Want a better behaved child? It’s all about the relationship.

A group of parents from Partners In Learning has just completed a six-week workshop where we  discussed how to go about promoting behaviors we love to see in our children and how to diminish behaviors we’d like to see go away.  We had a great time working our way through the course.  It’s always good to learn that other parents struggle with challenging behavior, and that other people’s children are also not perfect.  We’re celebrating the completion of the course this week by meeting up at Ryan’s to enjoy the shared comradery that has developed during these past six weeks.

The workshop was developed by CSEFEL, (Center for the Social Emotional Foundation for Early Learning) who created this Positive Solutions for Families series, and here is an outline of what we learned.

Making a connection

Every child needs that one special person who is just crazy about them.  Who was that person for you?  How did that person make you feel?  What impact did that person have on who you are today?  What are the benefits and barriers to spending quality time with your child each day?  Children build self-esteem and are introduced to new social skills when parents spend some (even small) portion of their day directing their complete, undivided attention to their child.  But230098_10150558896370504_696465503_18282160_1354090_n where do we find the time in our busy complicated day and how do you devote individual time to a one child when there are siblings?   These are questions we discussed at length.   How do you support positive behavior?  First, get the child’s attention and be very specific about the behavior you are acknowledging.  Don’t be too wordy with your praise and do it with enthusiasm! You can multiple the effect of the positive acknowledgement by including a kiss or a hug and/or by presenting the acknowledgement in front of others.

Making It Happen

We started this session by talking about the benefits of engaging in play with your child.  For example, parents are able to teach their child new skills such as problem-solving and how to interact with others, and this one-on-one play time with your child will also serve to build more positive relationships.  I don’t know about you, but I tend to be much more willing to be positive around person whom I have established a consistent and ongoing positive relationship.  When playing with your child, talk about what your child is doing, follow your child’s lead, work to extend the play in order to encourage creativity and imagination, be aware if your child might be losing interest and avoid power struggles.

Why Do Children Do What They Do?

lightbulb momentParenting is a very “boots on the ground” proposition, I agree, but if you are able to step back and look at your child’s behavior from an objective and scientific perspective, you will discover that these little people are very interesting indeed, and that’s what we did during our third meeting.  We discovered that sometimes children misbehave because they simply haven’t learned the correct way to act in a particular situation.  Just like anything else, social skills have to be taught, and what one person can learn quickly, another person may need much more practice to acquire the skill.  For example, it took me forever to grasp algebra, but I knew how to act appropriately in a restaurant long before my older brother, David, had a clue.

Teach Me What to Do

“You get more of what you pay attention to.”  Though this isn’t a very well-constructed sentence, it is research-based, time-tested motto we use here at Partners In Learning and it is absolutely true!  So much of our children’s behavior is motivated toward obtaining our attention.  So, if we want to see more positive behavior, be consistent about acknowledging when you see it happening.  In this session, we also talked about emotional literacy.  What’s that, you ask?  Emotional literacy has to do with being able to recognized and label your own emotions as well as the emotions of others.  Self-regulation is a vitally important skill for social and academic success, and learning how to recognize ones emotions is a step toward being able to self-regulate. ]

Facing the Challenge:  Part 1

The homework for session four was to establish some household rules around behavior.  Our mission was to provide our children with the visual support of a chart with a few, simply and very specific house rules.  We didn’t include any rules such as, “be nice” because “be nice” is a very vague concept and though it might mean something to you, it very likely might mean something completely different to your four-year-old.  Then we got into a discussion about logical consequences.  If a child throws blocks, for example, perhaps it’s time to but the blocks away for a while.  If a child is throwing his food at the table, it might mean that the child is done with his or her dinner and the child needs to clean up the mess he or she made.  We practiced this concept with role-playing.

Facing the Challenge:  Part 2

During the final session, we studied some examples of challenging behavior and tried to figure out if the behaviors we observed were the result of attention seeking or because of an attempt to avoid or escape a situation.  Almost all challenging behavior is motivated by one of these two reasons.  Then we talked about what happened just before the challenging behavior occurred, what was the message the challenging behavior was trying to communicate and what happened after the challenging behavior occurred, or in other words, what was the consequence.  Very often, you see, the consequence feeds the challenging behavior.

Parents who attended this workshop series have been trying out what they have learned.  We plan to share our findings when we meet this week.

