Tag Archives: Behavior

How to Deal with and Prevent Disruptive Behavior with Your Kid(s)

10 May

This article really resonated with me.  My wife and I spend a lot of time thinking through how we deal with our kids, and how we enable them to exhibit the behaviors or characteristics that we think will make them well-rounded (hopefully) human beings.  What really strikes me with this piece is that at least it admits that it DOES take a lot of work — from adjusting the environment (we do this for our daughter’s violin ‘area’ – a designated place where all her materials are neatly arranged), to setting expectations and dealing with consequences appropriately.  THIS is why I scoff at people who are advocates of corporal punishment or as they sometimes call it ‘just spanking’ — if only things were that simple!  In reality we build the framework for which our kids will grow — its like saying all a plant needs to grow is some minimal care and yelling at it to “GROW!!!!NOW!!!!” once in a while.  Personally we can vouch for the “When, Then…” statements — it worked magically for our kids – simple, short and to the point – this was one of the first invaluable tips our older daughter’s Montessori Guide suggested and we still go back to it — when you start reflecting on what you say to your kids, you’ll be surprised at how WORDY you can get when in actuality the simpler (& shorter) the better, especially the younger your kids are.  I know at the end of the day there are a lot of factors that shape a child’s behavior and this article is a good overview of where to start.  Have you used any of the tips in this article?

Dealing With Disruptive Behavior

Experts from the Child Mind Institute share the techniques they use with kids in behavioral therapy — so you can use them at home to improve your own child’s behavior.

One of the biggest challenges parents face is managing their children’s difficult or defiant behavior. Whether children are refusing to put on their shoes, ignoring instructions to turn off a video game, shoving a sibling, or throwing a full-blown tantrum, you can find yourself at a loss for an effective way to respond.

In behavioral therapy, psychologists or psychiatrists help parents maximize the kind of behavior they want to encourage, and minimize the kind they’d like to see less of. There are well-tested techniques that help parents become more confident, calm, consistent, and successful when they interact with their children. These techniques also help children develop the skills they need to regulate their own behavior and have happier relationships with their families, teachers, and friends.

Here are the basics of a good behavioral management plan that you can use at home.

Define BehaviorsThe first step is to identify the target behaviors that you either want to encourage or discourage. These behaviors should be specific, observable, and measurable (so everyone can agree whether or not the behavior happened). An example of poorly defined behavior is “being good” or “acting up.” A well-defined behavior would be “grabbing another child’s toy” or “sitting nicely at the dinner table.”

Set the StageOnce you’ve targeted behaviors you want to see more or less of, you should focus on the antecedents, or the preceding factors that make the behaviors more or less likely to occur. These are ways to increase the likelihood of positive behavior and decrease the likelihood of negative behavior.

Adjust the environment. For a homework session, for instance, remove distractions like video screens and toys, provide a snack if your child is hungry, and schedule breaks to help him stay alert.

Make expectations clear. You’ll get better cooperation if you think clearly about what you are expecting, and tell your child with words. For example, explain that bedtime is at 8:00 on school nights. It starts with putting on pajamas, brushing teeth, using the bathroom, and a half hour of reading together in bed before lights out. It’s even more helpful to write expectations out and hang them up (using pictures if your child can’t read yet).

Countdown to transitions. Whenever possible, prepare your child for an upcoming transition. Let her know when there are 10 minutes remaining before she must come to dinner or start cleaning up. Then remind her when there are two minutes left. Be sure that you actually make the transition at the stated time.

Give a choice when possible. Providing two options is a good way to set up structure while empowering your child to have a say. You might ask, “Do you want to take a shower before dinner or after?” or “Do you want to turn off the TV or should I?” The key is that the choice should be presented calmly and politely.

Use “when, then” statements. These are a useful tool that offers a clear expectation as well as a reward for cooperating. For example: “When you complete your homework, then you will get to play on the iPad.” Make sure you present the “when, then” calmly and limit how often you repeat yourself.

Give Instructions EffectivelyPsychologists help parents choose pick the right words to get the results they want.

Use statements, not questions. “Please take out your math worksheet” or “Please sit down” is better than “Are you ready to get out your homework?”

Tell your child what to do instead of what not to do. If he’s jumping on the couch, you want to say, “Please get down from the couch” instead of “Please stop jumping.”

Be clear and specific. Instead of “Go ahead,” say, “Please go start your reading assignment.” Instead of “Settle down,” say, “Please use your inside voice.”

Give instructions calmly and respectfully. This helps your child learn to be polite when speaking to others. She’ll also learn to listen to calm instructions instead of listening only when you shout instructions or her name several times.

