Happy families: Parent tips for managing child behaviour at home

In this excellent article Sue Cowley, Early Years Educator, gives some expert tips on minimising stress while at home. The article is reproduced below or you can download the original article here https://famly.co/blog/covid-19/sue-cowley-managing-behaviour-at-home/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=UKIE%3A+ES+Content&utm_content=ES-V105-Home-Behaviour-1080×1080&utm_term=E119-Home-Behaviour

In the current situation, most families will be spending more time together than normal. Many parents will also be trying to work from home, while also providing care and instruction for their children. In addition, families are likely to be stuck indoors more than usual.

All these changes to your regular routines mean that you may be feeling tense, anxious or stressed at the moment, and your child may pick up on these emotions. This can easily manifest itself in tensions around your child’s behaviour, at a time when the last thing that any of us want to do is to get into family arguments.

Read on for plenty of strategies to help you remain happy and minimise conflict during the lockdown.

Be proactive rather than reactive

There is a tendency for us to wait for poor behaviour to happen, and then to react to it after the event. Similarly, we tend to pay attention to the behaviours that annoy us, but it’s more helpful to highlight positive behaviours every time they happen.

Make sure you praise your child when they are behaving well – “Thank you so much for being so helpful!” It might feel a bit fake at first, but affirming them being good is a great way to encourage better behaviour.

Say what you need

Make sure to actively promote the behaviour you want to see, because this supports your child in understanding your expectations and learning how to do the right thing. Use a statement such as “Let’s see how quickly you can get dressed!” or “I need you to help me lay the table, thanks!” to create a clear target. Reinforce your child’s cooperative behaviours with the use of praise: “Wow, you got dressed extra fast today – well done!”.

It’s all too easy to fall into the habit of using rhetorical questions when faced with poor behaviours. It’s that moment when your child is making a mess with their toys, and you say to them in an exasperated voice, “Why are you doing that?”. You don’t actually want an answer to your question – it is an expression of your irritation.

Instead of phrasing your frustrations around behaviour as questions, make statements to your child about what you would like to see them doing and then support them in doing it. “We need to sort the toys out into the right boxes – let’s do it together!”

Using the tactical ignore

The ‘tactical ignore’ is a vital tool in every parent’s behaviour toolkit. Whenever we pay attention to any kind of behaviour, whether positive or negative, we reinforce it. Refusing to pay attention to poor behaviour can help to minimise it, because your child starts to understand that you will give them your energy and attention when they are doing the right thing.

Clearly if a behaviour is dangerous you need to get your child to stop quickly. Use a firm voice, combined with a command: “You need to stop that right now.” But if the behaviour is not doing any immediate damage, it is often better to ignore it, or suggest a positive alternative.

Remember to look for the learning in the everyday household tasks that you still need to do, from playing with the bubbles as you wash up together, to wiping tables or pulling up weeds. Your young child will enjoy the chance to help you with all of these!

Using distractions

Young children have very short attention spans, so make use of this fact when dealing with their behaviour. Distractions can be very effective, particularly if your child is working their way up to a tantrum, because it throws the child off track from an outburst. You might point to a bird outside the window, pick up a musical toy and shake it, or suggest a quick helping task.

Parents might worry that ignoring or distracting from poor behaviour means letting the child ‘get away with it’, but in reality the main goal for this age group is the development of what we call self-regulation. This means the ability to regulate our own emotions and behaviours.

Children of this age are not being naughty on purpose – their behaviour is just not that calculated. Your child needs you to help them learn to behave through a process called co-regulation, where the adult works together with the child to help them develop internal control.

Handing over control

It is very tempting to try to micromanage your child’s routine, in order to try and stop them getting bored, tired, or under/over stimulated. However, it is really important for your child to have a say in what they do each day, and also to have a chance to manage their own reactions to complex emotions. This will give them a sense of purpose and will also support their ability to regulate.

Let your child take some ownership of their learning and behaviour. This will help them feel more motivated and in control. Try to step back from always intervening – learning to deal with and manage emotions such as boredom or frustration is a crucial part of child development. We cannot do this for our children, we can only support them in learning how to manage it by themselves.

Boosting self-regulation

When it comes to behaviour in the early years, probably the most important thing of all for your child to learn is how to self-regulate. This will set them up for success in the future, because it will help them understand how to behave appropriately in different situations. It will also support them in focusing their attention, which is especially useful once they get to school.

A really useful way to encourage the development of self-regulation is to narrate the ‘why’ behind the behaviour you have asked for. This helps your child understand why you want them to do this particular thing. Always try to add a ‘because’ to your statements about how you need your child to behave.

