General behavioral issues and solutions
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|Thu, 05-22-2003 - 10:39pm|
It is very natural for a child of any age to test limits. Usually a child will go through phases. For about six months the child will be cooperative and in control, and the next six will be challenging and resistant to authority. We in education call that "half points." There are a few things we, as adults, can do to help everyone through these phases.
First of all, go over your expectations with your child. Make a list of house rules and post them with pictures. This serves as a reminder for EVERYONE in the house, including babysitters. State what you want, rather than what you don't. A negative statement offers alternatives to those children who wouldn't think of them, and sticks in the minds of others as insults. "How many times do I have to tell you to stop running?!" is more likely to get resistance than, "Remember the house rule! Please walk and keep yourself safe." One is a criticism, and the other is a statement of cooperation. Cooperation encourages more cooperation. Negativity promotes bitterness and resentment. Remember, too, to ask questions ONLY when the child can make a choice. If there isn't a choice, don't ask. Asking, "Will you put your toys away" is leaving room for an answer that may not be what you want to hear. "Please put your things away now" is very clear. If you want to promote cooperation in addition to obedience, offer help. "Let's do it together" or "I can help you if you'd like" are great ways of offering help without taking on the entire task.
Once you have established the rules, eliminate distractions when you are interacting with your child. TV, misic, other children, games, food, getting dressed, brushing teeth....just about anything can be a distraction. When you want your child to "listen" and not just "hear" you, make sure the child's hands and/or eyes are not busy, look them in the eye, state what you wish to say, and have them repeat it. When they are younger, you can ask questions to sum up your requests. When they are four and above, ask them to repeat what you said. For an example, Johnny is watching TV while he is eating breakfast. Mom is noticing they are running out of time and wants her son to know he needs to be dressed and ready to go in 15 minutes. She walks over to Johnny, puts her hand on his back, bends down, looks into his eyes and tells him, "We're late this morning. In five minutes I need you to get dressed and brush your teeth." To ensure he heard her she can ask, "How many minutes do you have? What will you do," or she can state, "Please tell me what I just said to you." Either way, she will get his attention long enough to get the message to him.
THE BEST WAY to motivate a child is to exclaim to the child the appropriate behavior or requested action you witness. "WOW! You got dressed without me reminding you! That's great news!" "High five! (clap) We will be on time today! Thanks for cooperating by brushing your teeth right away!" Smile and offer a hug....something of a social nature to reinforce your words, and a child will want that kind of response to everything! IT WORKS! The longer it takes, the more it is needed! Children sometimes get "brainwashed" into thinking they are so awful because they hear us complain constantly. It really does tear downt heir spirit. Things as simple as "You never want to pick up" can be "My mom isn't happy with me, and I am a failure" to a child. Words are like swords. Choose them carefully.
Accept mistakes. No one is perfect. Once you express your disappointment, let the issue go. No one wants to be held accountable for a mistake for days or weeks on end! State the consequence (which has already been discussed when you talked about the house rules) and allow it to run it's course. The child feels bad enough and is probably acting out of that guilt. Don't intensify it. After everyone has cooled down, offer a discussion. It may or may not be needed.
Every child has strengths and weaknesses. These basic things will help you set limits and boundaries so that the child can feel secure in knowing just what to do. Knowing is half the battle. Set your expectations and be patient with the process. Everything is a process, and the process is much more important than the product. Children who master the concept of things are more likely to be sucessful than those who just do it. Once you have gone through these things, you don't need to explain anything other than "our family is respectful, cooperative and kind." Kids will get it! They WANT it! It's a good feeling when you know what kind of environment you live in, and what is expected of you, even if you don't always make the right choices.
Remember true love is unconditional. We love our kids in spite of rather than because of.
Happy parenting everyone!