Remember: The best way to change your child’s behaviour is to change your own behaviour. All the best strategies involve setting routines, rewarding the behaviour you want to encourage, avoiding confrontations and modelling the behaviour you want to see in your child.
Emphasise the positives, and catch your child being good. Draw attention to behaviour you want, not to challenging behaviour. Comment on the behaviour: “Tom, that’s great, you already unpacked your bag!” Smiles, hugs, thumbs ups, being impressed (in a cool way, naturally) will all have an impact. See it – praise it.
How many days this week did you praise your child?
Make sure your child knows what the “right” behaviour is, not just the “wrong” behaviour. Sit down and explain why a certain behaviour is a problem – for them and for you. Ask for your child’s ideas on solving a problem, and for alternative ways of behaving. For example, why is the backdoor step not a good place to leave bikes? Your child may never have stopped and thought about this. When your child misbehaves, describe what they have done and why it is unacceptable in a calm clear voice, before stating what you want them to do next.
Last time your child misbehaved, did you explain why it was a problem?
Establish clear rules – but only about things worth worrying about. A messy room is irritating but not life threatening until the bacteria starts creeping out the door. Entering your 14 year old sister’s inner sanctum without knocking is more dangerous. So is jumping on the bed. Decide on three behaviours that you can’t stand any longer, sit the kids down, and set the rules as statements of how everyone must behave. No arguments – you are the adult, and it is just part of the job description to set rules:
“Everyone in our house speaks in nice words to each other: no put-downs and no swearing”
“Only adults turn on the TV”
“Food comes after school bags have been unpacked and put in rooms”
Agree on one reminder then logical consequences – turning on the TV by a child means no TV at all that night. No school bags, no food.
Can your child tell you the three main rules in your house?
Make good behaviour easy for your child. Give choices: “You can start homework now, or have 10 minutes outside with the dog before you start homework. ” Make sure everyone in the family is expected to stick by the rules: it has to be fair. Avoid backing your child into a corner – try to be flexible and find solutions that work around problems.
Did you give choices last time you asked your child do to something?
Avoid arguments. You own the house, you drive the car, you set the rules. Getting into an argument will only escalate the issue. Model the kind of behaviour you want to see in your child: Stay calm. Talk in a steady voice. Restate the rules. Remain silent if screamed at. Walk away for a short while. Set the ground rules: your child has a right to express opinions, but not by screaming.
When did you last yell?
Act quickly and independently. Don’t threaten to act when you get home. Don’t threaten someone else’s action when he or she gets home – deal with it yourself. If you are separated from your child’s other parent, ensure that your rules apply in your territory, and allow other rules to apply in the other household.
Kids are able to deal with two places with different rules – they manage to adapt to school, sports teams, granma’s place….They can’t deal with two places with no rules. Show your child that you are a great team – you and the child can work things out on your own.
Do you ever use the “wait til your ….comes home” line?
Let your child experience the consequences of their behaviour. At a certain age, your child is ready to face the real world. Your job becomes less protecting them, and more helping them to realise the harsh realities. Generally arriving at school in pyjamas is amusing once, and then just very uncool. Most schools will find a suitably boring white vegemite sandwich to replace forgotten lunch boxes. Children who have major tantrums are clearly not able to attend birthday parties. Items broken or borrowed permanently from older siblings can be paid back by a levy on every week’s pocket money, or from the money you would have spent on chocolates, chips or icecreams.
Test yourself: When did you last rescue your child by doing something they should have done?
Use lists. After twenty years of going to the supermarket, parents still use lists every time! It may just take that long for your child to remember what needs to be done every single morning. Write a list, stick it on the fridge, and then stop nagging – just direct your child’s attention to the list. Some fridges have lists for morning packing up, lists for after school, lists for chores to be done, lists for things to take to Dad’s on the weekend…..
How many lists do your kids have on the fridge?
Don’t give away the icecream. Ensure that family treats – Tim Tam’s, kicking a ball in the park, watching the Simpsons – are saved for ‘rewards”. Treats only come after the behaviour you want.
Did your child earn the last bowl of icecream?
Enjoy your child’s behaviour. Take an interest in their friends, progress at school, activities, new tricks on their bike. Be proud of your child – instead of telling your friends about yet another argument, tell them about the fun you have had together.
Use positive words – your child is “high spirited” and “”energetic”. Think of behaving well as something your child is learning to do: you are helping them to learn how to manage angry feelings, how to share and how to live peacefully with others – helping them to develop life skills to become self -confident, happy and independent.
Test yourself: How many days this week have you said something positive about your child to someone?