Behavioral problems are very common in children and need to be dealt with carefully in order to effectively manage them and to encourage positive behaviors in their place. One important thing to remember is that every behavior has a function. Maybe your child is trying to communicate something to you indirectly by throwing a tantrum or crying. Are they hungry? Are they tired? Are they sleep-deprived? Are they feeling sibling rivalry? Do they need a hug or some reassurance? Sometimes you need to investigate to get to the root of the problem.
Keep in mind that children usually act in inappropriate ways for four general reasons:
To gain attention
To gain access to a something they want, such as a toy or activity
To escape or avoid something they do not like
For sensory feedback
In order for us to understand a behavior, we need to look at what happens before and immediately after. Is the behavior a result of something that occurred in the child’s environment? Do they get something they want or do they get to escape something they don’t want after exhibiting this behavior? We need to examine what is reinforcing the behavior. Attention is one of the most common reinforcers- if a child receives attention from those around him or her for a behavior, they are likely to repeat it.
Here are some tips you can use to dispel negative behaviors and encourage a positive alternative:
- Teach the child what you do want them to do in place of the inappropriate behavior.
- Use “do language” with the child, to help them understand and learn the correct behavior. “Do language” tells the child what to do, rather than telling them to “stop” or “don’t do that”.
Consistency is the key to change. Approach everyone who interacts with your child, such as your spouse, older siblings, grandparents and teachers, to get them on board. Children need and want boundaries and rules because they make them feel secure. They like to feel that their environment is predictable and when each member in the family or in the child’s environment acts differently in response to their behavior, this confuses the child and makes them feel unsafe
Provide an environment that promotes successful engagement. Most children love to explore their environment and interact and play with different things, as it helps them to better understand their surroundings. Challenging behaviors can often occur when a child is bored or wants attention. Providing an environment that promotes exploration can reduce boredom and unacceptable behavior.
Do not compare your child to his or her siblings or to other children. Your child is unique and special and should never be compared to others as this can cause feelings of inadequacy and perpetuate issues with their self-esteem.
If you have enjoyed this series of articles on strategies to improve your child’s feeding, sleeping and behaviour, I’m certain that you will enjoy and benefit from our full course which includes a wealth of information on each of these topics.
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Runda obtained her Master of Science in Occupational Therapy from Western University in London, Ontario, where she also currently resides with her family. She has partnered up with the Muslim Women Success Coach website to deliver a course entailing a series of webinars regarding childhood-related issues and strategies to deal with them effectively. Runda has a passion for working with children and has experience working with children with various disorders.