The Secrets To Improving Children's
By Michael Grose
Most parents at some stage are driven to distraction by one or
more of their children's annoying habits or behaviors, whether it
is a toddler who continually whines, a school-aged child who leaves
clothes lying around or a teenager who uses a less than pleasant
How to affect change is a challenge for many parents. Do you
ignore a child's annoying behavior or do you pick up on it? A
useful rule of thumb is to pick up on behaviors that are dangerous
to the child himself or significantly infringe on the rights and
comfort of others.
Also ask yourself: Is this behavior reasonable for the child's
age? For instance, it is reasonable to expect an eight year old not
to disturb you while you are on the phone for twenty minutes but it
is not reasonable to expect the same of a two year old.
It is also useful to take into account the child's current
state of mind and what is going in on their lives that may be
related to some unusual behavior to occur at home.
The following four principles for changing your child's behavior
will be effective if you are both patient and persistent.
Change your initial response first. This is
important because children's behavior generally requires a
pay-off, which may be your attention or an attempt to defeat you.
The most important principle about changing children's behavior is
to change your own behavior first. So if your child' whines (a
child's version of water torture) to get his own way refrain from
answering back or giving in.
Practice with your child the behavior that you
want. The notion of behavior rehearsal is fundamental to learning a
new behavior. Don't just tell kids what you expect, get them to practice
the behavior you want. In the example of a young whiner - get him to
practice asking for help or a treat in a normal voice.
Minimize the behavior you don't want. That
means when children continue their old behavior despite your
brilliant suggestions ignore it, sidestep it or implement a
consequence but don't nag or harp on it. Remember it takes time
often to change a behavior, particularly if it has been happening
for a long time.
Spotlight the appropriate behavior. When your
children behave in the desired way show your sincere appreciation.
We often take children for granted or rather we are trained to give
children no attention when they are good, but plenty when they are
less than perfect. The behaviors we focus on expand so we need to
focus our attention on desirable behaviors more than on the negative
behaviors. For our young whiner it is essential to make a fuss when
he uses a normal voice to get what he wants.
Like any process it will only work if you stick to it and follow
it through. And don't be afraid to adapt it to suit your
circumstances. Remember, it is the fact that you have a plan rather
than the nature of the plan that is most powerful in achieving a
change in your children's behavior.
Michael Grose is Australia's leading parenting educator. He is the
author of six books and gives over 100 presentations a year and
appears regularly on television, radio and in print. For further
ideas to help you raise happy children and resilient teenagers
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