I got a call a couple of weeks ago for parent coaching that I thought many of you would be interested in. Amanda, called about her 4 year old son Ada...
YUCK! Picky Eaters
March 13, 2015
The most common goals I’m asked to tackle in my parent coaching sessions are around helping parents develop discipline skills to stop children from be...
Why Does My Child Do That?
February 26, 2015
I have been thinking a lot about some of the trends in cognitive development and intelligence. There are a lot of products out there that promise to...
What are brain scientist playing with their kids?
March 24, 2015
Why Does My Child Do That?
February 26, 2015
The most common goals I’m asked to tackle in my parent coaching sessions are around helping parents develop discipline skills to stop children from behaving in ways the parents do not like. Behaviors such as whining, tantrums, hitting siblings, refusing to go to bed and more are often much more difficult to change than most websites and parenting books would lead you to believe. Why is that? In this blog post I will share tips from my parent education curriculum about why children continue to do behaviors that drive parents nuts and in the next post we will talk about what we can do about it.
Let’s start optimistic! As humans ALL of our behaviors are done for a reason. Once we figure out that reason all behaviors are changeable! In fact the reasons we engage in behaviors boil down to just a few simple explanations:
To get something that we feel has been restricted or denied (e.g., toys, attention, candy)
To get out of things we don’t like, find difficult, or are just boring (e.g., homework, cleaning up, eating veggies)
Because it feels good (e.g., thumb sucking).
By changing the relationship between the person’s behavior and what he or she gets after doing the behavior we can CHANGE THE BEHAVIOR!!
Most parenting advice starts backwards by providing recommendations on how to respond to behavior. This strategy succeeds only by chance—the strategy just happens to be appropriate for the reason your child is engaging in the behavior you want to change. A much more reliable first step to discipline is to understand the function of your child’s behavior. In other words we need to know what your child “gets” out of the behavior you want to change.
How do we figure out why? Let’s look at what is happening right before the child engages in the behavior and what happens right after in this example.
A parent just relieved the nanny. She needs to get dinner on the table and work is still emailing her. She sets up her preschooler and toddler with a favorite game or TV show and goes to the kitchen to get dinner started. After about 10 minutes the preschooler begins throw toys at the toddler who is now crying. She rushes in to stop the preschooler and comfort the toddler. She explains why it is important to have nice hands to her preschooler and gets everyone back into the activity. Then she returns to the kitchen to cook dinner. In a few minutes, however, her toddler and preschooler are wrestling over a toy and she returns to them to negotiate between them. This time she takes away the toy from both kids.
Why is this behavior happening? Let’s take a look at what is happening before and after the behavior. Today we will focus on the preschooler.
Before the Behavior
Watching TV and playing with toys with sibling
parent cooking dinner
Fighting over toys
After the Behavior
Parent comes in to the room to stop the behavior
Looking at the behavior this way, you can see that the parent’s course of action was logical, thoughtful and sensitive to both of the children’s needs. So why do they engage in these behaviors night after night? Why are her discipline strategies not working? Likely the children have missed their parents during the day. The necessities of getting dinner on the table and answering emails from work means that the parent is not yet able to provide undivided attention to her children. However when the preschooler throws toys and fights with the toddler mom has no other choice but stop what she is doing and intervene. She is providing attention to the kids which is what they really want. It is the attention that they get, even the negative attention that perpetuates the behaviors she does not want.
This week take a look at the behaviors you want to change. Watch for what is happening right before and after the behavior. Writing down notes daily can often help you to see patterns. Next week, we will talk about what to do about the behavior.