Positive Strategies For Behaviour Improvement

The concept of disciplining kids has evolved over the years and we now understand that all behaviour is communication. Yes, even when your child acts out, it is their way of unknowingly letting you know that they need your help. Is punishment the only solution if your child misbehaves? Does it always accomplish the goal? If we use incidents of misbehaviour as opportunities “to teach” children, we can accomplish a lot more in the long run and effectively teach children how to manage a crisis. In their book “No-Drama Discipline”, Daniel Seigel and Tina Bryson say effective disciplining is about “saying No to the behaviour but Yes to the child”.

We’ve spoken about positive parenting in an earlier blog. It emphasizes the importance of mutual respect and focuses on teaching proper future behaviour instead of punishing past misbehaviour. Below are some positive strategies that can be used to improve behaviour. It is important to note that behaviour modification cannot happen overnight. It needs consistency, perseverance and patience. But these practical strategies can give you a start in the right direction. 

1. Adapt the environment

Your child's difficult behaviour could happen at a certain time of day, when they are hungry, sleepy, or around certain people or specific environments. If possible, try to avoid these triggers. If transitions between activities are difficult, use a visual schedule or countdown timers and inform your child about upcoming changes. If this doesn't work, move them away from the situation to a different room. If you feel your child cannot handle a situation, don’t take them. Eg; If you know your child has trouble sitting through a meal or not touching everything in sight, avoid taking them to a fine dining restaurant or a store with breakables.

2. Celebrate strengths and successes

Talk positively about your child to others in front of them. When your child shows appropriate, kind and responsible behaviour, celebrate it through hugs and praise. At the end of every day, let them know that they are loved and that you are proud of them. Treat your children with respect, the same way you treat other important people in your life, says Katherine Kersey, author of the 101 positive principles of discipline. Validate and acknowledge their feelings, no matter how trivial they seem to you.

3. Ignore the challenging behaviour

This one requires a lot of patience but can be effective in the long run. If you find that your child is using certain challenging behaviour to get out of situations or for attention, do not let it serve as a way of winning or getting your attention. This works for challenging behaviour that is mild and not threatening, destructive or embarrassing. Eg, your child screaming when you say No, which makes you give in to their demands. Pick your battles and focus on the skills and behaviours that are most important, let go of the rest. 

4. Give choices

We have control over most aspects of our children’s lives, making them feel like they have no say. Put forward your requests in the form of choices, instead of commands. You choose the choices, they get to choose. Eg; “ It’s time for bed, would you like to wear your night suit or brush your teeth first”. 

5. Teach skills and alternate behaviours

As your child is trying to communicate through their behaviour and it may be inappropriate, it is essential we teach them skills to effectively communicate their needs. It can be teaching your child to count to 10 when they are angry, instead of lashing out. Redirect them to appropriate behaviour, like giving them words to express their emotions instead of hitting. Model the behaviour you want your child to learn, they are watching us all the time. Do we yell when we are frustrated or talk to them with kindness and respect?

6. Have fun together

Get down to your child’s level, put your phone away and enjoy your child. Children love knowing that they bring their parents’ happiness, so make sure to laugh together, connect with them before correcting. Don’t demand perfection, this only leads to disappointment for both you and your child. Establish traditions that they will enjoy and cherish for years to come and remember with great fondness. Turn little chores into fun games. Eg; let’s see how many toys will fit in this basket or you pick all the cars, I’ll put away the blocks, who’s going to finish first. 

We all discipline our kids with the best intentions, to keep them safe, happy, healthy and nurture them to grow into kind and responsible grown-ups. If you’ve tried strategies to help your child with their behaviour challenges and they have been ineffective or if you haven’t seen any improvement in a reasonable time frame, you may need extra support to accomplish this. 

Do not hesitate to reach out to our counsellors and behaviour therapists who can guide you and your family towards a calmer and more peaceful approach to parenting. 

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