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. But 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?
Parenting 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 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.