Monday, July 25, 2011

Children of the Corn: Formulating A Plan

Last week I wrote about identifying scary behaviors our children exhibit.  We examined the triggers and the reason why this behavior might be surfacing.  You can find the first post in the "Children of the Corn" series here

Today we are going to work on developing a plan of action to overcome these obstacles with a simple three step plan.  Please note that I still rely on time-outs and natural consequences when an ugly behavior rears it's ugly head.  This plan is a guide for parents and caregivers to help avoid triggers and have some ideas stored in our back pockets. 

Consistency is my favorite term. You need regular schedules that are predictable and reliable. Transitions and cues will become your best friends. You will not get anywhere without being predictable in your responses.  Children crave routines and knowing what is coming next.  If you develop a successful plan, the children will be able to anticipate your reaction.

Formulate a family or classroom friendly plan, by following these steps:

  • Create a small list of activities or modifications that would prevent the behavior. This could be as simple as developing a consistent routine during the day.  It may involve providing multiples of similar toys or assigning jobs every day in a fair, predictable manner.  You might need to adjust the snack schedule to include an extra snack to prevent hungry antics.  You might decide to be proactive by showing attention and acknowledgement BEFORE a tantrum develops. 

  • Now we need to work on replacing the negative skills with acceptable alternatives.  That sounds a little daunting, but if we want our children to succeed in life they need to have the proper social skills to handle the real world.  These skills range from developing their vocabulary or sign language to express their wants and crossing over into the world of manners and etiquette.  You will need to model manners, label them, and include them in every aspect of your day.  Teach the children to ask for turns when they want the same toy and how to respond.  You may need to use a read aloud and picture cards to depict positive reactions.  It depends on the behavior, but you will need to teach the child what is expected

  • Finally, as adults, we need to know how we are going to respond to the behavior and ways to encourage the acceptable replacements.  This step rests completely on our shoulders.  You want to encourage positive behavior as much as possible, but be careful in your rewards.  You don't want to motivate a child only to win rewards like stickers, candy, and toys.  You want to build up their intrinsic motivation to behave.  If you see a situation developing, use cues to help the children avoid a screaming or biting session.  Use meaningful praise if you see a positive reaction when sharing toys.  Be specific.  Take pictures of successful moments and put them in a book.  A personal favorite that an instructor shared, was to call the child's answering machine and leave a message noting a good thing you witnessed for her to hear when she gets home. 
The sky is the limit.  Undesirable behaviors won't disappear over night, but with time and patience you can help the child learn acceptable skills. 

What are some skills you are currently working on?


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