Sunday, November 18, 2012


    BEHAVIOR MODIFICATION:  When it comes to creating positive changes with kids who are high strung or have sensory issues, it can be a little tricky.

     For one kids with these temperaments often are delayed in maturity, impulse control, and often there ability to reason falls a bit short.

     So what do you do?

     I have made a few changes that have worked well with my kids.

     Pre-qualify my expectations.
     Speak in calm, non-reactive firm tones.
     Pre-determine specific consequences that you can follow through on.
     Follow through on those consequences
     Allow natural consequences to happen and it will do the work for you.
     I did dress-rehearsals in my head, visualizing myself dealing with the situation without harsh  

     Dealing with young kids who can really push your buttons is difficult.  It is easy to lose your cool. I found it helpful to think ahead when it came to my reactions.  For example:  Dinner time.  For a long time my kids were just terrible when it came to sitting at any time for a meal at the kitchen table.  The poor behavior would start and my warnings and threats would begin, followed by heated emotions, and then the next thing I knew I would be yelling, threatening, losing my cool. The whole experience was re-played over and over, day after day with no improvement. 

     WHAT WORKED: First, I learned to always pre-qualify my expectations, and inform my kids what the consequences would be.  "Okay guys,we are sitting down for dinner.  I expect you to stay seated and eat your meal without goofing around.  If you can't do that, you will be excused from the table and...."  (some parents send there kids to their room for the duration of dinner, some do a time-out, others forfeit dinner until breakfast time).   By pre-qualifying your expectations, you will accomplish two things:  It serves as a reminder to the kids.  Believe it or not, they really do forget or just don't think about their own reactions.  It also takes the negotiating out of the loop.  Kids are great negotiators...they will start throwing every excuse in the book at you and hope something sticks and the next thing you know you are losing to a five year old.  You have all experienced that.  So pre-qualify.

     SECOND: I recognized that my kids just did not respond well to yelling or harsh tones. They could not handle it.  In fact, it often made the problems worse.  So lose the tactics.  When I thought ahead about my expectations and consequences, I was better prepared to react in a calm manner.  I would instantly go to my "poker face".  I also referred to this as my "teacher face".  Remember how your teacher could often stop you in your tracks with just a look?  That stare?  I think GOD instilled in all teachers that special ability.  I as a parent had to learn it.  With my "teacher face" in place, I would respond in a calm, non-reactive tone.  Something like this:  "Everett, I explained that if you started flipping your food off your plate, you would be excused and...."   No second chances, reminders, no negotiations, no more words..... The end. 

     Now, at first, your kids are going to try to give you the old royal battle.  Stay calm, stay firm.  Follow through.  Poker face.  Overtime it will get easier.

     THIRD:  Follow through.  By thinking ahead, pre-qualifying, and staying calm, your ability to follow through will be easier because you will be better prepared. By being prepared, the consequences that you have already pre-determined are less likely to be "over-kill".  In other words, in the heat of the moment you are less likely to threaten a consequence that you and your little one both know are not likely to follow through on.   Following through is tough, but is essential to behavior modification.  These little munchkins can sniff out hesitation in a New York second....and they will call your bluff.  I have to admit, I still drop the ball from time to time, but who doesn't. However, if your averaging a pretty good follow through record, your kids will take you more seriously.  I apply my 80/20 rule on this one.  Eighty percent follow through seems to be enough to get the job done.  The other 20 percent, I probably lost my own cool, did not practice what I know works and probably owe my kids an apology.  (I tell myself that I am now teaching the valuable lesson that when we are is important to own it and apologize...Ha).

     FOURTH:  Do a dress rehearsal in your head.  This is so important.  It really works so take some time for it.  Pick your battles, pre-qualify, stay calm, follow through.  Visualize the altercation in your mind, and practice how you are going to handle it in your new way.  I did this during down time, and right before I knew we were heading into "problem territory".  If its dinner time issues, practice in your mind while your cooking, if shopping is an issue then on the way to the store.  If picking up their toy's is the battle, practice in your head right before you ask them.  You get the picture.  Also, really take the time to think about the behaviors your want to change, and the consequences that you want to put forth.  Doing this ahead of time when you are calm, you are more likely to pick a well suited consequence as well.  I can't emphasize this tactic enough.  Practice, practice, practice...

     LAST BUT NOT LEAST:  My all time favorite.  Natural consequences.  There are certain behaviors that a natural consequence can nip in the bud.  To name a few:  They don't want to wear their jacket when it is 30 degrees outside?  Sure! Go for it munchkin....They won't fight you on that one again.  They are giving you a big fight over getting dressed for the party?  No problem.  Just get in your car and put them in with you as is...pajamas, naked....(this one takes nerve but I did it...I actually drove half way there before we turned around. The kids were mortified). We were also very late for the party and they missed out.... I do not even have to ask them to get dressed anymore.  It is the first thing they do when they  up.  Sometimes I help "natural consequence" to happen.  Pour restaurant behavior?  See my post on that...Think about how some of their behaviors can lend themselves to a well remembered lesson, a natural consequence.  It is a great parenting tool that takes the least amount of effort.

     These are some of the tips I have learned that have had the greatest impact on my kids.  Keep in mind, that nothing works perfectly in the beginning.  It will take time for your kids to adjust to your new approach. They will test it. Hold firm. Don't give up.  Lastly, cut yourself some slack when you screw up.  I have been practicing these things for a good year or so and I still mess up.  I'm human, and so are my kids.  Sometimes they need a little slack too.  When it comes to expectations with my kids, I do model it to who they are and their inborn temperaments.  That is really important.  As Phill Jackson once said..."know who you are"...."you can't fly with the eagles if you are a fish".....



1 comment:

  1. I really like the idea of thinking out a dress rehearsal. My intentions to remain calm and non - reactive are wonderful in my mind, but they usually fail me in the heat of the moment.


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