Say it once. After you give an instruction, wait a few seconds, rather than repeating what you said. Your child will learn to listen to instructions the first time, rather than assuming you’ll say them again.

Choose the Right ConsequencesA great deal of managing misbehavior is focused on preventing it, but the second important piece is responding properly to it. Let’s look at consequences that don’t have the desired effect — encouraging positive behaviors and discouraging negative ones — and then at some that do.

Ineffective ConsequencesNegative attention. Children value attention from the important adults in their life so much that any attention — positive or negative — is better than none. Reacting emotionally to your child’s misbehavior — “Don’t speak to me like that!” — will actually increase the behavior over time. Criticizing him in this way can also hurt his self-esteem.

Delayed consequences. It’s best to respond immediately. For every moment that passes after a behavior, your child is less likely to link her behavior to the consequence. It becomes punishing for the sake of punishing, and will be much less likely to actually change her behavior.

Disproportionate consequences. At times, you may be so frustrated that you take away a privilege for a week or a month. In addition to being a delayed consequence, this may be developmentally inappropriate for a child who doesn’t have a sense of time. A huge consequence can be demoralizing, so that he gives up even trying to behave.

Positive consequences. When your child dawdles instead of putting on her shoes or picking up her blocks, and you get so impatient that you do it for her, you increasing the likelihood that he’ll dawdle again next time.

Effective ConsequencesPraise for appropriate behavior. Catching your child being good makes the behavior more likely to happen again. Praise is most valuable when it’s specific. Instead of saying “Great job!” you can say, “Thank you for putting away your blocks neatly!” Repeating or paraphrasing a child’s words (“Thank you for asking me if you could use the computer”) shows that you are listening and helps encourage his verbal skills. When you describe a positive behavior, you help your child understand exactly what you expect.

Active ignoring. This strategy should be used only for minor misbehaviors?not for aggression or very destructive behavior. When your child starts to misbehave, you deliberately withdraw your attention. This means no eye contact, no talking, and no nonverbal interaction. No sighing, no smiling, no nothing. The active part is that you’re waiting for your child to behave properly. For whining, you are waiting for her to speak in an appropriate tone. For rough play, you are waiting for gentle play. Then give positive attention as soon as the desired behavior starts. When your child shifts to a respectful tone, for instance, you should immediately make eye contact, smile, and say, “Thank you for speaking to me nicely.” By withholding your attention until you get positive behavior, you are teaching her what behavior gets you to engage.

Reward menus. Rewards are a tangible way to give your child positive feedback for desired behaviors. Not a bribe, a reward is something a child earns — it’s an acknowledgment that she’s doing something that’s difficult for her. Rewards are most effective as motivators when your child can select from a range of choices — which not only gives her a feeling of control, but also reduces the possibility that a given reward will lose its appeal over time. A reward can be a privilege or activity (time on the iPad, a story, a trip to the playground) or a tangible reward (small treasures like marbles or stickers, or points towards a small purchase). Give rewards for specific target behaviors, post them on a chart so your child can see them, deliver or withhold them consistently, and update them every couple of weeks.

Time-outs. A time-out is one of the most effective consequences, but it is also one of the hardest to use correctly. A time-out should be given immediately after your child engages in a negative behavior that you’ve explained in advance will lead to time-out. If time-outs happen randomly — once you’ve been pushed to the limit — your child won’t know what to expect. During a time-out, do not talk to your child until it is over. Rather than having a specific time limit based on your child’s age, the time-out should end immediately after your child has been calm and quiet briefly, so she receives the “reward” for acting appropriately. Don’t forget this last, very important, step: If you issued the time-out because your child wouldn’t comply with a task, tell her to complete the original task. That way, the time-out won’t have been a successful avoidance strategy for her.

Copyright © 2012 Meredith Corporation.


http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

Discipline Tactics for Infants to School Age Children

1 Aug


Parenting – from the birth of a child we look for milestones to give praise (first smile, firm grip of parents’ finger, etc.) and discipline comes along shortly thereafter – initially for safety (stay away from electric outlets, cords, etc.).  But once your child is a toddler and understands what is being said to him/her, mindless praise like “Good Boy” can become meaningless – Be specific – What did he do that was good?  In my home we try to say “Thank you for helping put away the toys”, “Look how happy you made your sister by playing nicely with her”, “You should be proud of yourself for remembering to wash your hands before dinner”, and “That’s great that you shared your treat when your sister saw you with a snack.”

Once an infant is mobile – starts crawling & getting into things, rather than always using the word “NO” (come on, who wants to hear the word no all the time), my wife and I felt “Stop”, “Be Careful” or “That’s dangerous” worked well and provided the same message. 

