Following on from my previous post 7 Positive Parenting techniques, I’ve come up with some more ideas!
As before, you can not get your child to behave with ONLY positive strategies. I’m not here to make you feel guilty for snapping at your child or for putting them in time out. Children do need to see that adults have emotions and that sometimes their behaviour has a negative impact on other people – including you! However, positivity is an important and useful behaviour management technique, so see the following for more ways to manage behaviour in a positive manner –
1. Clear boundaries
Young children can be very literal in their interpretation of the world, so you need to be unambiguous wherever possible. In very young children, they may honestly and literally not understand what it is that you’re asking of them. “Stop it” for example could be applied to any number of things happening at that moment – you know very clearly what you mean but your child might not. “Please stop [throwing the ball indoors] because [you might break something]” would be a better approach for the first time of addressing the behaviour that you don’t like. Of course, an older child may deliberately choose to misinterpret what you are saying, so even more reason to leave no margin for error in what you say to them! You could try SMART parenting.
2. Finish each other’s sentences
If your child is doing something that you have asked them not to do on a previous occasion, then you could either try “remember, we don’t do that because… ” and trail off, allowing them to complete your sentence or say “what do you think I’m about to say?” before allowing a little thinking time and waiting for an answer from your child. Getting your child to engage in fixing their behaviour rather than passively repeating the rules yourself will help your child to remember them more clearly. If your child is doing something that you’ve asked them not to straight after you’ve already tried a positive technique, then it’s time to try/threaten a consequence or time out.
3. Rewards (not bribery)
A bribe is when you give your child something so that they do what they’re told; a reward is when they receive something AFTER already doing what you wanted. In order for rewards to be effective, they must only ever be given after the task is completed the first time, without a fuss. They must also only be given strategically – for example, if your child has finally mastered something; if they were particularly kind or helpful or if they tried their absolute best. Finally, rewards work best (in my opinion) when they are unexpected – otherwise, it’s too similar to a bribe. You want your child to behave well because it’s the right thing to do, not because they want a reward. They will really love it when you notice their efforts and will appreciate the reward all the more because of its rarity.
Here are some ideas of appropriate rewards:
√ Detailed verbal praise. “I was so, so proud of you when… ” Don’t underestimate the power of your approval.
√ Uninterrupted playtime with you. You must not be distracted by ANYTHING else and must fully immerse yourself in their game. This would be a particularly powerful reward if you have more than one child and alone time with them is rare.
√ An extra story or extra 5-10 minutes of play before bedtime.
√ A food treat IF it is eaten as part of the main mealtime (i.e. not as a snack – otherwise they will nag you for this again and again). Sometimes for being helpful at the supermarket, I allow my son to choose the dessert (from a pre-approved selection). He must also eat his main meal properly, so this is added incentive for behaving well at the dinner table.
4. R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – find out what it means to me
Respect goes both ways. If you would like your child to have respect for you, then you need to show that you have respect for them. This includes saying please and thank you, respecting their bodies (for example, if they don’t want a cuddle) and respecting their bedrooms and toys. I can’t stand clutter in my house, but my 4-year old’s room is his. I help him to tidy it and get rid of old/broken / age-inappropriate toys but I never tidy it when he is not there or throw his things away without asking him first.
5. Appropriate Praise
I think it’s important to praise a child’s behaviour/effort rather than “them” as a general rule. “I like that you [played gently with the baby today]” or “You worked hard to [complete that puzzle]” is more effective in getting the behaviour that you want rather than just labeling a child as “clever girl”.
I like to praise my son (occasionally – not every time!) when he shares spontaneously; is gentle, kind or forgiving; when he tries his best; when he remembers to follow a routine that we’ve set up (like getting ready for bed) without prompting; when he takes the moral high ground or when he’s helpful.
6. Limited choices
In some circumstances, you can present limited choices where the outcome does not bother you – and your child will appreciate some autonomy. “Are you going to wear your green socks or your yellow socks today?” is far better than “ready to put your socks on?” or even “put your socks on” which although it’s is a direct instruction, does not mirror the respect and politeness that you would like your child to show you.
7. The final (and often silent) countdown!
Getting your child to leave something that is fun for them like a playdate can be challenging. Giving a few time warnings can help them to make the transition (and also a great technique for an introverted kid). They are very clear on how long they have to remain and so can put a toy where they want it to be or finish their turn or whatever. I’m a huge fan of non-verbal signals for this and for other purposes. Why shout across a noisy playground or interrupt the flow of their game when you can simply catch your child’s eye and hold up fingers to show how many minutes are left or tap your watch when it’s time to go? It saves your breath too and you (hopefully) won’t feel like you’re nagging. (Other positive non-verbal signals can be as simple as nodding, thumbs up or a big smile to show that you approve of what your child is doing.)
Stay positive! :)