We just recently interviewed Margery Healy, The Compassionate Parent Coach. Margery has been working with families for several years helping them create peace and harmony in their homes. She is extremely passionate and knowledgeable in the topic of parenting and behaviour strategies. On our podcast Margery walks us through 6 solid tips that you can use right away if you’re struggling with your child’s behaviour.
1.Choose one behaviour to work on at a time… decide what the behaviour is and what you want to teach your child in the process? For ex. if they are hitting, you would want to teach them to be gentle and to use their hands softly when interacting with other children and adults. It is important that you decide what it is you want to see and that it is a positive. If you go in and tackle 5 or 6 things at once you will be more likely to throw in the towel and give up. As well, chances are you will learn something from modifying one behaviour that you can apply to modifying another… and sometimes, another behaviour will clear up on its own while working on the behaviour of choice… and as we go along I will tell you why that might happen… for now, it is just a magical bonus if it does!
2.Quick & Dirty Research Pays Off – I know we all like to jump in and just deal with the behaviour you are trying to change, however, if we take a few minutes to ask ourselves some questions we can develop a well thought out strategy that is more likely to yield a positive result. Here are some questions I invite you to ask yourself before modifying/guiding your child’s behaviour: Have I been successful in modifying a behaviour before? If yes, what about that was successful? For ex. was it my consistency? What strengths do I have as a parent, that I can capitalize on? What strengths does my child have that I can capitalize on? If you take your time to do some research you will begin to identify a pattern of character traits and strategies that work consistently regardless of what behaviour you are working on.
3.Developing a Strategy – things to think about: I want to subsection this part… A:) Management – is the behaviour something you can simply manage – for ex. my child is slamming the french doors – can you remove the french doors for now? My child is getting the markers and drawing on the walls – can you put the markers in a place that is inaccessible. This goes for many things… be one step ahead of your child and remove
anything and everything you think could end in disaster. B:) can you indulge/redirect the behaviour – for ex. if a child is biting can you clip a teething ring to the child’s clothes and every time they bite offer them that instead. Another ex. If a child won’t stop using potty words, can you give them a place in your house where they can use potty words – the bathroom. If a child loves to hit, can you provide them with a hitting pillow, hence if they feel frustration and need to hit, they can find their special pillow. However, please remember that most behaviour such as hitting, biting, pushing, grabbing etc is impulsive and they are not premeditated. So please be patient with your little ones when using redirection. As well, leading to my next strategy… if redirection is not working on the first try you might want to C:) Assess the overall picture – for ex. when does my child exhibit the unwanted behaviour the most? and what is it that they might need? And can I provide that? For ex. If a child is in a social setting and cannot stop biting or hitting, it may be because the social setting is too overwhelming and they don’t know how to communicate that to you. Or maybe they are overtired or hungry and they do not know how to say, ‘hey mom, I am feeling tired, I need a break from this playdate’ I often say that when we see a behaviour on repeat we need to look at the overall situation. This also tells us that sometimes we think that our child is just being aggressive, when all they are really trying to do is express themselves and they do not know how. D:) Natural Consequence whenever and wherever possible. There is nothing like a natural consequence. For ex. If they are throwing food, remove the food. If they are hitting a child remove the hitter from the situation or remove the child being hit. E:) refrain from further punishment – we can do an entire podcast and how ineffective punishment can be and why. For now, I will offer that in most cases removing a child’s favourite toy in hopes to motivate impulsive behaviour will often backfire as a strategy. F:) Be creative – parents are the most creative people I know… usually because by the time we decide to modify a behaviour we are desperate and exhausted and completely done… so I invite you to tap into that creativity. Parents I work with come up with far better ideas than I ever would. G:) stick to a plan and give it time – research shows that
when we are clear, concise and consistent we will get results H:) Combine A,B,C & D… feel free to use a combination of the first four strategies. For ex. if a child is into throwing toys that could cause damage, you could remove those toys (natural consequence) and offer them nerf balls and a bucket or something soft that they can throw. (redirection) If you can’t find an actual toy… see if they can throw socks into the washing machine… or frozen peas into a big tupper ware… (creativity)
4.What is Normal: sometimes when a child exhibits behaviour we can be unsure whether it is ‘normal’… i like to use the words, ‘age appropriate’… if we do not have a frame of reference, ie, an older child or peer, we can be uncertain. If you find yourself uncertain, check in with your health care provider, or your child’s teacher. Everything is probably age appropriate, but it is nice to simply know for sure and than you can relax and simply deal with what is being exhibited
5.Emotions – Sometimes our children behaviour triggers our own emotional response. This is because we often worry that their behaviour can equate to something life long… For ex. my child hits therefore they are aggressive and might be aggressive forever and what if no one wants to play with them and what if they never stop hitting and get labelled the mean kid. The list of worries goes on. The truth is that if you are listening to this podcast you are a loving and caring parent who is going to support your child and it would be far fetched to think that your child will turn into an aggressive human being. As well, remember that children are trying to express a need and just need help expressing it. Hence if we can put our fears and worries to rest we be less emotional. When we are less emotional our children are more likely going to respond to our efforts to modify the exhibited behaviour.
6.BE KIND – be kind to yourself… be kind to other parents plights… we are all facing different challenges at different times… modifying behaviour takes time… take care of the person who is working so hard to raise great kids.
If you want to know more about The Compassionate Parent Coach you can find her at http://thcompassionateparentcoach.com
She is also on Instagram @thecompassionateparentcoach
If you’d like to listen to Margery’s full episode about these tips you can listen to her on our podcast here.