When it come to having our 19-month-old and 5-year-old girls stick to a schedule or complete one thing before moving on to another, we found “First X, then Y” to be very effective.  “First put away the dress-up clothes, then you can play a board game.”  “First take a bath, then you can read books.”  “First help clear the dining table, then we can have dessert.”  This keeps it simple and clearly states what’s expected and in what order.  If it’s an extremely unruly day, we have to step it up a notch – “If you are not done cleaning up your art table within the next 10 minutes, we will not have time for a bike ride before dinner.” This higher level statement tells your child what is expected, in what time frame and what they will possibly be giving up & why.  When giving a time limit, if your child knows how tell time on a clock it’s helpful to state the time deadline (4:45pm).  If they do not know how to tell time on a clock, set a timer on your cell phone and give a 2-5 minute warning.

Along the lines of this parenting topic, below is an article from Parents.Com with some more helpful tips.  What works for you?  Please share by leaving a comment!  Thanks!


Discipline Tactics For Every Age

mother and son laughing
Praise the Positive

Who? Birth and up

Why? Discipline won’t work if the only time you focus on your child is when he’s acting up. Children crave recognition from their parents, and, although positive attention is ideal, they’ll take what they can get–even if that means an angry reaction to the whack they just gave their little brother. Barbara Stefanacci, a mother of two from Clifton, New Jersey, recognizes that her children’s tantrums are a cry for attention: “They’re close in age and always competing with each other.” So how does she handle this rivalry? “I talk to them. If that doesn’t work, I give them a huge hug, which usually puts them back in a good mood.”

How? Try to “catch” children being good. It’s as simple as thanking your son for picking the toy trucks off the floor (never mind that he’s the reason they’re there in the first place) or for sharing his toys with his sister. It’s important to be specific when offering praise. Phrases like “good boy” don’t encourage a behavior–they’ll make your child think that he (and not his action) is either good or bad, rather than teaching him that sharing, for example, is the practice that makes you proud.

upset toddler
Create a Diversion

Who? 6 to 24 months

Why? The word “no” becomes more common when babies start crawling and can get into things previously out of their reach. While their behavior may be irksome, kids are just indulging their natural curiosity.

How? When you catch your baby reaching for a lamp cord, get her attention by calling her name or making a funny sound. Offer her a more acceptable toy, explaining, “Let’s play with these blocks rather than that cord–I wouldn’t want the lamp to fall and hurt you.” While most children this age aren’t able to remember rules, they are easily distracted.

toddler taking bath
Set a Schedule

Who? 6 months and up

Why? Power struggles and meltdowns over bedtime and cleaning up are common with toddlers. With consistent routines, children are more likely to feel they have control over what happens to them, which can help to reduce outbursts.

Although it may be hard to believe when your kid refuses to forgo playing with her new toy and take a bath, children do take comfort in being able to predict, it’s bathtime now, which means that bedtime must be coming soon. Routines provide a sense of security, and it’s your job as a parent to provide these feelings of safety and love.

How? Routines, and the rules that come with them, vary from household to household, but the trick here is to make sure you set limits you know you’ll follow through on, such as a 7 p.m. bedtime or always washing your hands before eating. Otherwise, kids become what Lynn Lott, coauthor of Positive Discipline A-Z, calls parent deaf: When parents give an order, children tune out the instructions because the rules haven’t been enforced in the past and therefore probably won’t be enforced this time.

child behavior
Explain Yourself

Who? 24 months and up

Why? At this age children are beginning to grasp the difference between right and wrong. By giving your child a reason for your instruction, you’re allowing her to understand why one behavior is better than another, which “sets kids up for being able to handle similar decisions on their own in the future,” Lott explains.

How? Instead of always telling a child what not to do, explain to her what you’d like her to do, then follow up with specifics. For instance, if you see your daughter starting to scrawl a masterpiece on your wall, resist the urge to yell, “No!” while yanking the crayon out of her hand. Explain that although coloring is a great idea, you shouldn’t do it on walls. Let her know that in the future, she needs to do all her coloring on paper.

child in timeout
Break Up the Action

Who? 24 months and up

Why? “Time-outs are a way of breaking the behavior cycle,” says T. Berry Brazelton, coauthor of Discipline: The Brazelton Way. They not only allow your child time to calm down, but they offer a minute of relief for you as well.

