Home » Blogs » Childhood Behavioral Concerns » “We’ve gone through this a hundred times…”: When It Feels Like Your Child’s Behavior Will Never Improve

“We’ve gone through this a hundred times…”: When It Feels Like Your Child’s Behavior Will Never Improve

Do you ever feel like you’re constantly disciplining your children for the same behaviors, over and over again?

Yep. So does every other parent on the planet. It’s not just you, and it’s not just your kid.

Studies show that for every year old a child is, it will take that many months to change their behavior. This means that if your child is nine years old, it’s going to take about nine months of consistent teaching and disciplining to change ONE of his behaviors.

And that’s only the estimated time frame if they have full cognitive function. If your child has a different level of functioning due to a disorder, disability, or syndrome, then the time it will take for them to change their behavior will look a little different.

All of this to say… don’t feel discouraged when your kid’s behavior feels like it will NEVER get better.

If you spend a week trying to teach your five-year-old daughter that it’s not okay to whine to get what she wants, you can be as diligent as possible and you’ll still probably only see minimal change.

If you spend a month trying to teach her the same thing, you’ll see more progress, but the behavior won’t be gone.

Since she’s five years old, it will take FIVE MONTHS for her to change that behavior IF you’re being consistent.

You could view this as discouraging because it will take so long–and you can’t imagine spending a single more minute listening to her whine–or you can view it as encouraging because it gives you hope. It means there’s an end in sight.

It’s sort of like having a long-term workout plan to lose weight.

You’ll lose a little right off the bat just by changing your habits. But the rest of it will be really stubborn to get rid of, and take lots of hard work. You won’t see the little changes happening each day, but when you look back on it from five months down the road, you’ll see how different things look.

Other people will compliment you. They’ll notice. You’ll feel better from the inside out.

Working on modifying a child’s behavior feels similar to that. It is long and grueling–and not satisfying for a very long time–but in the end, the results are drastic.

If your fifteen-year-old son is using foul language, and you’re using positive reinforcement to teach him to stop, then expect for it to take about fifteen months for him to stop the behavior altogether. It will take over a year for him to learn a replacement behavior.

If your ten-year-old granddaughter is living with you and she has started lying a lot, you can use any number of positive or negative reinforcements to change her behavior… but expect it to take about ten months. That’s almost one whole year!

I don’t say these things to discourage you guys; I just want you to be aware of how hard this work really is. Just because you aren’t seeing the effects of your efforts, that doesn’t mean they aren’t accomplishing anything.

Keep at it and keep positive. You will be rewarded with a change in the end.

Go for it!

“We’ve gone through this a hundred times…”: When It Feels Like Your Child’s Behavior Will Never Improve

W. R. Cummings

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Cummings, W. (2018). “We’ve gone through this a hundred times…”: When It Feels Like Your Child’s Behavior Will Never Improve. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 21, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/childhood-behavioral/2018/03/weve-gone-through-this-a-hundred-times-when-it-feels-like-your-childs-behavior-will-never-improve/


Last updated: 12 Mar 2018
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Mar 2018
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.