Research from The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne (RCH) National Health Poll has found one in four parents report feeling stressed by their child’s behaviour every day.

The poll is a quarterly, national survey of Australian households, shedding new light on the big issues in child and adolescent health – as told by parents. In the survey, 2044 parents in Australia were asked a series of questions about their knowledge, attitudes and experiences when managing their children’s behaviour.

The results? Managing your kid’s behaviour can be stressful. Almost half of parents said they become impatient too quickly, with one in three saying they have lost their temper and later felt guilty.

Key findings from the report suggest that one in three parents believe children should be on their best behaviour at all times – suggesting unrealistic expectations about the common range of child behaviours.

Poll Director and paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes said “children behave in different ways depending on their age, temperament, developmental stage and the situation. It is normal for children to push boundaries and to have difficulty regulating their emotions.’’

“Children’s brains are hardwired for attention. The best type of attention for a child to receive is a positive response to desired behaviour. Praise, praise and more praise. If you see your child behaving well – praise them and tell them what they did well. This a powerful way to encourage them to behave that way again.’’

Punishing your kids doesn’t help them learn what is expected from them as it focuses on what not to do rather than modelling or reinforcing desired behaviour. In response to the poll, RCH have put together the following tips:

Tips to manage your child’s behaviour

  • Try to remain calm – remember to breathe
  • It may help to walk away and cool off
  • Try to understand reasons for your child’s behaviour
  • Don’t forget to take time out for yourself

It’s common for this to be really hard to do in the moment so we have some guided relaxation exercises if you’re finding it hard to focus.

Positive strategies to encourage good behaviour

  • Regularly give your child praise and attention when they behave well
  • Talk with your child about the behaviour you expect
  • Role model the behaviour you want to see from your child

RCH encourage parents or caregivers who feel overwhelmed and frustrated to reach out for support. In addition to speaking with friends, family or your GP for advice and support, you can also find on our Healthy Families website.

Building resilience in children

Resilience refers to the ability to bounce back after a challenging event or time. As children grow up they need to learn how to manage stressful times to prepare them for future events where they might not have the constant support and guidance from parents or loved ones. This can also help prevent mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression which can be caused by severe or ongoing stress.

Find more information and resources on how to build resilience in children.

Related reading: Why it's so important children should be both seen and heard

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