We can often struggle to choose which methods to use when bringing up our children, but I believe that all positive, nurturing methods, if used fairly and consistently do work. So here are some of the old tried and tested ways of teaching good behaviour to children from a young age. The main ones I was taught, probably handed down through the generations, and still very much in use today are, Using Praise and Rewards, coupled with Role Modelling and well thought out and fair Sanctions and Consequences, which includes using Distraction Techniques, Giving Choices, Counting and Time Out. This is then all cemented together with the use of appropriate explanation and reasoning with the child, after the event, always connecting with the child before correcting them.
So, lets cover how Distraction Techniques, Giving Choices, Counting and Time Out work, in practice.
If a child is showing unwanted behaviour, you can distract from the behaviour if you need to, but don’t draw attention to it. Distract then walk away. If the child comes with you then great. If not, then carry on with the activity you offered as a distraction, by yourself. Think of some really good distractions now so you are well prepared. Maybe offer something to do, eat, drink, anything that your child would prefer to do than whatever they were doing! Perhaps even do the activity you have offered with another child and just carry on as if nothing is happening with the child who is misbehaving. If and when the child does join you (and they will if you make a big enough deal about enjoying the activity) then praise them for making a good choice. Involve them and have some fun! If you do this repeatedly - only giving them attention when they are doing the right things, they will soon learn not to do the unwanted ones! Now if a child follows you - but carries on with the unwanted behaviour - then ignore them - move yourself away if you need to and carry on without them. If this continues, you can tell them at this point that you will stay ONLY stay with them if they stop whatever it is they are doing. And if not, move away.
If a child does not want to do something it often works to give them a choice. No, I don’t mean they get to choose whether to do what you are asking or not. You do need to get your own way. But there are a couple of tried and tested options here.
Giving 2 Choices. Choose 2 options and give them the choice between these - but make sure that you are happy with both the options. This will give them some control. For example, if you ask a child to do the washing up and they refuse - then give them the 2 options, “Ok so which would you rather wash up or clean the bathroom?” Or maybe they don’t want to put their coat on to go out. Then ask if they would rather put their coat on or carry it themselves. Whatever they decide, let that happen. If it’s raining, yet they still don’t want to put their coat on, let them carry it. They will probably want to put it on anyway once they get out, but if they don’t, then don’t worry. It’s not the end of the world. And they probably won’t make that mistake next time! So, you will have won in the long run.
Giving 3 Choices Most children will choose between the 2 choices you give them. But If they don’t, then you can add in a 3rd option - but this one will be a sanction: So repeat “You can choose ……(option 1) or….. (option 2) or if you prefer not to choose either of those then I will choose option 3, (a sanction or consequence) which is, for instance, lose £2 of your pocket money. This must be something you can carry out.
The first counting method is for younger or more compliant children. Often if you ask a child to do something and they are slow or reluctant to do so, you can just begin to count. Make it fun, like a competition. Smile, hold up a finger and say “1”. Give them a few more seconds, then say 2. Again, give them a few more seconds - you can often make it a bit of a game - saying, “Come on Hurry up - before I get to 3.” “Quick, quick!” etc. This usually encourages them. Then hopefully they will be doing what you ask by now so you can get to 3 when they finish and praise them, or you may not need to get to 3 at all. Just tell them well done. If you do have to get to 3 (or 5 or whatever your chosen number) then you may need to have a consequence or sanction in place.
This is also a counting method, but with a consequence, for older children. Time Out is when you need to show a child what the consequences of their actions are and is usually used with children of school age. Time out is often given as about a minute or two for every year old they are. But this is totally up to you. And it is always best to explain this method to the child before you ever have the need to use it - so they are pre-warned.
Before giving time out you will need to give warnings. Let’s say you are warning a child and if they don’t do as you ask, you will give them 10 minutes in time out. So, if you ask a child to stop doing something and they don’t after a few seconds or a reasonable amount of time, you hold up one finger say, “That’s 1.” Then give a few more seconds and if they are still not complying, hold up another finger and say, “That’s 2.” And if still no response, after another 10 seconds then you hold up 3 fingers and say “That’s 3. Now you have 10 minutes Time Out!” And here they would have to do the time out! Usher them, gently and calmly, to your agreed time out spot.
Now, the complaints may go on longer the first time you do this, but don’t give in, because if you do - they have won. But once they have actually had to serve the time out, next time they will complain less, as they know you mean what you say. This is all this is about testing you to see if you will give in! So, make sure you have thought it through and make sure you stick to it.
Time In - Some Children need Time in, rather than time out. These children may need to sit next to you for their ‘Time” rather than be excluded. They still don’t get to do what they like, or get your attention, but they are with you.
And if you have tried any or all of these methods consistently and you are still having problems, then you may need the help of an Ollie Coach!