One of the most search topic online is managing behaviors at home. It is natural for parents to experience behaviors from our children. It is part of our development in expressing our emotions, language acquisition and self regulation. Managing behavior are generally more on the undesirable behaviors that we (parents) do not accept.
Our children are intelligent. They know what they need to do for them to obtain the “things” that they want. In psychology term, it is called conditioning. They understood that by doing certain actions (or inaction) will result in a desired outcome. However, they are not doing the actions (or inaction) intentionally. All they understood is the outcome that they want.
The undesirable behavior often occurs when they want to escape (not completing a task / instruction), they want attention or things or they may have sensory issues that requires some additional assistance, maybe from a professional.
Undesirable behavior can be categorized into harmful, damaging or annoying. Harmful or damaging could be self hitting, running with sharp items, throwing things or playing with fire. Annoying behaviors may be whining, screaming or knocking on items.
How do I manage the behavior?
Managing behavior needs repetition and consistency. Parents will need to address the undesirable behavior, redirect with desirable behavior and introduce consequence if child continue with the undesirable behavior (and carry it through). It is easier said than done because when our child is whinning or running around with sharp items, our natural response will kick in.
Keep calm, Stay calm
Our children respond to us and sense our non-verbal cues as much as they hear from us. If we are angry, they will know. If we are irritated, they will know, too. It is important for parents to stay calm and keep calm when the undesirable behavior happens, especially if you know your child is actually seeking for attention. Well, attention is attention, be it good or bad.
“How to keep calm?”, you may asked. Practice. Count to 10 before you respond. Breathe deeply. Take a step out then return to scene. Declare your current emotion clearly, “I am angry now.” Pinch self on thumb. Think of various methods that you can remind yourself to keep calm. Most importantly, breathe.
Eye level and KISS (keep is short and sweet)
Once you are calm (or calm enough), get your child, go down to their eye-level and speak in a firm manner. State what you saw, “I see you running with a fork in hand.” State your concern (for older children and if you want). “That is dangerous. If you fall, the fork can hurt you.” Tell your child that “This is not acceptable.” Redirect acceptable behavior, “I need you to walk if you are holding a fork in hand. Or if you need to go somewhere urgently, put the fork down, then go.”
For younger children, you may need to demonstrate as they may not understand complicated instructions or sentences.
The next time you catch your child running with a fork, remind them, “Do you remember what mommy said about running with a fork?” Remember, keep calm.
It is also important to take note that you must address the behavior when your child is in the undesirable behavior mode. It will not work to talk about an undesirable behavior that happened in the morning during bed time. Your child would have moved on from the behavior and not understand your expectation.
Understand that your child’s behavior is a way they communicate with you. In addition of telling your child that their behavior is not acceptable, you need to show or tell them what is then the acceptable behavior. Children will then know explicitly your expectation on them. As parents, we may need to reflect on our behavior, too – are we modelling enough for our children to follow?
If you have constant struggle on managing your child’s behavior, your child’s behavior may be due to sensory issues. Do seek for professional help or contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org or call +6018 2301 669) to find out more.