How? Time-outs are just a break from the tension of the moment, so they shouldn’t last more than a couple of minutes, or until the child has calmed down, even if it takes only 30 seconds. Lead him to a chair away from toys. Explain that he needs to stay there until he can calm down. When he’s ready to talk, tell him why you think he was misbehaving (e.g., “You were mad because Tommy took your toy”). This will help him recognize and deal with his feelings. Once the air is cleared, offer him a hug so he knows you were unhappy with his behavior, not with him. “This is the time to show your child that he can be in the wrong and still be forgiven, respected, and loved,” adds Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Discipline Solution.

toddler tantrum
Tantrum Tip

Tantrums are a toddler’s way of voicing frustration. When Kristine Mancusi, a mother from Wallington, New Jersey, senses a tantrum coming on, her tactic is simple: “I wait a few seconds, take a deep breath, and let my son go with it.” Intense emotions are a natural part of life, so allow your child the chance to be angry. Let her know that you’re ready to talk once she’s calmed down–and do talk to her. You may be happy to get past the fit, but if you discuss the reasons behind the fireworks, you’ll help avoid a similar scene in the future.

Copyright © 2009 Meredith Corporation.


http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.

Just-Right Discipline…

11 Mar

Do you and your spouse have different parenting styles or discipline techniques/beliefs?  My wife and I strongly feel a united front is always best – even if we don’t agree with what the other already said to or daughter(s), we discuss it later – not in front of the kids.

Do you find each stage of your child’s life offers new challenges and issues to address?  We sure do!  And our two daughters are rather different from each other, so what we dealt with when Julia was a young toddler is much different then the things we are going through now with Stella…

At any rate, when I came across this on-line article from Parents.Com, I found it very helpful and insightful as I am guilty of some of the Too Harsh and Too Whimpy replies, but at the same time I can say we did some of the “Just Right” answers as well.  Whew, to live is to learn and in my household there’s a lot of living and learning always going on!

Just-Right Discipline

Kids sure know how to push your buttons. But the way you respond when they act up determines whether you’ll get better behavior next time.

By KJ Dell’Antonia


You’ve said no — it’s too close to dinnertime for a sweet. In fact, you’ve said no more than once. But when you come back into the kitchen, you find your preschooler hanging precariously off the freezer door with a box of Popsicles clutched in her hand.

Do you explode? Or give in and let her have the pop? Either reaction would be normal because your brain tends to operate on autopilot in stressful situations. “But if you respond in an overly harsh or wimpy way, you miss the opportunity to teach your child the skills she needs to do the right thing in the future,” says Becky Bailey, Ph.D., author of Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. It’s tough to keep your cool, but it’ll be easier to discipline thoughtfully if you’ve already considered smart responses like the ones for the following situations.

When crossing the street, your 4-year-old won’t hold your hand.
  • Too Harsh “If you can’t hold on, I’ll pick you up and carry you!”
  • Too Wimpy “Fine. But please stay really close to me, okay?”
  • Just Right “When we get to the light, we will hold hands.”

Holding hands when you cross the street is one of those non-negotiable safety issues. “This shouldn’t be a debate. If she refuses, just take her hand,” says Lynne Reeves Griffin, author of Negotiation Generation. Even when you threaten to carry her, you still make it sound like she has a choice.


When she won’t share

Your 2-year-old snatches a toy train away from his friend who came over to play.
  • Too Harsh “Bad boy! Give that back!”
  • Too Wimpy “Come on… please say that you’re sorry.”
  • Just Right “You really want a turn, and you’re going to get a turn. You and Mommy can play with blocks together, and after we stack up ten blocks, it will be your turn to have the train.”

Sharing doesn’t come naturally for toddlers — especially at their own house. Don’t let your disappointment over your child’s “selfish” behavior (or worries about what the other parent will think) interfere with your ability to reinforce the concept of taking turns, no matter how many times you feel like you’ve covered this ground before, says Parents advisor Sal Severe, Ph.D., author of How to Behave So Your Preschooler Will, Too! Remind him that his friend is only playing with the train for a little while, and use terms he can understand to explain how long he’ll have to wait. When you’re alone later, you can practice sharing, to help him appreciate the fact that taking turns doesn’t mean losing a toy forever.

You’re at the store and your 5-year-old keeps putting sugary cereals and candy in your cart.
  • Too Harsh “Pull one more thing off the shelves and we leave with nothing!”
  • Too Wimpy “Okay, we can buy that, but only this once.”
  • Just Right “These are the two cereals we can buy. You can choose which one you’d like. If you put anything else in the cart, you have to put it back.”

“It’s natural for young kids to want these foods — after all, the packaging is designed to attract their curiosity,” says Dr. Severe. Since you’re focused on your list, your child may be tossing items into the cart in order to get your attention — or to sneak in treats because you’re distracted. Keep her engaged from the start by allowing her to make choices about items on the list (yellow or red apples? chocolate or vanilla pudding?) and let her put things you’re buying into the cart for you.


