How to Change Hateful Behavior in Children

Almost all kids have moments when they're rude, rebellious or hateful, but most kids want to be good. If your child consistently picks fights or bosses other kids around, though, it's time to step in. This behavior is as damaging to your child as it is to those on the receiving end. You are your child's most important ally when it comes to behavior changes 1. Believe it or not, your child wants and needs your approval. By setting reasonable limits and consistently expecting good behavior, you can help your child change for the better.

Look for the cause. Sometimes kids are hateful as a means of gaining attention or power. Sometimes they might be responding to bullying behavior by someone else. Hateful behavior can be a reflection of feelings of insecurity or self-loathing. Try to see the world through your child's eyes before you consider a solution. In some cases, challenging behavior might be caused by a medical condition or behavioral issue which requires professional help.

Model the type of behavior you want to see 1. If you hit, yell at or ignore your child, she'll likely repeat those behaviors with others. Instead, set reasonable limits and enforce them with natural consequences and firm, but kind, reminders. Build your relationship by spending time together. Read books, go for a walk or play board games together.

Involve your child in hobbies and activities he enjoys. When kids are happily engaged in productive pursuits, they feel better about themselves. This usually translates to a decrease in negative behaviors.

Limit negative influences. Kids in movies and sitcoms are often portrayed as sarcastic or rude. Monitor your child's media viewing and restrict negative or violent programs. At the same time, get to know your child's friends. Help your child choose friends that are kind and polite.

Teach your child social skills. Talk with your child about how to meet people, start conversations and interact appropriately. Volunteer at a food bank, library or retirement home to encourage feelings of empathy and compassion. Praise your child for good behavior with a comment, such as, "I noticed how kind you were to Kellie today when she dropped her books. I think you made her feel much better."

Set and enforce limits on behavior. Say something along the lines of, "You're a good kid and it disappoints me when you treat your brother and friends rudely. That behavior is not acceptable. If I see it again, you will need to take a break from your friends." Try to tie any consequences directly to the behavior. For example, if your child is rude when he's with a certain group of friends, the most obvious consequence is that he can't play with them. If your child is rude to you, the consequence might be that you're unavailable to help later. You can say something such as, "It hurt my feelings when you yelled at me and I need some time to calm down. I can't help you with your homework right now."


Occasionally, hateful behavior might indicate more serious psychological issues. Consult your pediatrician or a child psychologist if your child attempts to physically hurt herself, others or animals. Stealing, lighting fires and skipping school are also red flags.