Friday, February 22, 2008

3 Steps to Improve Your Child's Behavior

All children have episodes of bad behavior, some more frequently and severely and others less. Using these three steps will improve your child's behavior and reduce the frequency and severity of any child behavior problem.

1) Relationship
A loving, stable relationship between parents and children is the basis for the child's healthy social development. Tell your child you love him and show your love by taking time to listen, to play, and to teach. The parent-child relationship is built on the words you say and the tone of your voice. It is strengthened by the laughter you share and the games you play together. It is forever bonded by the values and skills you pass on to your child every day.
2) Planning
Planning is the secret of good parenting. Watch your expectations so that you plan for good behavior rather than dread the bad. Most children's behavior problems occur during times of transition and adjustment. Since childhood is by its nature a continual process of transition, and adjustment to rapid development, it's easy to see that bad behavior is a natural reaction to challenges that the the child doesn't yet have the skills to accomplish.
Planning involves knowing your child, her temperament and skills, and knowing the challenges of her environment. Use direct instruction, guidance, and practice opportunities to teach the skills she will need to cope with new challenges in the journey of childhood.
3) Response
Attentiveness and response are the tools for improving your child's behavior. An understanding of behavior modification principles will help you plan your responses to improve behavior. It all comes down to actions and consequences. When a child's action elicits positive reinforcement, it will be repeated over time. When an action elicits punishment, it will eventually be extinguished. Children learn to make the connection between an action and its consequence when the reinforcement or punishment is immediate and logically related to the action. Parents don't always have to provide the consequence; most consequences occur naturally. Parents can help make the connection by talking to the child about what they did and why it lead to a certain consequence. But, as parents, our responses to our child's actions are powerful consequences, either rewarding or punishing and therefore, shaping his behavior. In the context of a positive parent-child relationship, your approval or disapproval is usually enough of a response to reinforce or punish a behavior. When more intensive rewards or punishments are needed, parents should choose those that work for their family.
The key is to attend to your child's attitude, moods, and behavior; and then, respond to both good and bad behavior quickly. Learn to recognize when bad behavior is being reinforced or good behavior is being extinguished, and adjust the consequences to turn it around. This requires that we be attentive to our child and make the right response.

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