Behavior. It can be an intimidating word, depending on whether its good or bad. As a parent you want your child to be well behaved, listen and follow directions. But what should you do when your child is falling on the floor screaming and yelling in the middle of the store, or throwing tantrums in daycare, or hitting others? There comes when it becomes necessary to implement strategies to ensure your child understands the importance of making good choices and that there are consequences to their behavior.
I had the child that had tantrums at school. I would receive the phone calls explaining how my child had thrown his shoes across the room, or threw himself on the floor. As a teacher mom I was MORTIFIED. I have had to deliver such news to parents and at the moment I knew exactly how they felt. Embarrassment, shame, helpless. I wanted to ask what should I do?! Now I know some parents are thinking, you shouldn’t feel that way, he is a child and sometimes children have moments. And I completely agree, but I did not want my child’s moments to become his behavior. I wanted to ensure that he understood that there are other ways to express your emotions and feeling and that yelling, or having a tantrum was not one of them. Here are the steps that we took to implement a behavior system that worked for us:
- Identifying the behavior: The most important step. What do you want to change, and how are you going to change the negative behavior that your child is demonstrating? In my situation my son did not know how to express himself when he became frustrated, like most children his age (3 years old). We began reading him stories about how to handle a situation when he became mad, or frustrated. We also supplied him with the vocabulary necessary to express his feelings. We also did a lot of role playing, what would you do it… someone takes your toy? it’s time to clean up and you still want to play? you are tired? Role playing is an excellent way to show your child how you want them to behave. I believe that children do what they see versus what they are told. If you want your child to behave a certain way show them.
- Rules: As a teacher I have had many parents ask me about their child’s behavior at school, and I am shocked to learn that the angel that is in my classroom is a terror at home. Parents ask how to I ensure positive behavior in the classroom. We establish rules, we recognize positive behavior and we consistently follow through. Do you have rules at home? You probably have unspoken rules that you establish when your child has already done something wrong, but what about before a rule is broken? Establish simple rules that your child can understand. With younger children the rules need to be short and to the point. Younger child (less than 7) need rules that are short and to the point. When I give a redirection, its short, less than about 10 words. Anything more, and your child has stopped listening. Sit and create household rules, that can be carried over to restaurants, outing, the car, anywhere.
- Consequences: Children must understand that there are consequences to their actions. In the adult world we deal with consequences. If you are speeding you get a ticket and pay a fine, if you are late to work you can lose your job or have your pay cut. It is your decision what consequence your child will deal with. After you have established rules make sure that your child understands the rules and that you have reviewed them before giving consequences. The point of the consequence is that your child needs to understand that THEY made a choice, and THEY did not follow the rule. Consequences should not be based on your emotions at the moment, or that mom and dad are asking you to do something because they decided. Children need to understand they have the ability to make choices and that their choices, good or bad lead to consequences. They need to know the rule they have broken before you give the consequences, and they need to understand accountability. It was their choice, not yours and they must deal with the consequence.
- Verbal: Talking yo your child about what rule they have broken. You can then redirect and discuss what they should have done. This should be used in the beginning when establishing rules. You need to discuss the rules and make sure that they understand what the expectation is before you give a consequence.
- Time Out: After giving verbal redirection and coaching, if you choose, you can sit your child in Time Out. Your child should sit in Time Out for every year old they are, i.e. a 5 year old should only sit in Time Out for 5 minutes. Make sure that Time Out is away from their play area and TV. It is a consequence, not a time to play.
- Lose/ Gain Something: We use a behavior board and that is how we give consequences. We reward positive behavior, but he can also loose something (screen time) when he makes bad choices.
- Natural Consequence: Sometimes the universe will supply a consequence without you having to. Like when you tell your child to stop running and they fall, or when they are leaning back in a chair and they fall. Sometimes letting your child fall teaches them a lesson better then you can.
- Consistency: In order for your behavior system to work you must be consistent! If you are going to count to 3 then when you reach 3 and the change in behavior has not occurred, then its consequence time. Do not count to two and a half, two and three-quarters, just 1-2-3, consequence. What ever consequence that you are giving for a behavior make sure its the same one every single time. When your child understands that whenever they break a rule, or do not follow a direction that is given then they get the same consequence then they should stop. If they do not then revisit the consequence that you are giving. Some children need more then Time-out or the loosing something. You should also think about ignoring the negative behavior and rewarding when you see positive behavior. (Thank-you for putting way your toys when I asked you to, you have earned a sticker, or a point towards a bigger reward.)
- Dealing with your anger: If your child has done something that causes you to feel like you might loose your temper, do not give a consequence in that moment, with your anger. Calm down, tell them that they will have a consequence, and you will tell them later. You never want to give a consequence based on your over reaction, or lost of temper because usually its too sever. Take a deep breath and calm down and give the consequence in a calmer state.
Successfully implementing a behavior strategy is all about establishing rules, discussing the rules to ensure your child understands expectations and concisely following through with consequences and positive reinforcement.
Thank you for reading! If you have any questions please feel free to email me