I had a great conversation recently with a mom whose child was having challenges staying on the mat.
Every few minutes he would run off the mat to his mother to get a drink, or talk about how he didn’t like a particular exercise or game. She was doing her best to fight her frustration and encourage him to get back on the mat, but he kept coming back …
This is very common for this time of year.
Back to school time can be a difficult transition for younger kids…and very trying for parents.
I would like to share some tips on how to make back to school time a little easier.
School is new to them. They are dealing with new rules, new people, new schedules. Its a lot change at one time.
Many times, their negative attitude or behavior is a result of them dealing with the stress of change. They haven’t developed the ability to verbalize that they’re frustrated…so they act out.
Kids need structure. It is essential for their physical, mental, and emotional development. In a structured environment children learn:
- How to handle feelings of frustration and disappointment
- How to get along with others
- How to make responsible choices on their own
- How to delay gratification
- How to follow rules and use good judgement
Structure provides children with an opportunity to learn self-control and personal responsibility.
Structure teaches them how to properly handle their feelings, frustration and disappointment by learning rules and understanding there are limits to their behavior.
Structure their environment. Determine what activities your child will engage in and how they will fill their time.
- Be available physically and mentally and provide appropriate monitoring and supervision for your child. If others are in charge ensure they are capable and competent to do so.
- Set up daily routines that are consistent and predictable. Children perform better, are more secure, and are less stressed when life is organized and predictable. Having consistent daily routines for morning, for school, for activities, and bedtime also teaches kids responsibility and self-reliance.
You can also prevent negative behaviors by anticipating problem situations and structuring the environment. For example, don’t let your child get into a situation where she becomes overly tired, hungry, bored, or frustrated.
Have a Discipline Strategy. Using structured discipline to control your child’s behavior is done by setting expectations and having consequences.
- Set clear expectations about how they engage in appropriate behaviors, for example: doing homework, doing chores, or be ready for school on time.
- Have defined consequences for unacceptable behaviors, for example: hitting your sister, taking things without asking, or talking back to mom.
The most effective discipline strategies are based on behavior modification principals. Appropriate behaviors are encouraged by rewards and inappropriate behaviors are discouraged by consequences. To be effective three principles must be in place:
- Establish the Rules and Expectations
- Use Rewards to Increase Positive Behaviors
- Use Consequences to Reduce Undesirable Behaviors
Establish the Rules and Expectations. The rules and expectations should be discussed and been agreed upon by all parents ahead of time, without the child present. Once in agreement they should be explained to the child.
Expectations and rules must be specific, clear and easy for your child to understand. Example: “Don’t hit your sister” as versus “Be nice to your sister”.
Expectations should be age-appropriate, realistic, and achievable.
Use Recognition and Rewards to Increase Positive Behaviors:
- Make a list of all the positive behaviors you would like to see your child exhibit. Example: your child not hitting his younger sister after being provoked.
- Use rewards to increase the occurrence of positive and appropriate behaviors in your child, for example making her bed each morning.
The easiest and most important way for you to reward your child is to provide positive attention to your child during or after they have completed the desired behavior.
Acknowledge: I noticed you brushed your teeth without being told!
Express appreciation or approval: Thank you for putting your dirty clothes in the basket.
Praise positive behavior: Great job on making your bed this morning!
It’s easy for “good” behaviors go unnoticed by parents. You must be vigilant if you want this to work.
Rewards: You can also reward your child with extra privileges or special gifts.
Examples include extra time for the TV or video game time. Staying up a little later or going to a movie.
Material rewards can include toys, clothes, iTunes, video games, or even money. For these types of rewards, I recommend a point system where the child accumulates points for good behavior. After a certain number of points have been accumulated, the child receives the reward.
Use Consequences to Reduce Negative Behaviors. Consequences are used to decrease the occurrence of negative behaviors, such as hitting, back talk, or throwing tantrums. Parents should discuss and decide consequences ahead of time. They should be easily enforced be something that everyone is willing and able to carry out.
Consequences don’t have to be harsh or severe to be effective. Defiance, resentment, and power struggles can result if consequences are too harsh.
Another effective strategy is to negotiate consequences with your child ahead of time to make them impactful.
Example: What do you think should happen next time you don’t put your toys away when I ask you?
Lastly, consequences must be specific and clearly explained to your child ahead of time by giving a warning.
Examples of Consequences:
Loss of Privileges: This is based on the concept that privileges come with responsibilities. When a child is irresponsible then they lose a privilege. This could mean they lose an opportunity to participate in their favorite activity.
Example: You will not be able to watch TV tonight”
The loss of the privilege should be for a specific and limited time period that it is easy for parents to keep track of and enforce.
Loss of Possessions: Take away their toys, video games, or other prized possession or they can lose points on their reward chart.
Example: I am taking away your iPad for today.
The 3 Step Consequence Formula
The formula for using consequences is a simple 3-step procedure:
Step 1: Explain the Rule
Step 2: Give Them a Choice & Confirm Understanding
Step 3: Enforce The Consequences
Step 1: Explain the Rule.
Rules need to be explained, especially to strong-willed children. Kids like to ask why and strong-willed kids often rebel when told “because I said so!”.
A child who is asked to do something and refuses will often comply if you merely explain why they are being asked to do something.
Step 1 may be repeated to give the child an opportunity to assume responsibility. Sometimes parents move on to Step 2 too quickly without giving the child a chance to comply.
Step 2: Give Them a Choice and Confirm Compliance
This step must be carefully stated so that the child clearly understands that they have a choice and that whatever consequence happens will be the result of their choice.
Example “Remember I told you not to hit your sister; if you choose to hit again, you will lose your Xbox for a week.”
Confirm compliance by having them repeat back to you the rule and consequence. This confirms they understand their choice and reinforces that there are consequences related to their behavior.
Step 3: Enforce the Consequence
The very next time your child exhibits the unacceptable behavior enforce the consequence.
Example: I’ve noticed you did not make your bed this morning; that means I have taken 2 points off your reward chart.
Example: Remember I told you if you hit your brother again, you would have a time-out; since you chose to keep hitting, you will have to go for a time-out, right now
Don’t get into a bad habit of repeatedly giving warnings on the same broken rule over and over again without moving on to enforcing the consequences. This makes the whole process ineffective.
Enforcing consequences should be done in a calm, patient, and firm manner. Stay calm and control your emotions. No yelling or shouting and most importantly avoid anger and hostility.
Be brief and limit your talking to stating the rule and consequence of the inappropriate behavior. Do not get into debates, explanations or arguments. Ignore complaints. Further discussion about the rule and consequence should be done at a later time when things have cooled down for both parent and child.
Time to Take Action:
- Make a list of all the positive behaviors you would like to see your child exhibit.
- Decide and agree on the rules and consequences with everyone that is involved with raising your child (Spouse, Step-parents, Grandparents, etc).
- Discuss the rules and consequences with your child before your child is actually engaged in the inappropriate behavior. Create a point chart.
- Follow Through
Children are constantly testing the boundaries. This is where our decisions as parents are crucial. If you feed the negative behavior it will become a much bigger problem in the future. Remember, it’s not always about what they want, but what is best for them.
I hope this helps!