Supporting your own mental health

Given the unusual and difficult circumstances we are in at the moment, it is really important for families to support their own mental health where they possibly can. The better you feel, the more able you will be to manage your child’s behaviour when they are being difficult.

Do make sure that you and your child get outside for a daily dose of daylight, whether in a garden or by going on a walk. Sunlight helps to boost our mood and being outdoors in the natural world can also be calming.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you set overly ambitious targets, you are likely to be unable to meet them, and consequently to feel disappointed or frustrated. It is far better to be realistic about what you can achieve, especially in the current circumstances. For instance, it may work better to focus on one sustained period of quality play with your child, rather than trying to play with them but with half an eye on the work you need to do from home.

Try not to heap guilt on yourself, by making comparisons with what you think other parents are achieving. It is okay not to feel okay in the current situation and to sometimes get a bit snappy – be kind to yourself if sometimes you don’t get it completely right.

Sue Cowley is an author and teacher educator. She has helped to run her local early years setting for the last ten years. Her latest book is “The Ultimate Guide to Mark Making in the Early Years”, published by Bloomsbury.

 

Pressing the pause button

 

In this extract from Parenting through Covid-19 – helpful hints to keep home life happy Sally Mooney from the Finn Valley Family Resource Centre talks about ‘ pressing the pause button’ – a technique that many parents find incredibly useful. Parenting through Covid-19 – helpful hints to keep home life happy is produced by the team at Finn Valley FRC and Springboard Family Support Project. You can download it at https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

Pressing the pause button

Pressing the pause button, what do we mean by this term? By pressing the pause button and taking a step back from moments of drama we get the

opportunity to see what’s really going on and then to consider the best way in which to deal with it. This results in a calmer parent which in turn leads to
a calmer child, hence improving family life for everyone.

Parenting takes the art of multi-tasking to a whole new level and sometimes, it can become all about getting things done and getting through the endless to-do-lists. This is especially the case now during unprecedented times of the Covid-19 crisis, when we as parents are trying to be all things to our children by filling in the missing gaps left by the absence of friends and teachers. This means at times we find ourselves reacting to our children with anger, frustration, or simple exhaustion.

By pressing the pause button we are taking a few moments to respond. This might mean taking a few breaths, walking into another room for a few minutes or if emotions are running particularly high, deciding to address the issue at a later time or when everyone has calmed down. By doing this we give ourselves time to acknowledge our own feelings and emotions, taking the time to think about how we are feeling and recognising that reacting in anger or frustration won’t help us or our children. Taking this time allows us to calm down and react with the patience, understanding and love that we as parents and our children need.

The Pause Button Technique is a really simple way to empower all parents no
matter what situation they find themselves in; it allows you to press your imaginary pause button, freeze time and consider the consequences of the actions you are about to take, before making a more informed, better choice.

The Parents Plus Parenting Programme states that: “rather than letting a problem happen over and over again, take time to pause and think about the best way to respond”. www.parentsplus.ie

Pause – Press the pause button
  • Take a step back from how you react.
  • Think calmly. What is the best way to respond?
Tune In – Tune in to what is happening
  • What is going on for your children? How are they feeling?
  • What is going on for you as a parent? How are you feeling?
Plan – Make a plan
  • What is the best way to respond?
  • What has worked well in the past?

For more great tips to keep family life happy have a look at the booklet

https://www.cypsc.ie/_fileupload/Documents/Resources/Donegal/FVFRC%20-%20Parenting%20through%20Covid%2019%20Booklet%202.pdf

 

Positive ways to deal with negative behaviour

Here is an interesting piece from the Growing Together newsletter which is distributed by the LifeStart Foundation

The opposite of spanking is not nothing

Now that I have your attention with that double negative, let’s clarify what I’m talking about. Recently a reader responded to my plea for firm guidance for kids with the comment that it was easier for her mom back in the day when it was okay to hit and psychologically terrorize kids into behaving, and without those tools at their disposal there is nothing for today’s parents to do. She went on to comment that time-outs don’t work with seven-year olds, nor does a point system where they earn points to get treats or lose points to lose privileges. “Nothing works,” she went on. “They can just ignore their parents and run amok, and there is not a whole lot we can do. These are not bad kids, but our impotence and the way they ignore us until we blow our tops is maddening.”

