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Winning the Behaviour Challenge (Practical parenting tips)

Behaviour is the basis of your child's entire future; her home relationships, her career relationships and her mental health.

Parents realize that their children need to be parented differently than they were, however, they do not fully understand how to parent differently. Too often, controlling parenting is replaced with no parenting. These children become victims of their poor decision making ability, resulting in broken relationships and bleak career possibilities.

How many times do see children, who are rude in restaurants, with their loud and boisterous behaviour disturbing those around them and ruining the experience for mom and dad? "Please sit down Johnny." "No." The child gets up and jumps on the bench seat, leaning over to the patrons across the way. Beside him sits a parent who is simply tired, unhappy and frustrated. This was her parenting project. She just does not know what to do. She wanted her child to have the best of everything that life has to offer; experiences, things, unrestricted freedom, unlike the control that she lived under, as a child. Now, her child experiences the freedom that she has always craved but she again does not. She assumes all of the responsibilities and becomes weakened by the demands of her child. If she does not make changes in her strategy she will continue to cause internal damage to her child. The child will learn how to manipulate rather than to have respect for his peers. The child will become increasingly confident with his ability to avoid paying the consequences for his poor behaviour. He will become entwined in inner turmoil dictated by this lack of order. He will feel lost and emotionally unstable. Without rules, regulations and consequences for poor behaviour, a child will be encouraged to follow a life of loneliness and despair.

Parents need to learn how to outsmart their children, without controlling them. It is a challenge to figure out the correct consequence for inappropriate behaviour. Have fun with it! Love your children. Learn from the experts. Make it work in the framework of your own family. Talk with your friends and learn from each other. Teachers and parenting experts also have challenging parenting moments. You are not alone. Don't ever feel embarrassed. Work hard to solve your challenges. Having the confidence to try and knowing where to go for practical tips is the first step to success in parenting.

1. Understand your child.
  Don't make excuses for your child's behaviour.
  Understand your child's motivation and never respond to the poor behaviour, instead respond the underlying problem.
  When Thomas makes that annoying sound that frustrates everyone, mom says: "Thomas, stop making that noise. It doesn't sound nice." Well, Thomas knows that it doesn't sound nice! That is why he is making the noise. Instead, mom should catch Thomas doing something positive, and give him a genuine compliment for that great behaviour. He is trying to get mom's attention through his disturbing behaviour. Encourage the good behaviour instead of giving power to the inappropriate behaviour.

2. Encourage your child.
  This winter, it is taking forever for little Alexander to put on his coat, boots, mittens and neck warmer. Today, despite mom's best efforts, they will all be late for school. So mom helps Alexander get dressed and tells him; "Alexander, you are just too slow today!" Alexander feels completely inept and in her kind and subtle way, she has communicated to him that he is incapable to do this for himself.
  How could mom have handled this situation differently?

3. Routine
  Engage in family routines so that the family can function in a healthy fashion. Knowing what is expected of them, and predicting what will happen next, gives children the power they crave and need. The Lakarootin family couldn't understand why their Saturdays were so stressful. Every weekday, the children went to school and Saturdays were the day when they had the freedom to do whatever they wanted to do. Mr. Lakarootin read the newspaper, or watched TV or did whatever he felt like doing. Most times he slept in because he watched the late night movie. His wife also allowed the kids do what they wanted to do. Sometimes they went out to the mall, but most times, they stayed in their pyjamas until lunch time, which they ate a little early because they skipped breakfast. The kids were usually fully engaged in a fight by lunch time and the peace and harmony that mom and dad craved after a hard week at work became a fight between mom and dad by evening.
  Mondays were always toughest on the Lakarootin kids. The teacher often remarked how Tyler and Carson required time outs and many reminders to keep their behaviour in check.
  One Saturday, Grandma came over for a visit. She woke up early so that when the children awoke, she helped them prepare a special breakfast. The children and grandma went to the public library immediately after cleaning up the breakfast dishes. There, Grandma read her Wellness magazines whereas Tyler and Carson played Thomas the Tank Engine computer games. They enjoyed a productive conversation on the way home as they planned a special lunch. After lunch they completed their homework and proceeded to have a calm and wonderful day. Grandma stayed until lunch time on Sunday, by which time mom and dad have become acutely aware of the difference in behaviour patterns. On Monday, there were no difficulties in adjusting to routines. Mrs Cullmer complemented Carson on his exceptionally cooperative behaviour.
  Mom and dad learned from this experience. Grandma was instrumental in effecting a family change of behaviour. The effort that mom and dad exerted to family routine was repaid handsomely with their kids' fantastic behaviour.