Katherine Generaux,Community Inclusion Specialist, Partners In Learning

Katherine Generaux,Community Inclusion Specialist, Partners In Learning

Katherine Generaux serves as the center’s Community Inclusion Specialist. In that position she has been effective in modeling appropriate interactions with young children with special needs. Her ongoing presence in the classrooms modeling best practices for infants and toddler is resulting in additional experience while making a positive difference in early childhood programming. She is very aware of what is developmentally appropriate and engaging with the children. Her birth through kindergarten degree and experience are evident in her service to children and families.

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Go Say You’re Sorry

On a daily basis, we as parents and teachers, run into situations in which children are verbally arguing, physically fighting, or both! Oftentimes, this arguing leads to hitting, spitting, kicking, and even to biting.

After evaluating the entire situation, the adult and child work together as a team to determine who hurt who and why. We then tell the child that hurt the other child to say “sorry” to the other child and encourage them to share a friendly hug. Refusal to apologize sometimes creates a whole other argument between the children.

While we may assume that teaching children to apologize after hurting another child is a positive thing, there are some reasons we need to consider why we should NOT force children to say I’m sorry.

1)     Do children really understand what it means to say “sorry?” It is honestly just another word to them. We need to sit down and teach the meaning, “sorry” as a feeling, just like “sad” or “mad.”

2)     Everyone is entitled to their own feelings and they don’t necessarily HAVE to be sorry. There have been times where I have done things that I truly am not sorry for doing; children should have this right to decide their own feelings as well.

3)     We shouldn’t force children to say “sorry” because WE want them to be sorry. We need to encourage apologizing because the CHILD is truly sorry for their action.

4)     The feeling may not be justified. The child needs to understand that what they did was not a good choice and that their behavior was wrong. You can’t be sorry for a behavior that you don’t understand was wrong.

When dealing with situations and problems between children, we need to make sure to teach them how to solve those problems with words, not our hands (or feet, teeth, etc.) We need to teach that words have meaning and when you use a word with feeling behind it, you need to mean it!

We also need to keep in mind that words do not have magical powers and words are not what actually fixes the problem.

Katie Zink, Infant-Toddler Family Specialist

Katie Zink, Infant-Toddler Family Specialist

 

Katie Zink is a graduate of Catawba College and serves as a CBRS therapist for Partners In Learning. Prior to her role as a therapist, Katie served as a teacher beginning in 2009.  Working with children is her life’s passion.

What to Do About Whining

boyWHINING! When asked, teachers place whining high on their list of behaviors they find frustrating. No doubt parents respond similarly to this behavior. Children whine because it works! That is, adults experience whining as being irritating and want it to stop, so they often give in quickly to a child’s source of whining. Whining is a behavior that can result in big payoffs. In other words, it’s a useful tool for obtaining what one wants. For example, this is a conversation I overheard while shopping this weekend.

Whining child: “I want a Beanie Boo!”
Parent: “Not today.”
Child: “But I want a Beanie Boo.”
Parent: “I just got you a Beanie Boo. You can have a Beanie Boo next time.”
Child: “But I really want a Beanie Boo THIS TIME.”
Frustrated parent: “No!” “I said no!” “Oh, alright here, you can have the Beanie Boo.” “Now stop whining!”

When a behavior produces the desired outcome, it’s a sure bet that we’ll see it again.

There are other reasons for whining as well. Sometimes a child may be tired, hungry or bored. Parents can get in front of these situations by planning activities before or after nap time, packing snacks and play materials such as coloring books or other activities when out and about. Remember, many challenging behaviors can be avoided by thinking ahead and planning.

Challenging behavior can be extinguished by teaching a new skill. Teaching a child to calm down by taking several deep breaths can give the child time to think about a better way to communicate a want or need. Verbally reward your child when you observe the desired behavior. This will serve as a reinforcement for the new behavior. Try not to respond to or give attention to the whining behavior. Let your child know that you are unable to communicate when he or she is whining. Be consistent. When the whining loses its power, it will eventually go away.

I do suspect, however, that many a Beanie Boo has been purchased as the direct result of a whining child.

Katherine Generaux,Community Inclusion Specialist, Partners In Learning

Katherine Generaux,Community Inclusion Specialist, Partners In Learning

Katherine Generaux serves as the center’s Community Inclusion Specialist. In that position she has been effective in modeling appropriate interactions with young children with special needs. Her ongoing presence in the classrooms modeling best practices for infants and toddler is resulting in additional experience while making a positive difference in early childhood programming. She is very aware of what is developmentally appropriate and engaging with the children. Her birth through kindergarten degree and experience are evident in her service to children and families.

