Children “act out” for many reasons and in many different ways. Often, the children we work with at Child’sPlay Therapy Center exhibit behaviors which are the result of their delay or disability. For example, they may be frustrated by difficulty communicating, or they may be reacting to overstimulation due to a sensory processing disorder. Other times, children just misbehave! This is a normal part of childhood, and it’s our role as parents and therapists to encourage good behavior which supports self-respect and respect for others. Skills in managing behavior also teach the importance of social rules and the consequences of our actions.
Consistency is the most important factor in positive behavior management. If you tell your child “no” in the candy aisle of the grocery store, and she throws a tantrum, don’t give in and give her the candy. That teaches her that screaming in public gets her what she wants! If you tell your child you are going to put him in time-out, but then don’t follow through, you haven’t given the child a reason to stop the behavior, and it will probably continue. You have also just taught your child that you don’t mean what you say, and in fact, aren’t to be trusted! Children need boundaries and consistency.
Children need to understand that you mean what you say. They need to understand the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. A good way to demonstrate this is through a change in your voice. Use a stern voice, but don’t yell. And keep your facial expression serious. Kids get confused if you are smiling while you are saying “no”. Keep calm! If you lose control, the situation often escalates.
Keep your rules simple and clear. Make sure your child understands the rules ahead of time. Use simple vocabulary and few words. If a rule is broken, don’t talk too much. Just tell him what will happen if the behavior continues. For example, “if you throw the crayons, we have to put them away”. Then stick to it if they throw the crayons!
- Visual schedules with pictures can help a child know what to expect
- Behavioral charts are great for rewarding and reinforcing good behaviors
- Give choices: kids feel they have some control if they can choose between 2 or 3 options
- Time-Out: designate a time out spot for quiet time after the tantrum is over
Every child is different, and some behavior techniques work better for some children than for others. You need to find what works best for you, your child, and your family as a whole. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, you should consult your pediatrician or your current therapist. In some cases, a behavioral interventionist may be helpful in developing a plan of action.