|As parents, family members, teachers or other caregivers, we often have to guide young children with learning how to replace challenging behaviors with appropriate behaviors. Here are some general tips for successful behavior management with young children:
And finally, remember that helping a child change his/her behavior means that we as caregivers need to change our behavior. Children learn so much from watching, and then imitating, their primary caregivers in their life. And know that change takes TIME. It takes many opportunities to change and make better choices.... sometimes for a lifetime.
- Gain the child's attention visually before giving instructions. Get down at their eye level and make eye contact.
- Be positive. Use short, positive directions in place of comments like "Cut that out." For example, if a child is hitting, say "Hands down." This teaches the child a positive skill to replace the inappropriate behavior of hitting.
- Most interactions with the child should be positive and build on the child's strengths and following directions. Again, be positive and specific. For example, if you ask your child to wait quietly while you take a phone call and he does wait quietly, instead of saying "good boy" say "I appreciate the way you were quiet when I was on the phone." This helps your child know WHAT he did well.
- As much as possible, discipline in a quiet place away from others.
- When the child is attentive, calm and listening, talk about and give examples of expected behavior and consequences. Teach or role-play ways to use words to express what they want or need instead of using aggressive behavior. For example, when playing with your child with his cars, say, "Remember when you were playing with Joey and you hit him when he took your car?" Discuss and offer other ways to solve the problem such as offering to trade toys, or give Joey the truck when your child is done using it.
- Like all people, children like to have control in their lives. Give choices, making sure the choices are acceptable to you and you can follow through on them.
- When you need to discipline, use a calm, slow voice.
- Prior to times that you know may be challenging for a child, talk about your expectations and consequences for the child.
- Provide discipline/consequences immediately, if possible, and if not immediately, as soon as possible.
- Give an acting out child space and time to calm themselves. Sometimes that's all they need.
- Ultimately, children need to be responsible for their actions and it's our role as parents and caregivers to help them learn to problem solve and use appropriate behavior.