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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Promoting good listening and behavior skills

I had a parent ask me yesterday for some tips on teaching her child to listen and behave better. She confided in me that she was feeling very discouraged and that her child didn't seem to even mind a time out and that he would simply go back to what he was doing even after she sat him down. I gave her a few ideas off the top of my head but when I went home I decided to jot down a few of the things I try to do to promote good behavior and listening skills. I decided to write them down with a few examples and decided to put it on my blog so that it might be helpful for other parents too. Although I do not have children myself, I am happy to share what works for me in the classroom. : )

How to promote good listening/behavior skills in children.

* Clear expectations. Make sure to tell your child what your expectations are. Try not to use too many words and keep it clear and concise. If giving a direction remember that most preschoolers can only follow 1 to 2 steps at a time. Sometimes, just taking the time to talk with your child about what is expected can fend off behaviors which are not acceptable before they even happen.
* Give a countdown. “In 5 minutes it’s time to clean up.” This way you give the child a warning that a transition is coming and you give them time to react.
* Consistency. If it’s not okay one day it cannot be okay the next day. Consistency really is the key in my opinion.
* If you give a consequence you must follow through. If you tell the child that they are going to miss their favorite tv show and you then let them watch it, they learn that you are going to give in and they will continue the behavior. When you give your child a consequence it can also feel like a consequence for you but, you have to stand your ground in a firm but loving way.
* Connect the consequence to the behavior. For example, if the child is in trouble for drawing on the walls the child must clean the mess. Just giving a time out and you cleaning the mess is the easy way out for the child and he/she will not learn to take responsibility for his/her actions.

* Don’t yell or get emotional when delivering consequences. Always remember to avoid yelling, screaming or arguing when giving a consequence. If you feel yourself getting out of control simply count to 10 before delivering the consequence. Don’t debate with your child it will only make things worse and result in a power struggle. Instead, try to speak clearly and in a matter of fact tone of voice.

* Give consequences that have an impact on your child's thinking. When your child misbehaves, you always want to ask him/her this question afterward: "What will you do differently next time? Have him/her come up with some examples. If he/she can't, you can help him with a few of your own.
* Label Feelings. Often times when a child is acting out and not listening it is because they are not able to effectively communicate how they are feeling. One way to work on this is to label how the child is feeling and therefore give them the vocabulary they need to express themselves in a healthy manner. Examples, “That sounds frustrating” “You’re disappointed that we have to leave now” “If only I could make that orange juice into your favorite apple juice” etc..    
* Remember to praise good behavior and don't get discouraged!!! Make sure to let your child know when he/she is exhibiting great behavior. I am not big on rewards for behavior as it can sometimes send the wrong message to children but I do believe in incentives. If you work hard at a job and you get a raise we call it an incentive, so why when children do a great job can we not also give an incentive for them to keep up the good work? For example, your child could earn an extra story that night before bed or an extra 20 minutes at the park as an incentive for having an extra good day. Your time with your child doesn't cost you anything and that is all the incentive most children need.

These are just a few things that seem to work well from my experience. I hope that this has been helpful and if any other parents have any questions or need some new ideas on how to help their child with a certain skill please feel free to ask. : )

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