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them remember their behavior, not yours!
parents of young children often yell and spank as a means of managing
children’s behaviour, particularly when angry. However this leaves
children thinking about the parent’s behaviour, rather than their own!
key to managing children’s behaviour, especially when angry, often rests
on the parent taking a brief time out – to gain composure; a moment in
another room, counting to ten, a few deep breathes, a pause to refresh. It
generally doesn’t take much, but a moment is quite necessary before
dealing with the child and the behaviour in question. Then, by all means,
deal with the child’s behaviour. However, do so in a way that leaves
them thinking about their behaviour, not yours! Think in terms of
consequences, not punishment…
forms of consequences are those that involve the loss of pleasurable
things: a favourite food, a
special play toy, a preferred activity, the loss of personal freedom by
sitting in the corner or being sent to one's room and the withholding of
social connection by ignoring.
parents feel however, that they cannot let certain behaviours go without
comment. But consider this
story: Imagine there are two dogs inside of you, inside of everyone.
They are of equal age and equal strength. They are fighting and fighting constantly.
Which one will win the struggle?
Which one will win the fight? ...The one you feed! Attention
strengthens behaviour so that it will occur more often while ignoring
weakens behaviour so it will occur less often.
consequence is the loss of favourite activities or things.
This is generally regarded as a response
cost. In other words,
"If you are going to dance, you are going to pay the piper".
If I get caught speeding, I lose some money.
Rather than sitting a child in the corner, consider placing the toy
in time out! Another common response cost is the loss of dessert at
of personal freedom is generally regarded as "time out".
Time out requires the loss of anything that might be pleasurable,
for a determined length of time. Time out can be served anywhere such as
sitting in the corner, sitting on the stairs or sitting quietly in your
seat with your hands folded, even if riding in the car. Time out simply
requires withholding anything pleasurable from the child.
A child should be separated from activities and other people for up
to as many minutes as years old. A
two year old would get up to two minutes and a five year old would get up
to five minutes, etc. Long
time outs (greater than 5 - 10 minutes) loose their effect.
After a few minutes the child is likely daydreaming to idle the
time away so there is no longer any benefit to the time out.
In fact time outs that are very brief, a matter of seconds, are
sometimes even more effective, particularly when there is a misbehaviour
that continues repeatedly. Some parents when sending a child to his room
forget that he may be playing with a bunch of toys in there. This is not time out and can have the exact opposite effect
of what was intended. Remember,
time out is not a picnic. For
some, sitting on the stairs or on a spot on the floor is better than the
children whine and complain when consequenced. This is called protesting.
Protesting is the behaviour that occurs when the child feels the
consequence is unjust or the child simply doesn't want it to happen.
"No! You can't make me!", or other forms of screaming,
yelling, stomping and flopping are common childhood forms of protesting.
doesn't necessarily mean that the consequence is wrong. It just means that the child doesn't like it.
Protesting is usually expected, particularly in younger children or
with children who have not experienced consistent consequences in the
past. As children experience
appropriate consequences on a fair basis, they will stop or reduce the
behaviour that leads to this outcome and they will also stop or reduce
parents feel that if a particular consequence doesn't work, they have to
increase its severity, intensity, or duration.
This is a process known as escalation.
Escalation leads to anger again and should be avoided otherwise this can
lead to overly harsh or even abusive behaviour.
More important than increasing the intensity, severity and duration
of a consequence is applying it consistently. With children who are out of
control, you may have to sit them in the corner many times when you start.
Very problematic behaviour takes more time, patience and
consistency, not harsher consequences.
complains. Her six year old
always leaves the bedroom light on when he goes downstairs. She shouts down, "Terry, you forgot to turn off the
light," but then turns it off for him.
child has never turned off his own bedroom light.
Nadja says she turns it off for him because he's already
downstairs. Nadja agrees to try an experiment.
She is to remind Terry to turn off the light before he leaves his
room. She tries it, but finds
it doesn't work. Terry had
learned that his mother always turns the light off for him, no matter
for a consequence - one that makes sense.
is to call her son upstairs the next time he doesn't turn off the light
and watch what happens. Sure
enough the son protests, saying he will miss part of the T.V. cartoons.
Nadja is prepared and explains that if he turned off the light in
the first place, he wouldn't be inconvenienced by having to come up, turn
the light off and miss T.V. She insists that he turn off the light and adds that if he
doesn't, she will come down and turn off the T.V. Terry is called back upstairs, everyday, for 5 days.
the sixth day, Terry starts off downstairs.
About halfway down, he stops - he turns around and comes back up to
turn off his light. Nadja
comments that it is nice that he can watch T.V. without interruption.
He has turned off his light ever since.
(The experiment took a lot of faith.)
are relative. A consequence,
such as withdrawing attention, is more effective in a home where hugs and
praise are common, than in a home where there is little display of
affection. Therefore if the love, attention and feedback occurs
regularly and frequently, their withdrawal will be experienced more
significantly. If you want to
increase the effect of a consequence, don't escalate the consequence.
Increase the displays of love, attention and feedback shown at
other times. Both you and your child will enjoy it!
angry? Ok, that’s normal. But remember, take a deep breath, go to
another room, count to ten. When parents consequence their children in a
calm rational manner, children tend to be better adjusted, play more
co-operatively and respond to their parents' words. Remember, you want to
leave them remembering their behaviour, not yours!
Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
is a child-behaviour expert, a social worker, and the author of Raising
Kids Without Raising Cane. Gary not only helps people get along or feel
better about themselves, but also enjoys an extensive career in public
speaking. He provides insight on issues ranging from child behaviour
management and development; to family life; to socially responsible
business development. Courts in Ontario, Canada consider Gary an expert on
matters pertaining to child development, custody and access,
family/marital therapy and social work.
For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.
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