Some important reminders when it comes to behaviour management strategies and dealing with difficult situations.
REMIND CHILDREN OF THE REASONS BEHIND RULES
- Allow children to be involved in the rule making process giving their input and suggestions.
- Get children to repeat rules back to you to show they have an understanding of what is required
BE FIRM AND CONSISTENT
- Make expectations clear and reasonable. Establish rules e.g. use your body and words without hurting others. To make rules work you must deal with behaviours that violate the rules every time they happen. This keeps things consistent and children know what to expect. Remind children of the rules ahead of time. They have very short attention spans and reminding them will prevent incidents occurring later. State rules and expectations positively
- Set consequences that you are willing to follow through with. There is no point having consequences such as no TV or no story when the child is fully aware that this is never going to happen. Ensure the consequences are logical. They must make sense and relate to the behaviour at hand. Tell the child what the consequences will be the next time they misbehave in the same way. The child must know ahead of time what the consequences are so they can work on avoiding them.
- If a child is given a consequence, tell them they can return or have the item back when they feel they are able to use their voice to express their feelings. It is important to Respect their internal clock – their time away may only last for a few seconds but this is ok. Repeat the consequences again if they repeat the negative behaviour. Tell children they can return when they are calm and ready to listen and provide them with verbal encouragement when they do well remembering to focus on the positives in a situation
ENSURE A POSITIVE ENVIRONMENT
- Make positive statements and make them sound enthusiastic. Let children know that they are doing well. Give them useful information about their behaviour without judging their character. Saying ‘Good Boy/Girl’ is a judgement statement, try telling children what is good about what they are doing. e.g. I like the way you picked up all those blocks and put them in the basket thank you for helping me. Tell them often how much you enjoy being with them but make sure it is an honest statement.
- React calmly to negative behaviours. Children get use to a big response from adults as a result of their behaviour. They can thrive on the attention, excitement, anger and chaos they can create. If they see you react the same way it will be hard to reduce the behaviour. If you don’t react strongly to their behaviour they may step up the behaviours at first but eventually they will give them up. Seek support from others if you feel the need. It is important to be aware of your own limits and it is ok to require a time out from difficult situations
MISTAKES ARE OK
- Turn mistakes into a learning experience. Don’t get angry or frustrated but explain or ask what the child has learnt from it. Share your own mistakes with your child so that they understand that everyone makes mistakes.
IF A CHILD WON’T LISTEN
- It is important for your face to be level with theirs and make eye contact with them. When talking with young children remove noise and toys that may be a distraction.
- Ask the child to repeat back to you the information they have received. Vary your voice, keep calm and avoid power struggles with your child.
- It is important to note that some children can’t listen because their feelings and emotions at the time overwhelm them. Give them time to vent/calm down before attempting to discuss things with them
- Ask children to look at you before you talk to them making physical contact with the child e.g. a hand lightly placed on their hand when talking with them can sometimes help.
SOMETHING TO CONSIDER
- Rewards for good behaviour (stickers) or negative reinforcement for bad behaviour (time out) do not teach a child self control or different behaviours. They are tempting to use as they change behaviours quickly but give all the control to the adult. Teaching self regulation, life skills, redirection, logical consequences, prevention strategies and other techniques are better than reinforcement techniques and will eventually reduce problem behaviours. Although this may take longer to see dramatic changes in behaviour they will change the behaviours long term and permanently.
The ultimate goal is helping the child to control their own actions and reactions and to find alternative, more positive ways to get their needs met.