Have you ever told your child over and over to stop a behavior, like hitting, playing with food or getting out of bed? Sometimes it feels like our kids continue a behavior just to upset us!
It is not enough to tell kids what we don’t want them to do—they need to hear what we do want them to do instead. Children tend to think in ideas, and “no hitting” only gives them the idea of hitting. But if we say “Keep your hands in your lap,” they have the mental picture of hands in their lap, and are more likely to focus on that behavior. Help your child focus on positive behaviors by giving them specific instructions of what to do: “Put your bottom in the chair,” “Feet on the floor.”
Kids are likely to repeat the behaviors that get the biggest reaction from you. It is easy to give a child a big reaction for misbehaviors, such as hitting or throwing toys. But if we give them an equally positive reaction instead, such as giving them a high five and saying, “You cleaned up all your toys! Way to go!” or “I love how you two are sharing right now!,” these are the behaviors they will connect with getting attention from adults. Pointing out the positive behaviors will lead to more positive behaviors from your child. Remember: “What you focus on, you get more of”.
Change your family rules from negatives to positives. Instead of “No running in the house” change the rule to “Walking feet in the house.” Keep these rules posted on the fridge and go over them as a family. Once isn’t always enough. Don’t get discouraged if replacing a “stop…..” phrase with a positive phrase doesn’t stop the behavior immediately. You may need to repeat yourself several times, and even model the appropriate behavior “Walk like this” before your child will pick up the desired behavior.