Children’s behaviour can sometimes drive us up the wall! But I have found that If we deal with different types of behaviour in different ways, we are more likely to get the results we want in our children. As a rule of thumb, I choose to do one of two things - Ignore behaviour or Praise It.
Because children want and crave Praise and Attention! So, what behaviour should you ignore, and which should you praise? Well, interestingly, children react more to how you say things - than the words you actually use. When you react favourably to all good or positive behaviour this gives them attention when they are good! And not reacting, when they are doing something unwanted, will teach them that they don’t get any attention when they do this, so they will soon learn that they get your attention from doing other things, the things you do want, because you praise them for these.
Children don’t know that it is wrong to do something that annoys you. In fact, they probably don’t know what annoys you! Their behaviour is not personal. But they will soon learn what you do like and will do more of that, as it will earn them your praise.
There are two main types of requests we have as parents. For a child to stop doing something we don’t want them to do or to start doing something we do want them to do. (I call it Stop or Start Behaviour).
So, which behaviour to Ignore? Most of the behaviour we will ignore will be when the child is doing something we don’t want them to do. Something we want them to stop doing. So, we IGNORE this unwanted behaviour. And to do it, this means almost pretending that it doesn’t exist. If we show them that we have seen what they are doing or if we show displeasure or annoyance, they will do it even more. Why? Well remember - it gets them your attention - Yes, it is negative attention - but it’s still attention, nevertheless. So, if we don’t react to it in any way,
Don’t even see the behaviour - ignore the behaviour and the child, (so long as it is safe to do so of course!) then we are not giving the child attention. To a child any attention is better than none.
Sometimes this is hard, and a child may be very persistent. But stick with it! Ignore the unwanted behaviour. It does work. Perhaps if you are finding it difficult to ignore a child’s unwanted behaviour, you can distract yourself by doing something positive yourself and talking about it. There have been times when I have said things like, “Oh, well done Mummy, look how nicely you put that away.” or “Oh, look how nicely Mummy is sitting quietly, well done Mummy!” Make a big deal of it. For older children or my foster children, I might say, “Oh! Well done Belinda, you’ve made a really good job of that! I think you deserve a pat on the back”
So, this is in fact role modelling the behaviour you want to see.
Another great way is to start praising another child or sibling, focussing your attention onto the well-behaved child. Eventually the other child will want that attention too, and so will start doing something to please you. And if not? Use your imagination…. Perhaps say “Oh I wonder if (child’s name) could do that? But don’t look at them as if you are asking them - say it to the other child…. or to the dog or just to yourself! They probably will. Then praise them when they do and have some fun!
Bingo. You have given them the idea, got the behaviour, and guess what… they have got the praise! So, in engineering the situation you have taught the child what to do and you have got the result you wanted. Well done!
And which behaviour should you Praise? Well, PRAISE Good Behaviour. Whatever that means to you, and it will be different for all of us to some degree. Pick up on everything - no matter how small to start with. It may feel silly noticing such everyday behaviours that we might expect to take for granted. But this is how children learn. Whatever their age. And, if the opportunities to praise good behaviour don’t present themselves, then create opportunities, so you can praise them. Make your child feel important. Praise good choices. Notice good manners. Whatever is important in your family.
But make sure that when you praise the child you are praising them for the thing they are doing, not for what they are not doing. It’s the difference between positive and negative language that makes all the difference. Think about it. If say, at work, you are told you are doing something well, then you feel good. But if you are told you are doing something in the wrong way, well, that may be constructive criticism if it comes from your boss, but it still doesn’t always feel great does it?!
And it is even more so for a child.
Praising what they are doing is a great feeling to a child, whereas pointing out what they are not doing, is like ‘having a go at them’ and it is not going to get a positive result. So, point out the behaviour you want - not the behaviour you don’t want.
For example, don’t say “Well done for not shouting”, say “Well done for staying calm!”
Ignoring unwanted behaviour and praising the good really can have massive results. Try it. Notice the changes and results. You may be surprised.