4. Take action. Don't talk about it. Do it!
  Every day the same behaviour repeats itself. Mom goes for a walk to the park and her 2 year old runs away from her as she is pushing the stroller. She warns him that they won't go to the park any more if he continues to do that, but she doesn't follow through. After all, Andrew knows that she wants to go to the park. Today, Andrew was almost hit by a car. She becomes aware that this behaviour is not only annoying but also, extremely unsafe behaviour.
  After talking, we devised a solution. Mom spent the next week holding Andrew's hand, as she walked him to the park. He hated that loss of freedom. She calmly and lovingly stated: "If you can walk beside me, without passing the stroller, I will give you back your freedom to walk by yourself." "I can do it mommy!" stated Andrew convincingly. Sure enough, as soon as mommy let go of Andrew's hand, Andrew ran off, laughing in a sweet and playful manner. Mommy chased after him and this was so much fun for Andrew! But this time, and every time in the following three days, mommy held on to Andrew's hand, when he passed the front of the stroller. It took a little bit of effort, but, by the end of the week, Andrew did not need mom's hand to walk safely, beside the stroller. He knew that the consequence would be a loss of his freedom, every time.

5. Understand your child's incorrect thought patterns.
  Jason constantly seeks his teacher's attention. Jason's teacher, Mrs. Winguide, has daily reports for mom, telling her about his attention seeking behaviour. Jason is the only child. His mom has deluged him with constant attention his entire life. Now, he feels that he is less worthy because his teacher does not pay the same kind of attention on him.
  Now mom becomes more aware of this behaviour at home. Although she wants to be a patient, loving mother with a good relationship with her child, she realizes that she is making some fundamental errors. She has been encouraging Jason's desire for undue attention. Jason has learned that he is important only when mother is playing with him or doting on him. He gains an incorrect sense of belonging. Mother begins to think more carefully about the overview of behaviour that she is encouraging; "To come to think of it, whenever I am on the phone, whenever I am reading, he is always trying to redirect my attention to him." Mom thanks Mrs. Winguide and makes a new plan of action. Mom now has the power to offer her child real and healthy guidance. She has the opportunity to act. She will act.

6. Ignore poor behaviour and take away the power behind it.
  Igor was having a difficult time dealing with a new baby brother. At 16 months of age, this was his first big crisis in life. Mother was breastfeeding Sonny when Igor came up and swiftly delivered a smack on the baby's head. Mom was in tears, saying what should I do, I don't want to hit him, but I need to teach him to never do this again.
  Calmly she ignores the behaviour and then as soon as she sees Igor playing nicely, she hugs him and tells him that she loves him. She tries to spend some special time with him over the proceeding few weeks. He never repeats the behaviour.

7. Punishment and reward
  Punishment only works to engrain in a child a pattern of defiance and resistance. It says to the child; "Obey me, or else…" It does not tell the child to think for himself. Mother may smack the child, and in return, the child is empowered to repeat the poor behaviour. The child learns to make a game out of repeating the poor behaviour and not getting caught. The mother will eventually catch him, increasing the level of punishment. Outward signs of love disappear from the canvas.
  Reward works in the same way. A child, who behaves well, so that he may win a candy, will learn to behave in the appropriate manner, when the awarding officer is watching. The child learns a pattern of behaving well for a reward, instead of behaving well for the sake of behaving appropriately and thinking independently.

8. Use logical consequences to encourage independence and problem solving.
  We are making a birthday cake for Auntie Stefanie. Christopher and Anthony are working hard and have helped bake the cake. We have just decorated the cake and are preparing it for travel. Christopher carefully carries it to the cake box but the cake slips off of the plate and falls to the ground.
  Mom (I) could have yelled, or gotten annoyed. I could have gone to the store and solved the problem by buying a new cake. I instead calmly ask my boys; "What are we going to do now?" I will allow Christopher and Anthony to experience the consequence of the action and provide an honest and real learning situation. Anthony immediately offers that we pick up the cake, scrape off the icing and redecorate the cake by making new icing. And I saw that the floor wasn't that dirty, so I immediately proceeded to help them in the planned problem resolution. But you see, I allowed them to solve the problem, together. I could have bought a new cake, but then I would have been the one solving the problem, while in juxtaposition, they would have felt inadequate and powerless. And I can tell you that this time, we put a little bit of icing between the cake and the plate, so that it did not slide off of the plate.
  Every child is good in nature; it is our response the child's behaviour that encourages the child to choose either the path of goodness or the opposite.
  Mistakes happen; there is no point in condemning a child for a mistake. Teach your child to move forward and create a new plan. This teaches success in life.

