All children have times where they will have behavioural or emotional outbursts. This can be triggered by things such as change (in family dynamics, routine, friendships), stress in the family or school environment, illness, and the parents own emotions and behaviour.
Listed below are some of my top tips for helping to manage child behaviour, and be a more consistent parent. These tips are based upon a positive approach to parenting in combination with behavioural therapy principles.
- Keep calm when parenting – if you can’t remain calm, leave the situation to calm yourself and then come back to it.
Being calm prevents arguments escalating, making threats you can’t carry out, and things being said that may be hurtful.
- Ignore minor misbehaviours (e.g., pulling faces, silly voices, talking back, whining & complaining). Let the child know what the desired behaviour is once, then ignore the misbehaviour. (e.g., “I can’t listen to that whining voice, I’ll listen when you can use a calm voice”; “when you can sit still, you can have your dinner”))
- Give a maximum of 2 warnings or reminders for a child to complete a task, and then implement consequences (e.g., remove toy/item, quiet time, or time out). After the consequence, bring the child back to the task to be completed. Giving too many chances can teach children that they don’t have to comply until you’ve said it “x” amount of times. It’s important that a consequence is implemented to let the child know that you are going to follow through with what you say, and they won’t get away with it.
- Only use consequences you know you can achieve! If you know you won’t be able to cope with the child whining about not having their computer/favourite thing for a week, then make it a more realistic time frame that you can stick with.
- Limit use of words and do not engage in arguments, discussions and compromising. As the adult, at times you are going to need to be the one to discontinue the argument, and ignore any back-chatting. What you have said and your decision, should be final.
- Pay attention to children when they are behaving well and not complaining Give specific praise about what you like (e.g., “you’ve done a really great job packing the toys back into the box”).
- Be consistent with your responses and follow through with consequences.
- Have regular quality time together – this can be in short intervals (e.g., just 5 minutes of undivided attention)
- Increase positive interactions – including smiling at, making eye contact with, light touch (pat on the back & high-fives) and sitting close to your child.
- Have a plan for high-risk situations (e.g., shopping or going out) and have clear rules for these times with the child. Handle it the same way as you would at home.
These may seem like a lot of things to think about for you and your child. If you can take away just this message from the information above, it can help your relationship and parenting with your child:
The biggest tip I can give a parent is to be CALM and CONSISTENT with your parenting.
Written by child psychologist, Melissa Reardon. Melissa works in the treatment of Autistic Spectrum and Childhood Disorders. CBT Professionals are a team of clinical psychologists on the Gold Coast with offices in Coomera and Nerang. Gold Coast CBT psychologists offer services to adults, children, and couples.