One of the biggest challenges parents face is managing difficult or defiant behaviour on the part of children. Whether they’re refusing to put on their shoes, or throwing full-blown tantrums, you can find yourself at a loss for an effective way to respond.
It is important that children’s behaviours are clearly defined so everyone is clear on what to expect. An example of poorly defined behaviour is “acting up”, or “being good”. A well-defined behaviour would be running around the room (bad) or starting homework on time (good). Here are some tips that can help you manage your child’s behavior:
Build Parent/Child Relationship
This is the foundation necessary to successfully manage behavior.
Basically, you should establish a solid attachment between you and your child that is characterized primarily by positive regard (on your part). Children do what their parents say because they care about what their parents think of them or how they feel about them.
Spend Time with your child
You must spend time with your child on a regular basis that is not centered around behavioural problems, and this time should be used for play, conversation, and relationship-building activities. The more loved and understood your child feels by you, the easier it will be to manage his or her behavior.
Clearly Delineate Rules
This may seem difficult but it is very easy to find yourself in the position of waffling on rules you have set. Likewise, it is equally problematic if you do not state every part of the rule in a clear and concise way. Don’t lump a lot of rules together, especially for younger children. Make one very clear statement. The younger the child is, the more exact the wording must be.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Use positive reinforcement whenever possible. This is most helpful when a child successfully behaves in the way you have prescribed. Be careful, however, not to use material inducements for good behavior (such as buying new toys, etc.). Reinforcements should be centered around feelings of self-esteem, accomplishment, and cooperation. Do something with your child such as play a game, go to the park, or simply give verbal praise and appreciation.
For rules that don’t seem to be followed using positive reinforcement, the parent must establish consequences for failure to comply. These must be realistic, match the nature of the offence, and teach something if possible. Also, they must be consistently enforced. Start with small, time-limited consequences, and then slowly increase the time or intensity of the consequence for repeating the same offence. When you can, use natural consequences. An example would be having your child work to earn the money to replace something he or she has destroyed.
For parents at their wits end, these techniques can provide a roadmap to calmer, more consistent ways to manage problem behaviours and offer a chance to help children develop the skills they need to regulate their own behaviours.