Una's Chat-July 2012
Over the years I have spent a great deal of time with parents discussing the challenges they experience while managing their children’s behavior. During our talks, I strive to arm parents with a process that can help them evaluate and manage the array of situations that arise.
The process starts with an analysis by you as the parent of what happens during a recurring struggle. Look at the factors that initially lead to the struggle and consider the following questions:
Is the routine you are following creating part of the problem? For example, if you struggle getting your child to dress after breakfast, try dressing before breakfast when food and company can entice him or her to the next part of the morning.
Does your child have the skills to do what you are asking?
Have you provided enough time and given clear directions?
Are you asking when your child is tired or hungry?
Have you given a fair “head’s up” to finish what he or she is doing before you expect your direction to be followed?
Is he or she completely absorbed by electronics and/or TV and can’t bear to disconnect?
Are you giving a lot of attention for undesirable behavior (which actually encourages it)?
Is your child getting enough down-time to balance accommodating your agenda when required?
What do you know about your child’s personality that contributes to the struggle you are experiencing?
Once you have answered those questions and others, pay attention to the role you are playing. Analyze your own behavior. What body language and tone of voice do you use when you interact with your son or daughter? What are your requests or demands, and how are you stating them? How is your child responding to your interactions? Is there a pattern in these recurring events? Are you managing the situation the same way each time and getting the same unwanted result? Not to make light of these situations, but there is an old adage that says that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing each time and expecting a different result.”
By taking time to analyze and identify patterns, you can determine exactly which behaviors and responses you want to elicit from your child. Then, you can see if you need to alter how you manage the situation to affect the desired result. Consider the following strategies as you evaluate your management style:
Send positive unspoken messages: Be firm and respectful when interacting with your child and always strive for kindness in both body and spoken language. In this way, you model how one can remain respectful even when frustrated. (Your child will also understand that voicing anger or annoyance does not damage your relationship.) After the interaction with your child is over, continue with the day warmly and positively. This sends an encouraging message that you can deal with something difficult together and then move on from it.
Assume success: If both the situation and what you are asking of your child are reasonable, assume that he or she will honor your request or direction. Do not hang around and wait for the result, ask ten times, or coax, cajole or nag.
Use natural/logical consequences: If your child does not follow through with what you have asked, allow the natural/logical consequence to prevail. For example, if your child will not get dressed in the morning, leave when you say you will and bring your child to school in PJs with clothes under an arm.
Stop and think before you react: Only if what you are witnessing is unsafe or unkind should you march in and take over. Listen out of sight. Are your children talking to each other, even if voices are louder than you’d like? If intervention is necessary, stop and think, “How am I going to enter this situation?” Then go in calmly, with body language to match, and start with a casual, “Hey guys, what’s going on?” This establishes the tone for your interaction.
Be consistent: In your daily routine, model/integrate kindness, independence, responsibility, self-discipline, etc. Set up reasonable, age-appropriate, respectful expectations and use YES and NO consistently. Aim for more YESs, but ensure NO means NO. Do not be swayed by persuading, whining or tantrum-throwing.
Provide autonomy: Tightly controlling children is counter-productive in the long run. Allow your child as much opportunity for choice as is appropriate for the situation. (Sometimes there is no choice; therefore, do not lead your child to believe there is.) Examine and change your own behavior as you recognize and adjust what you can do to help a situation flow more easily. Your child’s behavior will change in response and simultaneously, he or she will also be learning positive strategies that can then be used with family, friends and others.
As you know, you are the daily, moment-to-moment model for your child, and during his or her early years no other influence is as strong as yours. Though it can be hard to keep calm throughout every storm, what your child experiences with you in these early years will be what sticks. Make those experiences good, and make them work toward your child’s success.
August 16, 2012 |