Strategies to help with behaviors in the community
(As a follow up to the last blog post, this blog post is Part 2 of 3 in a short mini-series of Strategies to help with behaviors.)
There is some overlap on strategies in the home and community we can use to help with behaviors. So, some of the strategies listed in this blog post are similar to some of the strategies in the previous blog post. Regardless, they are helpful in multiple situations, and once you learn them they can help you to decrease unwanted 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 to hold their hand in the parking lot, you are expected to listen and hold their hand for safety.
- When Mommy or Daddy tells you that you cannot get any candy in the grocery store, you are expected to listen and you will not get any candy.
- When Mommy or Daddy tells you it’s time to sit down in the car, you are expected to listen and sit in your seat.
- 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 they can get what they want (candy, a toy, etc.) by screaming, crying, having a meltdown, etc. This will cause more unwanted behaviors in the future.
- If multiple family members will be partaking in this outing, everyone has to be on the same team and handle behaviors the same way.
- For example, if the consequence for not holding Mommy or Daddy’s hand in the parking lot means that the child does not get to read their favorite book with their parent/guardian when they get home. If someone lets the child read their favorite book with their parent/guardian when they have been told no to this. 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.
- If you are concerned about your child having a meltdown in a public place, consider going during a less crowded time (not on the weekends, preferably on weekdays in the morning, early afternoon)
- 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 them 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”
- Consider using a visual schedule if there are multiple things going on during the day. This will allow children to see when things will happen and how many things need to happen before they return home or get a preferred activity; playing at the park, playing with friends, etc.
- 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 for their own individual family. An Occupational Therapist can help you incorporate these strategies in the community to help decrease negative and unwanted behaviors in the community environment.