Children want to do well. They want to get good grades and please their parents and teachers. If they are not doing well, then we need to dig deeper and figure out why. What skills are they lacking to be successful? What neurological conditions could be the cause? What tools should you use to help them get organized, reach expectations, and be motivated?
One of my favorite books and one that has helped me the most over the years is, The Explosive Child by Ross Greene. It teaches parents how to be proactive and positive instead of reactive and punitive when it
comes to managing their child's behaviors. The book explains how to give children the tools that they need to make good choices and the skills to modify their behavior. This is an essential approach when addressing
behaviors that have neurological cause.
Questions to ask yourself before addressing behaviors:
Are they eating a well-balanced diet throughout the day?
Do you limit junk food, food dyes and sugar?
Are they getting enough sleep?
Have you established routines in the home?
Do you have consistent rules that are enforced by all caregivers?
Are expectations age appropriate?
Are consequences consistent and followed through on?
*If you answered NO to any of these questions, start there!
Throw away all of your old ideas about behavior for a minute...
Yes, many times a negative consequence will stop a behavior for a short time, however, does it fix the problem long term? If not, you are not addressing the function of your child’s behavior. What is the reason that they are behaving that way in the first place? What are they getting out of it?
First, you need to understand the function, or why they are doing the behavior. The most common functions are : attention, escape or avoidance, to obtain or get something, or for sensory needs. Once you understand the function, then you can use a strategy that addresses the function.
For example, if your child is constantly getting up from the table during dinner, the function could be to get parent’s attention, avoid eating his vegetables, to get to play, or because he has sensory issues that make it hard to sit still. You can use the link below to answer the questions and calculate the function for your child's specific problem behavior. (Make sure that you are only answering the questions about 1 specific behavior at a time).
If the function is to get parent’s attention, you don’t want to make a big deal about your child getting up from the table. The behavior will be better addressed with a proactive approach. Ask your child about their day and provide attention while they are sitting nicely. Provide attention for behaviors that you want to see more of and ignore attention seeking behaviors. You will soon see your child's behavior make a shift.
Why are they acting this way?
10 Tips for Parents of Defiant Children
Recognizing Good Behavior Tops Dr. Alan Kazdin's List of Parenting 'Dos'
By SYLVIA JOHNSON Sept. 15, 2009 —
All of the following tips are based on this simple principle: Attention to bad behavior increases bad behavior (yelling, lecturing, scolding, spanking and punishing are all forms of negative attention), while attention to good behavior increases good behavior.
1) Notice good behavior and give attention to it. Anything you see that you want to happen more often -- let the child know you like it.
2) Positive attention to good behavior can be a smile, a touch or praise -or all three -but do it right away and be specific about what it was the child did right every time. "Great job taking your dishes to the sink!" works better than "Great job!"
3) Instead of saying "stop" or "don't" when you see bad behavior, find the "positive opposite": Figure out what you do want the child to do instead. So "Don't leave your socks on the floor" becomes "Please put your socks in the hamper."
4) Enthusiasm counts. Let them see how thrilled you are with their good behavior!
5) Start a reward system for a child who rarely does what you ask, but make a game of it.
6) Give an instruction only once. Don't foster greater disobedience by giving it a lot of attention. If you focus on their defiance, it will actually increase.
7) Learn to ignore -- or actually walk away -- from annoying behavior. When you stop giving attention to annoying behavior, there's nothing in it for the child.
8) Your goal in a tantrum is to get past it. Stay calm yourself and your child will calm down faster.
9) When you must punish, make it a brief and don't delay it.
10) Above all, put tip No. 1 into practice. Ideally, you should be praising your child's behavior 90 percent of the time and punishing only 10 percent of the time.