterflies

When you give your child a phone will depend on your individual circumstances. A good old-fashioned flip phone is great for when you’re kids are riding their bikes in the neighborhood or at the park. Around 11 or 12 years old is a good age to consider a phone that can access the internet.

Parents should definitely monitor their kids’ phones, and there are many ways to do that, Dr. Florence said. You can put parental locks in place, limit access to certain data or only allow texting to certain numbers.

“Use those tools to your advantage,” she said. “They’ll be your best friend.”

Younger children do not need access to more than one social media channel, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat. When they’re older, perhaps around middle school, they can be given access to additional social media channels.

Parents should also know their children’s social media passwords so you can monitor them, Dr. Florence said. You want to make sure any private messages they send or receive are appropriate.

Nicole Florence, MD, is an internal medicine physician and pediatrician with Memorial Physician Services-Koke Mill. She is a graduate of Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, where she completed residencies in internal medicine and pediatrics. Dr. Florence is board certified in internal medicine, pediatrics and obesity medicine.