September is over, school is underway and everyone - children and parents - are settling into our fall routines. At this time of year, children often bring home new behaviours to try on and test out, whether they learn them from school, daycare, siblings or whether it is simply a chance for them to assert some independence. We often see this as early as 2, 3, and 4 years of age but this happens throughout the childhood and teenage years. This blog will share basic tips for home behaviour management. As you know, there is no manual for this and we can only rely on those who have been in the parenting trenches to give us tried and true strategies!
1) Focus on the positive. Catch your child when they are doing something nice or kind – notice it, and be specific with your comments. Spend more time connecting than on correcting. Be sure your child knows you love them even though you don’t always like their behaviour. Separate the deed from the doer.
2) State the rules. All children need and want boundaries and limits. Try to state your rules in positive terms. Tell them what you want them to do rather than what you don’t want them to do. For example, say “Use your walking feet” instead of “No running!” Keep rules short and to the point, for example “Hands to yourself” or “dishes to the dishwasher”. Have a few, reasonable rules and be consistent in using and enforcing them. Comment when your children are following them.
3) Make your world predictable. Set your child up for success and keep the same basic routines every day. Homework, TV, play, baths and meals can all be on a similar daily schedule so that your child gets used to a certain rhythm. Prepare your child for transitions….it can be hard to stop a fun play activity to go somewhere so give a 5 minute heads up.
4) Encourage positive behaviour and ignore negative behaviour (to the extent that you can safely!) If a child receives lots of attention for positive behaviour, that behaviour will continue. The same is true for negative behavior. If there is no audience, the show will stop…..eventually. Be firm and consistent. A gambler needs just one win to encourage more gambling. Psychologists call this “intermittent reinforcement” and it is hugely powerful. A toddler just needs you to give in to his or her whining once in order for it to continue. The message? Whining works sometimes and you never know…this might be the time! Better to notice and give attention to the positive behaviours.
That’s it for now……Enjoy the hugs and laughter that come with these ages!