BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS

Dealing with behavioral problems in children can be one of the most frustrating experiences for any parent.  However, parents should first ask themselves, "Is my child acting appropriately for their age?".

As a parent, you need to remember that each child develops differently, and certain behaviors are normal depending on the child's emotional and physical development, their age, and what school/family situations that they may be dealing with in their life at any particular moment.  For example, was the child picked on at school today or did they witness their parents arguing?  If so, they may act out in an undesired way just to get attention or because of frustration. 

The best way to deal with unacceptable behavior is to ignore it.  Children tend to repeat behavior that gets them attention, whether or not the attention is good or bad.  Ignoring unwanted behavior is not easy, and will take time.   The behavior will not be discontinued after the first instance of ignoring it.  Given time and patience , most children will respond to this technique if their behavior is normal for their age and level of development.

Another way to stop unwanted behavior is a punishment/reward system.  Again, determining the child's developmental stage is key in executing this type of behavioral management.  "Time-out" for ten minutes is no more appropriate for a teenager than taking the car keys away is for a toddler.  Likewise, buying a new video game for your child just for picking up their toys one time is an inappropriate reward. 

Rewards and punishments must fit the circumstance.  A checklist system (sample shown below) is a good example of an age-appropriate behavior modification technique.  As a parent, you need to set limits that, if followed,  will impact your child in a positive way.  Successful punishment/reward systems will work if they are age-appropriate and executed with consistency. 

According to experts, reward systems work best in children over 2 years of age, and can take up to 2 months to work.  "Remaining patient and keeping a diary of behavior can be helpful to parents."  (http://search.familydoctor.org)  You can find out more about encouraging positive behavior by clicking the above link.

Remember that in either "ignoring" or "punishment / reward", CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY!

This chart is an example of what might be appropriate for an elementary age child
 
EXPECTED / UNEXPECTED BEHAVIORS REWARD PUNISHMENT
Talk kindly to family members Play a game before bed time 10 minutes time out chair
Pick up clothes and toys √ towards new toy, treat  or book no √
Brush teeth morning and night √ towards new toy, treat  or book no √
Clean & sweep room Get to have friend over No friend over
Do homework as soon as you get home from school Get to play game or watch TV for 1/2 hour No TV time
Fighting / arguing with parents or siblings None No/reduced TV time
Kicking or hitting None No electronics (TV, video games, etc.)  and go to bed 1/2 hour early
Getting in trouble at school None No/reduced amount of electronics & write a note of apology to teacher
Swearing / Undesirable Language None 10 minutes time out chair (each instance)

 √'s can accumulate to a desired amount for a reward (i.e. 10 √'s for desired treat, 30 √'s for a new book or small toy, etc.)

But what if my child's behavior is not normal for their age and physical / emotional development or they are harming themselves or others? Or, what if I feel myself losing control when disciplining my child?

This is the time to seek help!  Call our Family and Children experts to schedule an appointment at 330-424-9573.