Strategies to help with behaviors in the home
(This blog post is Part 1 of 3 in a short mini-series of Strategies to help with behaviors)
Inappropriate and attention seeking behaviors are never fun, but they are part of growing up, and part of how a child learns about their world around them. Children use rules and boundaries to learn cause and effect, and what is and what is not appropriate and acceptable. Boundaries also help a child feel safe as they teach children that there are limits and expectations set on their behavior and there are consequences for not following those limits and expectations. There are simple things we can do in the home environment to help with behaviors:
- Have clear expectations for your child on what behaviors are allowed and not allowed, and discuss these expectations with your child. Example:
- When Mommy or Daddy tells you “no” you are expected to listen and stop what you are doing.
- When it’s time to have dinner, you are expected to sit at the table with the rest of the family.
- When it is time to get ready for bed, you are expected to stop what you are doing and take a bath, brush teeth, get into bed, etc.
- When Mommy or Daddy tell you to work on your school work, you are expected to complete school work before anything else, (playing, reading, etc.)
- Stay firm with boundaries – this is essential! If we don’t stay firm with the boundaries, it teaches children that the boundaries are not firm, and that they can get out of situations or out of doing things they don’t want to by screaming, crying, having a meltdown, etc. This will cause more unwanted behaviors in the future.
- Along with the prior tip, everyone at home has to be on the same team and handle behaviors the same way. For example, if the consequence of not listening to their parents when they say no, means the child does not get to play with their favorite toy. Everyone at home has to be on the same team, and not let the child play with their favorite toy.
- If someone lets a child play with their favorite toy when others have told them “no” it will confuse the child, and teach them that all they have to do is ask Mom, or Dad, or Grandma, or Grandpa and they will get what they want. It will teach them that the boundaries are not firm causing more behaviors in the future, and causing everyone’s hard work to go unnoticed.
- Use a visual timer (kitchen timer, etc.) if needed to help with transitions. A child’s sense of time is still developing, so while a verbal cue (“we will be leaving in 2 minutes”) is good. It helps to give the child a visual as they are still learning the concept of time. So, we can say “look this timer has 2 minutes on it, and when those 2 minutes are up, it will be time to leave, look at the numbers count down and get smaller”
- Reward success (and good listening) with verbal praise and encouragement.
- While we need to be firm with our boundaries and follow through with consequences. It is equally important that we give our children verbal praise and encouragement when they listen to us and make good decisions. This way we are encouraging them to continue to listen and continue to make positive choices.
While these tips work in a variety of situations, it is understood that each family has to find the best routine and options for their own individual family. An Occupational Therapist can help you incorporate these strategies in the home to help decrease negative and unwanted behaviors in the home environment.