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Five Things You Can Do Today To Better Manage Your Child’s Behavior

It’s the moment that every parent dreads, and one that every parent can relate to; the public meltdown.  Your cute, typically agreeable child now seems to be nothing but flailing arms and legs, and a giant mouth screaming words that become less intelligible with every passing second.  Your face is flushed, people are staring, and you have a cart full of groceries.  You frantically attempt some complicated mental arithmetic to see if you can scoop up your child, who now appears to have grown at least four additional limbs, and quickly check out.  You can’t, you don’t.  You take one last, longing look at a week’s worth of shopping melting in your cart, grab your child, and go, wondering if you will ever complete an errand at any time over the next 10 years.  If this scenario is all too familiar to you, read on to learn about helpful changes that you can make today!

1.  Plan to stop problem behaviors before they start:  Think back to your child’s last tantrum, and the one before that, and the one before that.  Notice anything in common? Maybe they all happened after your child transitioned from one thing to another, or perhaps they’re happening right before dinner time.  Frequent warnings and visual timers can work wonders for kids who struggle with transitions.  Children who’ve just had a snack might be less likely to tantrum when you say no to that candy bar in the check-out line.  Over time, managing what happens BEFORE problem behaviors occur will save your time, your sanity, and your groceries.

2.  Develop rules, rewards and consequences:  We would all like to think that our kids are above average.  In fact, we all do believe that our kids are superior to everyone else’s.  Despite how absolutely wonderful our little angels are, they don’t come into the world understanding the rules unless we teach them.  Sit down with your children and develop the house rules together.  If they feel some ownership over the rules, they will be more likely to follow them.  Of course be prepared to veto the more outlandish suggestions; there will be absolutely no Sliding Down the Banister Saturdays.  Once the rules are laid out, make sure that the entire household understands what the rewards are for following the rules, and what the consequences are for breaking the rules.  Before you say, reinforcement is just bribery, check out this link to learn the difference.

3.  Use effective rewards and consequences EVERY TIME:  In order for rewards and consequences to really work, they have to be delivered consistently.  If it’s understood that if your child hits someone that the consequence is a time-out, the time-out should happen immediately, every time the problem behavior occurs.  Do you struggle with choosing appropriate discipline strategies? Check out this helpful handout.

4.  Give behavior specific praise often:  Did you catch your child doing something good? We can become so wrapped up in focusing on the negative, that we fear stepping in and pointing out the positive will somehow cause more problems.  What happens then is that kids learn that they only receive attention for negative behaviors.  Make sure to give praise often, and specifically.  So, instead of telling your child that he or she is being “good,” try, “I really love the way that you’re playing with your sister and keeping your hands to yourself!”

5.  Learn to take parental time-outs:  Think time outs are just for kids?  Think again!  Don’t wait until you’re at the end of your rope to take care of yourself.  If you feel that you’re in danger of losing control of your emotions, take a step back, take some deep breaths, and return to the situation when you’re more calm and collected.

Do you struggle with your child’s problem behaviors?  Residents of New York and Florida, call (888) 535-5671, or email [email protected] to set up a free consultation to see if Behavioral Parent Training might help you!

Dr. Scrivani specializes in the Cognitive Behavioral treatment of anxiety and related disorders, behavioral parent training, and provides tele-mental health services to residents of New York, Florida, and internationally. Call (888) 535-5671 or email [email protected]  Visit Dr. Scrivani’s  iTherapy webpage to learn more.

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