9. Be firm but not controlling and refrain from overprotecting.
  A friend of mine was frustrated with her daughter's eating habits. She refused to eat anything other than plain pasta. That Friday night the family prepared lentil soup for dinner. Anna spent dinner time playing with her soup. In fact, as soon as the soup was brought to the table, the child immediately said: "EEEw, this is barf soup. I'm not eating it. The family ate the soup. The calm of the meal was lost and mother, not wanting Anna to go hungry made her a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, while she had an enjoyable conversation about their trip to the science centre. Anna ate her dinner and immediately went to do her homework. Everyone seemed to be happy.
  The problem in this situation is that mom feels like she is a slave to her child. She feels like she is the only one who cares if her child eats or not. These feelings make her realize that something is not working right. She sees that in fact, Anna is in complete control of the meal time and of her mother. She not only got the food that she wanted, but she also got the attention from her mother, that she also wanted.
  I explained to mom that her child would not starve if she did not eat one meal. Furthermore, I have never found any research to suggest that it is possible for a child to starve herself. The natural eating instinct eventually sets in and the child will eat.
  We discussed a plan. The next time Anna had lentil soup for dinner; she again complained and refused to eat. This time, mom and dad presented a united statement, taking the power out of her refusal to eat dinner and allowing her to not eat her dinner. There was no anger in their voices: "You may be excused if you don't wish to eat tonight. We will let you make the decision." After dinner, Anna came back to have a snack. This time, mother was firm. "We already had dinner time, at which time you decided not to eat. If you wish to eat your dinner, it is in the refrigerator, you may still eat it. That is your choice: dinner or no dinner. Which choice do you choose?" Anna walked away in a huff, but an hour later returned, to eat the lentil soup. That was the last day that lentil soup was a problem.

10. Eliminate criticism to encourage.
  When you focus on every little mistake that your child makes, you discourage him from proceeding to the next step or from mastering the task. The child becomes afraid and focuses on the feeling of inadequacy instead of on the feeling of enjoying the experience.

11. Win your child's co operation.
  So you want your child to clean up her room. Nagging is fun for your child. It gives her the feeling that she has power over you. After all, she has just annoyed you and is planning to continue to ignore you, if she pleases. It is much more effective to be loving and gentle. So your child brings cups and plates to her room and doesn't return them to the kitchen? Don't be so quick to pick them up. Take away the privilege of eating and drinking in her room until she learns to clean up after herself. She can't find her favourite sweater? Don't be so quick to find it for her. It is dinner time, and she has left her homework on the dinner table? Don't clean up after her. Help her understand the need for family order and take a break. Go read your magazine. When she asks, "When are we having dinner?" Your answer is; "When there is room on the table."

12. Make reasonable requests and expect them to be followed through consistently.
  After dinner, it is the custom of the Newman family to do a group clean up of dishes. Everyone takes part. The two year old is especially proud of his ability to participate. At a young age, it is fun to do everything that the older people are doing. No one challenges the task. As sure as they expect dinner to be prepared daily, they understand that they must clean up after dinner time. There are no exceptions to the rule.

13. Listen to the meaning of what your child is saying! Don't get into a power struggle with your child.
  Listen to what your child is saying. Your replies should always include a part of what your child has stated. For example: "Mom, I don't like soccer." Mom replies; "Of course you like soccer. I just paid $250 so that you can play soccer with your friends. I don't have that kind of money to waste. You do like soccer and there is no way that you are getting out of it!" "I am not going to soccer. I don't like it. I am not, no I don't like soccer."
  "You are saying that you don't like soccer. I hear you. What don't you like about soccer?" "I don't like how my socks make me feel too hot; and my legs are itchy!" Mom looks at his legs and notices a rash. "Let's try changing your socks." From that day on, they did not use the woollen socks, they used cotton ones that looked like the team uniform. The rash disappeared and his soccer team won the division championship.

14. Display appropriate tone of voice.
  Never nag, yell at or speak to your child with a voice that exudes disgust, hatred or out of control anger.

For the full story, read the fall edition of Quality Of Life Omnimedia's Parents & Kids Magazine.

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