The One Week Fix for Bad Behavior
Keeping your cool while your kids scream, thrash, yell or talk back can be pretty much impossible for any parent. Some days your little ones test your patience in ways that we never would have dreamed when we became mamas.
And the worst part is, those little cuties know exactly which buttons to push and where to hit us where it hurts the most. With that in mind, it's probably not a surprise to find out that we actually have a lot of control over our kid's behaviors, and can actually (hold breath for the big shocker) do a couple of things ourselves to help our little ones change their naughty ways.
So if you've had it up to here with the fits and the shrieks, and you're looking for some advice to help you and your babes shape up, then take a look at this week's worth of tips to help fix bad behaviors!
DAY 1: AcceptanceTake a deep breath and accept it. You're working with a kid that has a contrary personality, and you're working on some behaviors. Feel better now? Yeah, didn't think so. But once you've decided you're not willing to live with the 'tude, you're able to change your own habits to reflect that. You're keeping an eye out for what triggers behaviors. You're straightening your spine for any back talk (or screams) and you're putting on your mama panties, am I right?
DAY 2: One Step at a TimeYou cannot fix everything in a day. Or build Rome. Whatever. Point is, our kids are Rome and we can't expect to take care of all their behaviors in one day. This mama's advice? