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

Being a good parent – nobody ever said it would be easy!

Nobody ever said that parenting would be easy. Being a good parent is even more difficult! Here are five guidelines to help you put into practice some principles of good parenting that you probably already know but for which you may need an occasional reminder:

1. Be consistent in your enforcement of rules.

Be certain that your rules have these characteristics: They must be clearly defined, reasonable and enforceable. Rules in the home help children feel more secure and comfortable when they are faced later in life with rules in school and community.
A seven-year study done by the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that self-confident children who succeeded in their undertakings usually came from homes in which there were rules that were reasonable, consistent, and enforced with affection.

2. Permit children to make mistakes and even fail sometimes.

Children learn by doing. rather than by passively absorbing the experiences of others. Making mistakes is one basis for future independence, self-direction, and intelligent decisionmaking.
When children know that they can anticipate consequences, they are being helped to develop an understanding of cause-effect relationships.

3. Resist the temptation to over-organise.

Don’t over-structure a child’s whole day with lessons, sports, and other activities. Children
need time to be leisurely and to enjoy unstructured play.

4. Maintain a sense of humour.

When something interferes with the daily routine, try to see a funny side of the situation.
For example, when there are toys, clothes, or other things left about randomly, gather them into a locked box and charge a “fee” (such as a kiss on your cheek) for later retrieval of an item.
If the bathroom becomes a mess, then draw a sad face on the mirror. Ah, but when things look improved, don’t forget to reinforce with a happy smile!

5. Take care of yourself.

It’s important for parents to take care of their own health and psychological needs. A parent who is over-worked or over-stressed will less likely be able to implement these recommendations. Thus, taking care of oneself— with adequate rest, leisure time, and proper nutrition—is also an important
part of being a good parent.

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

 

Sleep in children – what to expect

  • Newborns sleep between 9-18 hours per day with an average of 14.5 hours sleep.
  • Infants (2-12 months) sleep 12-13 hours including about 3 hours of naps during the day.
  • Toddlers (1-3 years) sleep 11-13 hours per day including naps but by 18 months most toddlers have one nap of 1-3 hours per day.
  • Pre-school children (3-5 years) sleep 11-12 hours per day. Most stop taking naps between 3-5 years.

A recent large study looking at sleep in Irish children found that substantial proportions of mothers report children’s sleep patterns are at least a small problem for them (30% in infancy; 22% at 3 years and 12% at five years). This study highlights the need for parents to have information on how to develop positive sleep patterns.

Most sleep problems involve children having difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty staying asleep. The most common type of sleep problem is a sleep association which requires physical contact from a parent or feeding during the night.

Sleep Hygiene:

This is the phrase used to provide an environment conducive to sleep. This will make it easier for the child to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Babies by 3-4 months of age begin to settle in to a bedtime routine. You can help this by:

  • Making a clear difference between day and night.
  • When at home always put the baby to sleep in the same place
  • Put the baby in to the cot drowsy but awake
  • Avoid feeding or rocking the baby to sleep
  • Ensure that your baby is not hungry going to bed

The following are ways to promote satisfactory sleep in all ages (Stores 2009; p.27)

Principle Routine
Sleeping Environment conducive to sleep
  • Familiar Setting
  • Comfortable bed
  • Correct Temperature (ideally between16-20 C)
  • Darkened quiet room (the sleepy hormone melatonin is produced in the dark. Children with sensory issues can be sensitive to noise.)
  • Non-stimulating (not too many toys or gadgets. The bedroom should be restful)
  • No negative associations (punishment)
Encourage
  • Bedtime routines
  • Consistent bedtime & wakening time (even on weekends)
  • Going to bed only when tired
  • Falling asleep without parents
  • Regular daily exercise & exposure to daylight
Avoid
  • Too much time awake in bed
  • Overexcitement before bed or using the bedroom as a place for entertainment
  • Excessive late napping during the day (no naps after 3.30pm after 9 months of age)
  • Late evening exercise.
  • Caffeine containing drinks

Setting limits at bedtime

It is natural for children to test boundaries and many children do this at bedtime. Some children resist going to bed whilst others go to bed but get up repeatedly. Children are most likely to test limits between 3-6 years.

As a parent you need to set clear limits and boundaries at bedtime, even if your child objects. Here’s how you can make this easier.

  • Have consistent limits at bedtime. If you say two stories then stick to this! Ensure that your child has had supper, a drink and been to the toilet to avoid requests for this after you have settled them.
  • Don’t put your child to bed too early! If they are taking a long time to fall asleep then they may be in bed too early. A child should fall asleep within 30 minutes of going to bed. You may need to make bedtime later for a while until they can do this then gradually bring bedtime back by 15 minutes a night to the bedtime you want.
  • Have a consistent bedtime routine, done in the same way each night, they learn to know what to expect.
  • If your child gets out of bed or comes in to your room then return them to their own bed. Reward your child for staying in their own bed. Use a reward chart and have a “bigger” reward if they get 3 stickers on their chart. The “bigger” reward could be an activity like a trip to the park.
  • The key to success is consistency! Keep going even if you meet resistance initially, it will get better!

Night wakenings

Night wakenings are one of the most common problems parents report and are mostly seen in babies and toddlers.

To understand night wakenings it is important to realize that we all waken briefly during the night. There are two different types of sleep. Deep sleep (called non rapid eye movement sleep) and the lighter stages of sleep (called rapid eye movement sleep). We all have sleep cycles during the night were we transition between deep and light sleep.

For small children they typically fall in to a deep sleep within 5 minutes of going to sleep. This first sleep cycle lasts about 3-4 hours and is mostly deep sleep. As the child transitions to lighter sleep they stir and move around and may open their eyes. If everything is the same as when they first went to sleep they will fall asleep again quickly. However if there is something missing then the child will try to recreate the conditions they had to initially fall asleep.

In order to avoid night wakenings the child needs to learn to fall asleep in his own bed without props or a parent present. Common props or sleep associations are physical contact from a parent; rocking or feeding.

You can help your child sleep well by:

  • Establishing a good bedtime routine done in the same way each night at around the same time.
  • Encourage the use of blankets/teddies which can help the child feel secure when the parent is not present. (Avoid toys with music or lights).
  • Ensure the bedroom is dark and quiet.
  • Put the child to bed drowsy but awake (they should wake up where they went to sleep).
  • If you usually hold your child or rub their back then sit beside the cot/bed to let them know you are there without the physical contact (if they have contact falling asleep they usually need it to get back to sleep during the night).

Your local Public health Nurse can provide more information and support relating to behavioural sleep difficulties if you need it.

References:

Mindell JA & Owens JA (2015) A Clinical Guide to Pediatric Sleep: Diagnosis and Management of Sleep Problems, 3nd edition.

Hanafin S. Sleep patterns and problems in infants and young children in Ireland. Child Care Health Dev. 2017: 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1111/cch.12539