First, let me say how much I appreciate this mother’s frankness and honesty. Many parents today likely feel the same dilemma and frustration about discipline for their children. Here’s the problem as I see it: The difficulty is in thinking about spanking, timeouts, or other things as the tools to grab when some discipline is needed, rather than developing an over-arching philosophy of guidance that includes these crucial points:

  1. Kids thrive on limits, needing help in figuring out the world and appropriate behaviour, and understanding that someone else is firmly in charge until they develop their own self-control. Parents have that right and responsibility to be the persons clearly in charge. When this role is adopted at the start, kids just can’t ignore it; the authority of parents is established from the beginning. Maintaining that role through all interaction with children means that they understand who is in charge.
  2. Limits include the big ideas of keeping oneself safe, treating others and their property with respect for their rights, and taking individual responsibility for one’s actions. These ideas are stressed over and over again, as parents help children choose and change actions. As expected behaviour begins to make sense to children, some of the daily struggles subside.
  3. Discipline and guidance are all about effective communication, about being clear what is expected and allowed, and what is not, and why. Authoritative, confident adults leave no room for children to wonder or resist, and then reinforce positive behaviours with definite approval.
  4. Close, loving, respectful relationships lay the foundation for effective discipline. When children are partners in such relationships, they want to both please and be like their parents. This provides much of the early motivation to change problem behaviours into more acceptable ones. When children’s needs and wants are treated with gentle respect, they adopt these attitudes themselves in their dealings with others, so that force and power struggles are not necessary.

These are the important ideas that parents need to consider as they develop their personal philosophy of discipline. Then there is less attention to the daily struggles with children, but a long-term sense of just what it is that parents are working towards, and how they will meet their goals. The opposite of spanking IS indeed something, but it involves a carefully thought-out set of guiding principles and actions.

The GROWING TOGETHER NEWSLETTER is issued by; GROWING CHILD Inc., and is distributed free, courtesy of: THE LIFESTART FOUNDATION, 2, Springrowth House, Balliniska Rd., Springtown Ind. Estate, L’Derry BT48 OGG Tel: 028 71365363. Fax: 028 71365334. E-mail: headoffice@lifestartfoundation.org Web Site: www.lifestartfoundation.org

Why routines are good for family life

 The Importance of Family Routines

Every family needs routines. They help to organise life and keep it from becoming too chaotic. Children do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent. Routines let children know what’s important to their family. Highly meaningful routines are sometimes called rituals. These can help strengthen their shared beliefs and values, and build a sense of belonging and cohesion in families.

One of a family’s greatest challenges is to establish comfortable, effective routines, which should achieve a happy compromise between the disorder, and confusion that can occur without them and the rigidity and boredom that can come with too much structure and regimentation, where children are given no choice and little flexibility.

 Routines are important because:

  • They give structure to the day
  • The set the body clock, making a difference between day and night
  • Routines encourage healthy habits such as regular mealtimes and regular sleeping patterns
  • Children feel safe and secure when they have a routine as they get to know what will happen each day
  • Routines help a parent to feel they are doing a good job and being organised reduces stress
  • Routines can strengthen the parent/child relationship when time is spent together each day at playtime and story-time
  • As children get used to following a routine themselves, the parent needs to give fewer instructions.

Parent should review the routines in their household to ensure that these routines accomplish what the parent wants.

Why routines are good for children
  • An organised and predictable home environment helps children and young people feel safe and secure.
  • They can be a way of teaching younger children healthy habits, like brushing their teeth, getting some exercise, or washing their hands after using the toilet.
  • Routines built around fun or spending time together strengthen relationships between parents and children. Reading a story together before bed or going for a special snack after an event can become a special time for you and your children to share.
  • Daily routines help set our body clocks. For example, bedtime routines help children’s bodies ‘know’ when it’s time to sleep. This can be particularly helpful when children reach adolescence and their body clocks start to change.
  • If your child needs to take medicine regularly, a routine for this will help make both of you less likely to forget.
  • Having an important job to do in the family routine helps older children and teenagers develop a sense of responsibility.
  • Routines help develop basic work skills and time management.
  • Routines can help promote a feeling of safety in stressful situations or during difficult stages of development, such as puberty.
  • When children reach adolescence, the familiarity of regular home routines can help them feel looked after. Predictable family routines can be a welcome relief from the changes they’re experiencing.
  • Routines for children with disabilities can be a big help. They can be even more important for children who find it hard to understand or cope with change.

