Yes, behavior management. Not discipline, not parenting, behavior management. As a teacher and graduate of an applied behavioral science program, I have often been asked for advice on helping with behavior. From tantrums to sleepless nights, there are things you can do to prevent them all. The key word is prevent. I’ll share some of my tips and tricks I’ve learned and hopefully help you and your family!
Basic Rules of Behavior Management
These are not the rules from a text book or the definition of behavior management. These are, in my opinion, the keys to having a successful behavior management plan. Whether it’s in your home or a classroom full of kids, these rules apply everywhere. This is just a short run down of the rules. A more detailed post is coming for each of them!
1. Prevention. The number one way to keep problem behaviors from taking over your life is to prevent them. How do you prevent them? Set ground rules that include rewards and consequences. Make consistent routines. Specifically praise a desired behavior you see. Distract your child when you see trouble coming. Whatever it is you need to do, try to keep the issue from happening in the first place.
2. Know your child. Understand what can trigger trouble for your child. If they’re having a rough time with something, check out their environment and see what’s causing the problem. Did they get to bed late the night before? Did they eat a certain food? Is there someone or something upsetting them? Are you playing music too loud? There can be so many triggers for behavior, but if you look closely you can discover the trigger and eliminate it.
3. Realize the problem can be YOU. This can be particularly difficult for adults to look at. After all, we’re the ones in charge, right? So, whatever we say just has to go. Well, yes. Kind of. We should set the rules and boundaries in our house. However, we also have to give our kids some grace and help them to behave well. If we’re stretching them too thin, stressed out ourselves, only yelling at them after they’ve done something, ignoring them, reinforcing the problem by only giving attention after the unwanted behavior, or are simply disorganized, we can be the problem. I’ve been guilty of this myself (as we all have!), and it’s hard to admit that it’s YOU that’s causing the problem. But, the best part about this step: it’s easy to fix. You don’t have to modify the child’s behavior, you have to modify your own…and having a well behaved child is a pretty good motivator to change your behavior.
4. Be specific. No matter if it’s discipline or praise, be very specific about what you are talking about. No matter how young your child, tell them exactly what the are or are not doing. For example, instead of saying. “No!” when your kid is jumping on the couch, say “Sweetie, please don’t jump on the couch. You can get hurt and I would hate to see you hurt. Please play on the floor.” There are three parts to this: you’re identifying the problem (jumping on the couch), justifying why it’s a problem (they could get hurt…NOT that your white couch could get dirty), and giving an alternative behavior (playing on the floor instead). And for praise, “I love how you’re sitting so nicely on the couch and keeping your feet on the floor!” You are communicating that you like what they’re doing, and why you like it.
Four rules, that’s not so hard to remember, is it?