People do not naturally know how to raise children in a loving, positive and healthy fashion. In fact, most people parent in light of how they were (or were not) parented as a child, but if your parents were not taught how to do things more effectively, how could you have learned from them?
There are some small shifts you can make in your parenting to see your child behave in a more favorable fashion that most people do not know about!
One of the shifts that can help improve child behavior problems is to catch yourself when you are telling your child what not to do. Most people don’t even realize
1. How often they tell their kids what not to do
2. How this can contribute to child behavior problems
Every parent has done it, “Don’t touch that!” “Stop running!” “Don’t hit your sister!”
In fact, people in general tend to focus on what they don’t want more than what they want, and this is what we call a negative thought pattern. But what’s wrong with this type of thought pattern and how can it contribute to behavior problems?
For yourself, (and people in general) focusing on what you don’t want
1. Does not help you get clear on what you do want
2. Hinders how well you see what you could do to create what you want
When it comes to children, they have even less of an idea of what to focus on to get what they want, and all they really want from their parents is their approval and attention…and they are still learning about what acceptable choices are. So to get what they want, children will do any number of things, even (and often especially) the things that will likely get them into trouble. They don’t differentiate between positive and negative attention, so if they realize that when they hit their sister they get a parent’s attention, they may continue to do so when they need attention. Telling your child “Don’t hit your sister”, even though you think you are being very clear, only leaves your child wondering what else he can do to get your attention, and he will likely find something else to do to get your attention…and the odds of it being something you don’t want him doing are pretty high.
What should you be doing instead of telling your child what not to do?
First you need to decide what your child is doing for negative attention. Then decide what you would like him to do instead, and be specific. For example, when Tommy hits his sister, instead of telling him not to do that, let him know that you would like him to keep his hands to himself, and that if he chooses to hit his sister, he will have a time-out (or some other discipline technique that is effective). You should also tell Tommy, “If your sister is doing something that you don’t like, I want you to use your words and tell her. If that doesn’t work, come and get a grown up to help you.” This is a structure, or system, that if you are consistent with and make clear to your kids, will help your children learn how to solve problems as well as get positive attention.
Once you set up this kind of simple plan, be sure to praise your child when he follows it!
This praise will become the kind of attention that your child will start to shoot for instead of the negative attention. If he knows that you will likely praise him for following these kinds of rules, he will shift his focus to get praised. Keep in mind that you need to be extremely consistent when it comes to this kind of positive parenting or it won’t work, and give him praise every time he does what you want him to do.
Initially, while you and your child are getting used to the new routine, he may not engage with it much at first, and he might need one or two reminders. If you remind him of what you want him to do once or twice, however, and he does not comply, let him know that next time you will implement the discipline structure that you have set up. Be sure to follow through if you give your child this warning.
Here are some examples:
Use your eyes only please. Don’t touch that!
Walk your feet. Stop running!
Hands to yourself & use your words. Don’t hit your sister!
Use inside (or quiet) voices. Stop yelling!
Hold your body still. Stop moving (or wiggling, etc.)
Write on the paper. Don’t write on that! (Walls, etc.)