Positive Parenting Strategies Series
When possible, parents should purposely ignore inconsequential behavior that is just annoying or frustrating, such as whining, complaining, mild sibling rivalry and tantrums. Chances are, if the child isn’t getting any attention, he or she will soon stop, often in less than a minute or two.
But when behavior is consequential, we can’t ignore it. Consequential behavior hurts, damages or destroys. Parents need to step in and stop the behavior.
Stop, then redirect the inappropriate behavior.
Stay calm. Get close, in a safe way. Establish eye contact. Touch the child softly, if possible, in a non-threatening way. Tell the child calmly: “That behavior is not appropriate. It can hurt someone.”
The child will likely protest. Ignore the protests. Use empathy and understanding. “I can see that you’re upset.” But then calmly ask: “What do I expect of you [in this situation]?” Repeat the question until they answer—which is usually within 3 times of you repeating the question.
Get the child to tell you what they should (or should not) do. Do not tell children something they already know. Let them tell you!
After the child has answered what she is expected to do, you can then suggest other options that are appropriate, such as a playing with a substitute toy or relocating to a different room. Even better, ask your child to suggest alternate, positive behaviors
Clearly Communicate Expectations
In order for this to work effectively, parents need to first clearly communicate expectations to children and practice role playing. Clearly state your expectation for a certain situation and ask the child to repeat back the expectation.
For example, you may tell a child that if she gets upset at her brother and wants to hit him, she should not hit him and she should walk away.
Then ask: “Stacy, what do I expect you to do when you get upset at your brother and want to hit him?”
Let the child to repeat the expectation back to you. When your children repeats the expectation back to you, pretend you are the brother and have your child practice walking away from you several times. Ignore any protests and keep repeating your question until she complies, then thank her for her cooperation. (See The Power of Positive Parenting by Dr. Glenn Latham.)