When he won’t go to bed

Your preschooler is out of bed again asking for his third drink of water of the night.
  • Too Harsh “I’m going to lock this door so you can’t come out again!”
  • Too Wimpy “Daddy will lie down with you until you fall asleep.”
  • Just Right “Let’s have one final hug and get tucked in. It’s time for sleep.”

As frustrating as this is, try not to let your child see that you’re annoyed. When he pops out, calmly walk him back to bed — and don’t give him any snacks or read an extra book unless you want to be doing this every night. He probably imagines that all sorts of exciting things are happening after he goes to sleep; when you make his repeat appearances boring and repetitive, they’ll eventually stop.

Your toddler is having a tantrum because you turned off the TV, and she kicks you in the shins.
  • Too Harsh “That’s it. This time you’ve gone too far. You can forget about watching television — ever!”
  • Too Wimpy “I know you’re upset, but how would you feel if I kicked you?”
  • Just Right “You hurt Mommy. Let me know when you have calmed down, and we can talk about why you’re upset.”

“The right response is probably the opposite of what your instincts are telling you,” says Betsy Brown Braun, a child-development and behavior specialist and author of Just Tell Me What to Say. Rather than punishing her for kicking, just walk away (and take the remote with you). Separating yourself is a powerful strategy; you won’t stay with her if she hurts you, but you won’t let her distract you from the original issue. Later on, remind her that no matter what she’s feeling, it’s never okay to hurt another person. If you get mad and yell at her instead, there’s a good chance you’ll feel guilty afterward and may even turn the TV back on.

When she throws a tantrum
It’s time for you to go home from a playdate, and your 4-year-old decides to throw a fit.
  • Too Harsh “Stop that right now or we’re never coming back.”
  • Too Wimpy “We’ll stay a little longer.”
  • Just Right “We’ll leave in five minutes. Our next stop is the supermarket — do you want to ride in a shopping cart, or push a little cart on your own?”

No child likes to end a fun playdate, so give a warning and change the subject to the next activity. “Offering two choices about what to do next will give him some control over what’s going on,” says Dr. Bailey. Time is a tough concept for kids, so it’s helpful to use a visual cue: Hold your hands out far apart to indicate a five-minute warning, then move them closer when there are two minutes left, and put them together when it’s time to go.

Your kids are screaming at each other and you can’t take it.
  • Too Harsh “That’s enough! Both of you go to your room this minute!”
  • Too Wimpy “Come and tell me what’s wrong, and I’ll figure out a solution.”
  • Just Right “I don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t want to know, but if you can’t work it out quietly, you both need to leave the room.”

This is about the noise, not the arguing (at least they’re using their words). “Your goal is not to get involved and not to assign any blame,” says Braun. “You simply need to remind them to use their indoor voices or take the screaming outside.”


When he won’t listen to you

Your 18-month-old keeps standing up in his high chair while he’s eating dinner.
  • Too Harsh “That’s all — you’re done! No more supper for you.”
  • Too Wimpy “Be careful! Come on, sit down now. Look, here comes the airplane spoon flying to your mouth!”
  • Just Right “We sit when we eat. I’ll help you sit back down.”

“Parents sometimes think it’s better to just distract their toddler or ignore unwanted behavior, but 1-year-olds are old enough to follow simple rules,” says Griffin. In fact, your child is probably watching to see your reaction when he demonstrates his new high-chair maneuver. Calmly let him know that sitting is always required at mealtime. If he doesn’t get a rise out of you (or a free trip onto your lap for the rest of the meal), he’ll take a seat and be less likely to stand up during the next meal.

You ask your 6-year-old to hang up her jacket and she says, “I’m busy. Hang it up yourself!”
  • Too Harsh “Don’t you talk to me that way, young lady. Go to your room right now!”
  • Too Wimpy “Okay, I’ll do it this time.”
  • Just Right “In this house, you’ll have to lose that attitude. I don’t speak to you that way, and you may not speak to me that way. I asked you to hang up your jacket, and I expect you to do it.”

There are two issues here — the back talk and the jacket. “If you respond in a tone that shows you mean it, most kids will hang up the jacket,” says Braun. “She probably heard another kid talk like this, and she’s seeing if she can get away with it.” The most important thing to do is take a deep breath, and focus on the good behavior you want to teach her.

Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Parentsmagazine.

http://www.parents.comBringing together the power of respected magazine brands including American Baby and Parents, the Parents Network is your go-to destination for parenting information. From first kicks to first steps and on to the first day of school, we are here to help you celebrate the joys and navigate the challenges of parenthood.