Making positive behavioral changes can help every parent avoid these common parenting mistakes:
- Giving attention to bad behaviors
- Ignoring good behavior
- Placating the whining or crying request
- Saying No when you can say Yes
- Using time-out as a punishment
1. We parents devote far too much time attention when our children misbehave. In a child’s mind, negative attention is better than no attention so by eliciting a negative reaction (yelling, punishing etc.); the child has in essence won the battle. By rewarding the bad behavior with attention, you are teaching your child that bad behavior (crying, hitting, non-compliance etc.) is the way to get your attention and you are perpetuating the bad behavior.
2. This brings us to common mistake no. 2. We punish the bad behaviors, but do we take notice of the good ones? Reverse your negative patterns by catching your child doing something good and reward the desired behavior. Is your child playing nicely? Don’t turn away to make a phone call. Commend that behavior first, reward your child with a positive interaction and you will increase good behaviors while reducing the undesired ones.
3. Placate now – pay later. And pay dearly you will! We parents are so irritated by the crying or whining child that we so often give into the request just to make it stop. Children are very clever. They know that this works. But ask yourself, is the price worth it? By giving into the request, we are teaching the child to cry or whine to get whatever he wants. I can not stress this enough - Never ever give in to a crying, whining or tantrum request! If your child requests something while crying, you must request that he stop crying and ask nicely before you give him whatever he wants. If you are consistent, the crying and whining will decrease over time.
4. We say no 100 times a day and I can almost guarantee that 75% of those NO’s could be YES’s. If we rephrase our response to a more positive alternative and redirect the child instead of just saying no, we can reduce the child’s frustration in being told NO.
· Instead of saying just NO, what he CAN’T do, tell the child what he CAN do. “Can I have a cookie mom?” Instead of immediately saying no, you can say “Yes, you can have a cookie when you finish your dinner”.
· Do not forget to give at least two YES’s for each NO. “I want to play outside” Try “It’s too cold right now but we CAN play blocks or dance inside”.
By the way, when you say “NO” to your child, you are teaching him/her to say
“NO” to you when you place a request on him/her. So, save the NO’s for when it is
necessary. If you child is running to the street or playing with a knife, that’s a NO.
5. A Time-Out should be used to remove a child from an environment where he is being rewarded for a bad behavior, such as getting attention, and place him in an environment where he receives NO reward for the behavior. If you are in the grocery store and your child throws a tantrum, be ready to leave the cart full of groceries and remove your child from that environment where he is getting a lot of attention from you and the rest of the customers, and take him to the car, where you are able to ignore the crying and screaming, thus placing the behavior on extinction: no attention. Be sure that the tantrum is your child’s way to get attention. If your child is over stimulated by the environment, in pain, scared, hungry or tired, do not use time-out, do not ignore the behavior. Your child needs your help.
Learn how to behave so your child will too.
Daniel Adatto, BCBA