 

Why routines are good for parents
  • When things are hectic, routines can help you feel more organised, which lowers stress.
  • A routine will help you complete your daily tasks efficiently.
  • As children get better at following a routine by themselves, you can give fewer instructions.
  • Routines free you from having to constantly resolve disputes and make decisions. If a book is read every night before sleep, no-one needs to look to do other activities

Older children might grow out of, or challenge some routines. Being flexible and adapting routines as your child gets older can help with this issue.

Routines can help establish trust and build resilience

 Settling into a routine not only makes things easier for a parent it also is teaching a baby about trust and building a resilient child.  Throughout each day a sequence of events is repeated.  Baby wakes and cries.  Parent comes and baby is fed.  After milk comes bath; after bath, quiet time; then nappy is changed and it is time for sleep.

With repetition, a pattern is formed in a child’s mind: there are things a baby can expect, things he knows will happen next.  As events are repeated, a child understands they will happen again.  When a baby can trust that what has happened in the past will happen again, he also becomes able to wait.

Routine is the beginning of other kinds of trust too; trust in people that they can be relied upon to do for him what needs to be done, and trust in himself, that he can express what it is he needs from other people.  A routine that suits both a baby’s needs and a parent’s needs promotes trust.

Introducing Routines

Here are some suggestions for gently settling an infant into a good daytime—night time routine:

  • Make sure that your baby receives enough food during the day

This may mean a parent spending a little more time with each daytime feed. When a child has finished feeding, let him rest for a while and then try feeding him again but do not force him. If a baby is getting enough food for his age and weight (which can be checked with the Public Health Nurse/Health Visitor), then if he wakes during the night there are probably other causes.

  • Keep baby in the same room as other members of the family in the evening.

If a baby is left in a cot in his bedroom during the day, it is not surprising that he will sleep all day with little to stimulate his interest. If he is in the same room as other members of the family he will enjoy listening to the sounds of voices and will explore the world around him. By the time night comes he will be ready for a good long rest.

Making a Routine Happen

Getting Dressed:

The day starts with everyone getting up and getting dressed.  Dressing a baby is a parent’s job but a toddler will be able to do some of the simpler dressing tasks herself, such as putting on a hat or socks.  Children learn to be independent and self-sufficient by doing things for themselves.  This is a gradual process and a child needs a parents help to learn.  As time goes on, a toddler may be able to do more and more and parents should be alert to opportunities to help this process along.  It may take longer, but it will be time well spent.

Playtime:

Play is how young children learn and it is important that playtime is part of a child’s daily routine.  Playtime should be fun for both parent and child, and is a good time to talk with a young child.  As a child progresses from solitary play to co-operative play, these types of activities have an important role in a child’s development.

Mealtimes:

Mealtimes teach a child how to develop a healthy lifestyle and have numerous social benefits like language development. It also gives the family a time to check in with one another.

  • Make mealtimes a pleasant time for the whole family to enjoy being together
  • Children should be provided with well-balanced, nutritious meals
  • For young children breakfast is an important meal, they need a good breakfast to give them energy for the day’s activities.
  • Children enjoy feeling they are helping. A child should be encouraged to ‘help’ set the table from a young age, for example, 2 year olds can set spoons on the table.  This is an opportunity to work on language skills and following directions, i.e., “Put the spoons beside the plates”
  • The amount of time a child is expected to sit at the table can be gradually increased over a period of time.

©Lifestart Foundation 2018

 

Key messages to promote positive behaviour in our children

Promoting Positive Behaviour – Key Messages about Managing Your Child’s Behaviour

How you react as a parent is normally connected to how your child is behaving. If you are aware of how you are feeling it will help you to be more aware of what is causing your child’s behaviour.

  1. Be Consistent – Both parents need to agree on acceptable behaviour otherwise your child will get mixed messages. Don’t make threats you won’t carry out as your child will just learn to ignore you. The most difficult time for parents to be consistent is when they are tired or in a hurry. It is important for parents to be aware of their own energy and mood when it comes to managing their child’s behaviour.
  2. Be Clear: Make sure that your child is paying attention when you are telling them something. Once you have the child’s attention you have to be specific about what you want them to do. “Watch what you are doing” is not clear enough. “I want you to keep your car on the floor and not on the table” is easier for a child to follow.
  3. Be Positive: Positive requests like “Walk to the table” are better than negative ones “Don’t run to the table”.
  4. Reward Positive Behaviour: A child has a basic need for attention & inappropriate behaviour is often a child’s way of getting the attention they need. By acknowledging and rewarding good behaviour the child gets what they need. Rewards like a kiss or a hug or saying “well done” should be given right away so that the child links the behaviour to the attention they are receiving.

©Lifestart Foundation 2018