If you’ve ever wondered what things you can do to improve your child’s behavior, you need to listen to this episode. Therapist, Mike Fitch teaches the techniques that EVERY parent needs to know. These tips work for strong-willed children.
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We want to share with you the “cornerstone tools” of effective parenting. These cornerstones are the simplest, most proven ways to improve behavior.
Cornerstone One: Consistency
*Note: If you listened to or read the section on consistency in Episode 004, skip to the next cornerstone.
Consistency from all who parent your child(ren) in YOUR home.
Inconsistency among parents is EXTREMELY common. Parents often revert back to the way they were parented when they themselves become parents. Even if you didn’t like the way you were parented, it’s what was modeled for you. Additionally, one parent will often be more lenient and one more strict. The longer this goes on, the more extreme each parent will be in an effort to compensate for the other parents strictness/permissiveness.
How to become consistent in your approach.
First, take five minutes to brainstorm a list of(not shooting down comments in this brain storm session) what you see your overall goals for your children being. It may look something like this:
WHAT WE HOPE FOR OUR CHILDREN
- That they become happy, healthy adults
- That they become contributing members of society
- That they are independent people who have developed the necessary skills to move out on their own when they’re eighteen
- Have self-confidence
- Know that making mistakes is OK
After your brainstorming session, circle what is most important to you. Hopefully, you will be on the same page and have a clearer vision when you are done. This is critical because, when you can see your destination, it’s easier find out how to get there.
Consistent with your approach and with follow through
Being consistent will teach you kids that you mean what you say and that you will follow through. It teaches them that they can’t get away with things if they just keep pushing and pushing. It teaches them that you are indeed the alpha in your home, not them.
Consistent for an extended period of time
“Many parents have good ideas, but try it for a week then give up. They just need to give it more time.” -Mike Fitch CMHC
Research shows it takes up to a month of consistency to start to see changes.. You are retraining your family. They are used to behaving a certain way and for you to be behaving a certain way.
Cornerstone Two: Choose a Good Parenting Curriculum to be Consistent With
There are so many parenting books, classes, etc. out there, it can be overwhelming! How do you know which parenting curricula are good and which are garbage?
Here are three questions to help you select one that will be best for your family.
- Does this curriculum match the healthiest parenting style? (Read all about the healthiest parenting style here.)
- Is this parenting curriculum free of shaming techniques?
- Shaming destroys self-esteem and has no place in the home.
- Shame does not motivate us to do better, rather it makes us feel like we can’t because WE are the problem, not our actions.
- If my boss were to use the techniques I’m learning about on me, would I want to behave better?
- Here’s an example:One recent parenting book recommended drawing a mark on your child’s arm every time the child made a mistake. If your boss were to draw on you every time you screwed up, how would you feel and would you want to improve your behavior? You’d likely feel awful and wouldn’t want to improve.
*Note: There are many different parenting curricula that you could answer “Yes” to all three questions. That is good! That gives you choices. You can mix and match techniques taught in different books. You do not have to do everything one book teaches. Do what works best for you and your family, but be CONSISTENT with whatever you choose.
** If your child is a threat to themselves or others (even if you feel it’s only a phase) seek out immediate help!
Corner Stone Three: Clear Communication Followed by Positive Reinforcement
First, you must clearly communicate.
Discuss rules and expectations together as a family. You don’t have to do it all at once, just in little conversations here and there. For example: “Hey kids, we’re going to the store. I want our shopping together to be enjoyable for you, me, the other shoppers, and the employees there. What behavior do you think is appropriate/inappropriate while we are at the store?”
To be certain the rules/expectations are clear in your family, you may want to write them down.
Next, follow up with positive reinforcement.
Research shows that you need to have five positive interactions with your child to every one negative interaction. Negative interactions have more weight than positive interactions. Imagine a bank account in a child’s heart, every time you have a positive interaction, it’s like putting $10 in but every time you have a negative interaction, it’s like withdrawing $50 from the bank account. If you are constantly being negative, the account will be in the negative. On the flip side, if you are working hard to create a positive environment for your kids, you are increasing the account to be very high in the positive.
Here is a step by step guide for positive reinforcement in your home. Use it often!
- Catch your child doing something they’re supposed to be doing i.e. playing quietly, getting along with a sibling, completing a chore, etc.
- Stop what you are doing
- Say their name
- Tell them specifically what they did that was positive
- Let them know the natural consequence of their positive behavior. (You’re explaining why their behavior is positive, helps them see how they positively contribute to the world around them.)
WHY THIS WORKS
Very simply put, our children’s brains will focus on what we are paying attention to. If you are paying attention to the positive, your child’s brain will be more focused on doing positive. If you are paying attention to the negative, your child’s brain will be focused on doing negative.