The following is from the “ToolBox Approach© which focuses on increasing positive behaviors in a proactive ways.
Taking these small steps can make a big difference in your child’s behavior. Again I encourage small proactive steps. Try not to react to the negative behaviors. Give energy to the good ones! If you look back at the old school parenting or the way we were raised, we received attention when we did something wrong. The following is just the beginning of being able to add more tools to your tool box
Most children indirectly learned throughout their upbringing that they can get attention if they engage in negative behaviors. They may not know or realize that this is what they are doing on a conscious level. This is not exclusive to upbringing in the home but as well in the community in general, i.e. schools, daycares as well as the community. They frequently are expected to follow the norms of society and when they step outside the norms (engaging in negative behaviors) is when they receive attention and usually it is negative. This unwanted behavior increases then only to perpetuate a negative pattern which increases the frustration level of caregiver across all settings. To address this problem I suggest the following plan to “retrain” ourselves. Yes, I mean us as caregivers.
As a behavior consultant I have developed many relationships with individuals (of all ages and with various diagnoses) and shaped or changed behavior while I was engaged with the client. Unfortunately from my experience once I left the situation and the caregivers were left to their own skill abilities, the behaviors ultimately returned. I attributed this to the lack of recognition from the caregivers or positive reinforcement of “expected” behaviors. Over time it became evident that we as caregivers need to change our behavior to ultimately change our children’s behavior.
You are probably asking yourself, “Well how long will take before behavior changes will occur?” Honestly I can’t say, again they are human beings each having their own set of issues and “baggage”. I suggest that we take a look and prioritize what behavior changes we would like to change first. It would be wise to pick one or two behaviors to focus on and make those our goals.
At least in the beginning it will be difficult because it will take an enormous of amount of energy on our part to change our thinking process. Addressing the expected behaviors is the first step in being proactive. In continuously recognizing positive behaviors I believe we will give our children a message that these behaviors are preferred. When I think of being proactive and strength based in recognizing expected and desired behaviors I believe we will ultimately assist our children in feeling better about themselves. I want to be clear that just because we start changing our behaviors we are instantly going to see change in our client’s behaviors, they are humans not robots. We can and should expect some strange looks from our children as we begin to change our behavior and language. Some of the children may even react negatively to our behavior change as this may not “feel” right or good for them. I encourage that you continue to recognize even the smallest things that your child may do. You may simply recognize that he or she has put their shoes on or tied them!
In the beginning recognition should occur frequently. Time intervals will vary based on individual needs. The younger the child is the more frequent the recognition. Postive
Positive Reinforcement/ Verbal praise is when you offer feedback to another person using a complete sentence. For example, “Thank you for putting your clothes away.”, “Great job with doing the dishes!” Verbal reinforcers can be paired with tangible reinforcers or (motivators). Tangible reinforcers may be things of high interest to the clients. As you think about the reinforcement be sure that it is age appropriate yet motivating. For example, each time the child engages in expected or desired behavior the he or she should receive reinforcement. For example, if you notice that your child has shared his toys; recognize this and give immediate verbal reinforcement by stating, “That was really nice of you to share your toy with your friend. The second option is to pair the verbal praise with a tangible reinforcer, i.e. loose change- pennies, nickels or marbles. I tend to stay away from food because of the high incidence of childhood obesity today. The verbal reinforcer may be enough in and of itself. As children get older they may want to use the earned coins towards something they desire. A predetermined and pre-approved list of items should be developed if you are going to move in this direction. This will aid in a decrease in confusion when they are cashing in their coins or marbles.
If you notice that the child is reacting negatively to the recognition/verbal reinforcer you may opt to give verbal recognition in the way of acknowledgement. Acknowledgement would be a statement of their existence. “I see that you are wearing a red shirt today”, or “ I see that your shoes laces are tied”. This gives them attention without having them have to seek out negative attention. To some the praise may feel “foreign” therefore they would react negatively. Sometimes it would be appropriate to start out with Acknowledgement then gradually move into giving more praise or Positive Reinforcement. Again think of this as being proactive as opposed to reactive.
In my next article we can continue to discuss what other options you have as caregivers to improve your toolbox and your child’s behavior!
Neil A. Quatrano, Founder
Behavioral Management, LLC