 

Behavior and Development

It is impossible to have a discussion about children and challenging behavior without considering how development factors into the equation. Let’s take your typical two-year-old for example. Everyone knows that the universal mantra for people at this stage in human development is the word “No”. No, no, no, and no, even when they mean yes. Before you begin to wonder if your child is on a path toward a diagnosis of Oppositional Deviance Disorder, you need to understand the reason why we act this way. At about the age of two, sometimes a few months earlier and sometimes a few months later, children begin to see themselves as human beings separate from the person or persons who they have consistently relied on for comfort and safety. There is a conflict going on at this stage. Toddlers know they need and rely on their family to meet their many needs, but at the same time, they feel driven to explore their world and declare themselves as individuals with their own ideas about how their daily experiences should go. It’s a constant tug-of-war in the minds of our two-year-olds, and this is one reason why they are often cranky.

Another reason why people this age are so emotional can be explained by brain development. From birth through the preschool years, children are building neuron brain connections rapidly, especially in that part of the part of the brain where cognitive learning occurs. While this process is taking place, young children are still relying heavily on that part of the brain where we experience emotions.

I often think about how these first attempts at initiating independence mirror that notable adolescent angst teenagers experience as they attempt to assert total independence from their parents. Perhaps you have experiences life with a two-year-old but have not yet experienced the joy of living with a teenager. Well, good luck! Just remember, though, that this is how humans develop. After all, achieving independence IS the ultimate goal parents are seeking for their children.

Katherine Generaux,Community Inclusion Specialist, Partners In Learning

Katherine Generaux serves as the center’s Community Inclusion Specialist. In that position she has been effective in modeling appropriate interactions with young children with special needs. Her ongoing presence in the classrooms modeling best practices for infants and toddler is resulting in additional experience while making a positive difference in early childhood programming. She is very aware of what is developmentally appropriate and engaging with the children. Her birth through kindergarten degree and experience are evident in her service to children and families.

Starting The New School Year Off On The Right Foot

The summer of 2013 is quickly coming to an end, and a new school year is about to begin.  New beginnings offer a wonderful opportunity for families to establish and implement new tools to support good family habits and academic success.

If you intend to make changes to last year’s way of managing the family’s daily routine or behavior expectations, a good strategy is to hold a family meeting.  You can open the meeting by pointing out one or more of the challenges that were faced during the previous year and ask for input.  For example, you could say, “I noticed that last year we were always scrambling to get out the door on time, and everyone seemed grumpy in the car on the way to school.  I wonder what we could do so that we don’t have to experience that daily unhappiness this year.”

You’ll be surprised to discover that even very young children can actively participate in problem-solving and offering ideas for a solution.  Though the adults are ultimately guiding children toward an appropriate solution, when a solution is determined, children tend to feel invested in the new behavior because they took part in developing the change.  For instance, deciding that getting up a half an hour earlier during school mornings might be the arrived at solution.  When resistance is offered later on, children can be reminded the “waking up earlier” rule was agreed upon by every member of the family.

During the family meeting, when changes have been agreed upon by every family member, the new family policy or rule should be written down and reviewed often.   Young children, in particular, have not yet developed the memory capacity we take of granted as adults, and a rule they may remember one day, might be forgotten the next day.  Post the amended routine changes where they are visible to everyone in the family, and invite children to embellish the borders of the document by drawing artwork around it.  This will further invest the child in the new routine. As a family, don’t forget to celebrate the successful transition to the new rule or routine.

When my children were growing up, we held family meetings, and they were usually awful, with someone inevitably stomping out of the room in a dramatic demonstration of theatrical talent.   At these meetings, though, it was more about two parents dictating new rules to children instead of collaborating solutions as a family.   Live and learn.

Katherine Generaux,Community Inclusion Specialist, Partners In Learning

Katherine Generaux serves as the center’s Community Inclusion Specialist. In that position she has been effective in modeling appropriate interactions with young children with special needs. Her ongoing presence in the classrooms modeling best practices for infants and toddler is resulting in additional experience while making a positive difference in early childhood programming. She is very aware of what is developmentally appropriate and engaging with the children. Her birth through kindergarten degree and experience are evident in her service to children and families.