Unfortunately we always tend to use a lot of words when it comes to children, we tell them what they’ve done wrong, how cranky we are with them and more often that not it just becomes an overload of information. So the first step when dealing with behaviour is to cut out a lot of the words and sentences we use. It is just too much.
Get back to basics.
There are 3 main strategies and they are
- Planned Ignoring
- Counting – 1,2,3 magic
- Teaching & Talking
80-90% of your parenting in these younger years really is about “planned ignoring” yes, it is a strategy and one that works brilliantly, it is not just ‘ignoring’ your child. Planned ignoring really means letting all those annoying, irritating things that your child does GO. Just let is go, don’t let it irritate you, do not correct, remind them. Like, ‘stand still, don’t touch, leave the light switch, sit down etc’ the rule here is “if it’s annoying you but is minor – then let it go” its not important. Remember the article on Children and behaviour – if you pay it off then they will do it more. Once your correct, remind, rush, chase, nag – they will do the ‘something’ again and again and again – because you noticed! It worked!! So minor and annoying = ignore.
Now what about when you just can’t ignore it? Well usually this happens for a few reasons, one it is dangerous or unsafe, two they are going to break something of value, three you may be out and what you can ignore at home eg. You may choose to ignore jumping on the couch but at your friends and their new lounge ignoring is not the right choice. Or they are purposefully ignoring your request to ‘come for dinner, get out of the pool, off the trampoline’.
When you can’t ignore you then come to a time-out or counting strategy. So for anything major, or hurting another person you count. Using your 1,2,3 magic. It is a series of steps involving counting 1 – 2 – 3 (for details see 1 -2-3 Magic – How to do it) it is designed so that in the silence between the counts your childs brain is thinking and deciding what to do – so again, no words. On 3 you need to act – remember actions are always far better than words. Eg. Step in and just take the scissors if dangerous, say nothing just take them. Or your child isn’t getting off the trampoline when you have asked – count. Any attempt to comply with your instructions is a step forward eg. Stopping bouncing so then stop counting and hope they make the right decision, sometime you can tip their indecisiveness with a quick comment like ‘ that great jack, off you get let go and have our yummy dinner’.
This leaves the third strategy which is teaching and talking. These two can either be done at the same time or separately. My recommendation is usually (unless it is a totally new situation) not at the time of it happening. Your child probably already has heard you say it a hundred times and yet it’s been ineffective and doesn’t work. He may look or act like he doesn’t know but ask yourself do they know? Do they know to be gentle with their sister? Do they know to turn the tv off when i ask? Do they know not to flick the switches? Throw sand that their friend? Eat properly? Sit down? Of course they do! So when you find yourself in a situation where you need to talk about it, do not do it right then and there.
It is best to do it later. Why? For a couple of reasons one being the ‘something’ again, if they have done something wrong, or made a not so good choice and you start a 5 minute explain of what they did, how it was wrong, etc etc, “ wow..... their brain is thinking, that’s how you get mum to come over (add in here, get into the bin, the fridge) ...... hmmm..... I’m going to do it again, and again.” Wait. Wait. Until all the emotion is gone from the situation yours and there’s. This may be a couple of hours later and then talk about what happened.
Talk about it in this way: what they did, the facts: “your friend Jack wanted the toy you where playing with, you pulled it back, he pulled, you got cranky and you hit him” just the facts, don’t add in how you felt, or your embarrassment, frustration, or how bad, naughty etc he was. Just the facts.
Then tell him how you want him to behave or the choices he can make next time he is in the same / similar situation. “next time a friend wants your toy, you can say ‘you can have it when i finish’ or ‘i will give it to you when i finish’ if your friend still wants your toy then come over to mummy and tell me and I will work it out ( you work it out just the same – say to the child, Peter is using the toy now but when he finishes he will give it too you – at the same time take the toy back)
In situations where your child hurts another child, pick your child up and move them to the side and get them to sit there, then go back and give attention, aid etc to the victim. Talk about it later when the emotions are gone, if they do is a second time, go home if possible as they are probably tired and at the end of playing well with other children. Talk about it later.
Teaching: if you have removed a toy or object because your child wasn’t playing with it in a safe or proper manner and put it away for a day or three, when you bring that toy or object back down and into play this is your opportunity to talk about how to use it properly and what the rules etc are. Try not to say it in a way that brings up what your child did wrongly with it, keep it positive and just teach the right way to use/play with it.
Parenting is a challenge for sure and every parent needs a toolkit of strategies that they can call on and use when dealing with behaviour. There is also some other strategies around emotions that are useful to learn and use as well. These are the three main strategies for managing quite a lot of behaviour – if it is different to what you are currently doing, make the change and you are likely to see a bit of resistance for 2 or 3 days then the behaviours that are not so good, start to disappear and fade away.