Parents often struggle with ways to respond to a child’s challenging behavior and ways of reinforcing positive behavior. We see our kids struggling, but we can’t quite figure out what we need to do differently. One key is to provide consistent messages when communicating with your child or redirecting their behavior. If you are inconsistent in what you allow your child to do, and the limits you set, the door is open for them to challenge you when you say “no.”
Another challenge for parents is wanting to lecture their child on all the reasons why they shouldn’t do something or what they did was wrong or a problem. Most children do not respond well to lectures on the morality of their behavior, and they’re more likely to shut down and not listen when they are being lectured. Parents can help reinforcing positive behavior much easier if they stop talking. Strategies to engage your child differently actually include talking less. We typically help parents state the concern, pause, state the expectation and stop talking. While we all want our children to understand the moral and ethical reasons why they should not do what they did, you probably lost them after the first sentence in a long lecture. Additionally, the child is likely to win the battle as they continue to engage you in all the reasons why they can’t have something or do something.
Children that are struggling, especially at school, often get more negative feedback than positive, which can have last effects on their self-esteem and future behavior. The last thing your child needs is more negative feedback. Instead, think about how you can use the situation to turn it to a teaching moment!
Rather than make your child feel bad about what has happened, think about reframing the situation to allow them opportunities to learn from the situation! It is
always good to start with observations, “ ‘I can tell you were frustrated when…’ or ‘I’m wondering what we can do differently when that happens.’” Your child also needs positive feedback, so if you notice they do something different be sure to praise them! Reinforcing positive behavior with positive feedback related to their ability to make good choices will go a long way to make sure the behavior occurs again, and ultimately, it will reinforce the behavior patterns that are helpful for their future!
This is the second in a series of blogs written to help parents better understand how to work with their children when behaviors get in the way of everyone being happy. We’re passionate about your family and your child’s success, and we want to help further your family’s joy!