I get this question a lot: “How do I get my child to stop…” It’s a valid question. Our kids do a million things that are inappropriate, annoying, dangerous, and down right embarrassing. I’m going to answer the question I think you’re trying to ask when you say that with these five things.
1. Catch them behaving well!! If sitting in their chairs is something that is difficult for them, Praise them when they are doing it!! Some examples: “Great job sitting in your seat!” “I love the way you’re sitting in your chair like a big kid!” “When you sit at the table, then we can have fun together!” “When you sit at the table, then we can enjoy dinner together”. They will start noticing that you are praising them when they are sitting, and they will want to do more of it! Kids love attention. They don’t, however, have the ability to differentiate between negative and positive attention. The goal is to give them more attention to the positive behaviors, and with consistency, over time the negative behaviors will diminish.
2. Ignore the annoying stuff!! Okay, so some of you may be rolling your eyes at this one and saying “But they just keep getting louder!!” or “ Then, they escalate the behavior.” Yes. That’s true initially. BUT, if you are consistent. And I mean consistent. Every time. The behavior will extinguish once they know they will not get your attention for it. When I say annoying stuff, I mean the noises, the tapping, the using a toy in the wrong way, and anything else “annoying” or unwanted your kids might be doing. I know they can come up with some creative things! I do not, and I repeat, do not, mean for you to ignore dangerous behaviors. Those cannot be ignored! These are just the little things you find yourself repeating to stop over and over.
3. Model doing it yourself! Monkey See, Monkey Do, right? Do the thing you want your kids to do! They learn everything from you anyways. Why not teach them some positive things! (I’m kidding, everything you do is great!) If you want them to sit in their seat at dinner, then you must sit down and say what you’re doing. “I’m sitting at the dinner table so I can enjoy my dinner.” “I’m using my gentle hands when I hold your baby sister”, “I’m using my indoor voice because we are inside and baby sister is sleeping”. Things like that. It sounds silly to just say what you are doing, but it works. What you are doing is bringing awareness and words to your behavior and you’re also showing your child what you’d like them to do!
4. Listen to them. What do you mean?? Listen to what your child is saying to you. If they’re having a rough day, get on their level and ask them what’s going on. Abstain from demanding an answer if they’re not ready to talk. You might say something when they are calm like: “ I noticed you throwing your toys earlier, what’s up?” This might lead to an interesting conversation about their frustration where you can empathize with their feelings and help problem solve. This is also not the time for lecturing! Listening is our goal here, and it will ultimately lead us to number 5! What if they don’t talk yet? See number 5!
5. Find out their need. Again, what? I’ll break it down. Pay attention to the behaviors they’re displaying. What time a day is it? What happened before, or what’s coming up soon? Are they hot, cold, hungry, tired, or angry? Do they need to explore the world around them? Do they need comfort? This one is tricky and definitely takes some time to get to know your child’s cues. In the end, you are the expert on your children, so really only you can answer this one. Boiling it down to the root of the issue helps to begin the problem-solving journey. Kid’s behaviors are like fire alarms. If our kitchen is on fire, we’re not going to spray the fire extinguisher at the fire alarm. We’re going to spray the bottom of the fire to put it out. It’s the same with our children’s behaviors, if we just deal with the behavior they are showing, it’s going to keep coming up and we’re never going really “put out the fire”.
If you’ve found these tips helpful, but you’d like more, I offer 8 week Circle of Security groups, as well as work with parents to strengthen relationships with their children. Send me an email and we will figure out what works best for you and your family.