Before we consider any difficult or negative behaviours, we need to focus on your child’s strengths and build upon these. This is always the foundation for positive behaviour strategies.
Before you get started, spend two weeks noting everything that your child does well, or when they do something as soon as they are asked. These are the strengths you will be building on.
Practise giving labelled praise first. Get up close at their level/use their name/praise stating exactly/what they have done well/use a loving tone of voice.
What is Behaviour? Behaviour is anything that we do, think or feel
Reasons for our behaviour are to:
- Gain attention
- Get something that we need or want
- Escape or avoid (demands/activity/situation)
- Sensory need or pain
Know your ABCs
Triggers (Antecedent) occur before a behaviour.
Behaviour – describe it properly, ‘meltdown looks different for everyone’. It can be a positive (putting your wellies on when asked) or difficult (eg hitting)
Consequences occur after a behaviour. This can be either positive or negative and can affect the likelihood of the behaviour reoccurring or decreasing. (“I get the iPad for having a tantrum or I go to the park when I put my wellies on.”)
Realistic expectations for attention giving/seeking
An average 3-year-old may spend 3-8 minutes on an interesting activity. Consider this when you expect them to focus on an activity, especially if your focus is on something else. Keep ‘checking’ in with your child, reward with your attention and offer labelled praise.
Comment on what they are playing with and join in. Remember to change your child’s activity regularly as they can get bored quickly
Decide as a family what the house rules are and write them clearly on a poster. It is important that the whole family is together when deciding what the house rules are so some rules may be aimed at the adults.
Behaviour can also be an expression of feelings or emotions. To help children make sense of this, and have the best effect, approach them with empathy, supporting and guiding them to identify and deal with their emotions. Provide words and meanings to names and express emotions, so children can practise how to handle them as they arise.
Recognise and empathise with your child. Label the feeling to validate it. Offer them guidance and boundaries to manage the emotion. Help them problem solve whatever it was causing them to feel the big emotion. You can support the emotions using your face, simple Makaton signs or visuals. By co-regulating your child’s emotions this will help them to self-regulate.
This is about redirecting your child’s attention. You can use this to avoid a situation escalating eg sweets at the till.
It is shifting your child’s attention to something more engaging or interesting.
Not to be used if the child has escalated to the ‘red zone’ or if your child has hurt someone.
Catch them early – use activities to keep in the ‘green zone’ (focused and calm).
Encouraging alternative behaviour – break the cycle
Regular family meetings to update the house rules.
Remember not to label a negative behaviour as it makes it an issue. Instead reinforce positive behaviour so you’ll see more of it.
Natural consequences – (most impactful)
This is not a punishment, it teaches a child that there are natural outcomes in life. It can help a child structure and organise their behaviour and to learn self-regulation (being angry doesn’t get them what they want).
Example: Lucy screamed and whinged because she didn’t want a vanilla ice cream and threw it on the floor. Natural consequence: she has NO ice cream(you must follow through with this, do not replace the ice cream).
A planned consequence would be in response to the child’s difficult behaviour that needs a planned outcome (when it’s not appropriate to use other strategies). Build this into house rules (but be realistic).
Be consistent. EVERYONE should stick to it.
Example: Throws the Xbox controller in anger for not getting their own way. Planned consequence as per house rules: remove Xbox, switch off Wi-Fi. Once they have calmed, give your attention with labelled praise, replace with new activity/divert/distract, don’t go back on the decision. LOTS of positive praise for being calm and doing the new activity.
Rewards can be social (smiling, tickles), food or drink, objects and sensory.
Remember these can reward good behaviours but reinforce and prolong difficult behaviours if given at wrong time.
They are immediate, so remember if they occur straight after difficult behaviour it will reinforce it.
Use them straight after the behaviour you want to see!
Keep them interesting. Don’t over-expose your child to them otherwise they won’t be effective eg chocolate or gaming.
Planning for trips out
Decide where you are going. Be specific, plan the route and include activities for the journey.
Radar keys – If in receipt of DLA, you can access a Radar Key for some public toilets.
Pack a change of clothes, snacks and drinks, distraction techniques (alternate activities), push chairs, camping chairs to sit down.
- Reduce overall number of demands – pick your battles.
- Avoid using the word NO, instead use the word ‘finished’ if you need to move child on.
- Encourage involvement by offering a choice of two activities.
- Use visual timetables of objects to reinforce (see Week One – Communication)
- Tell them what you want them to do, rather than what they are not to do eg “sit on the chair, not “stop jumping”.
- Break down the instruction into smaller parts: “Pick that up…well done”, “now put it in the bin… well done.”
- First sit down – then you can have a sticker.
- Time your instructions, tidy up before using iPad, iPad is the reward.
- Leave a gap for processing the instruction and repeat, don’t rephrase if it was clear.
- Your choice of strategies should be based on your child’s age, developmental stage and type of behaviour.
- Analyse the behaviour first – what are they trying to communicate to you?
- Know your ABCs.
- Remember your house rules: what strategy for which behaviour? Is it appropriate for the behaviour?
- Natural consequence – run out of time for park or dropped ice cream during tantrum.
- Planned consequence – no Xbox for the rest of the evening.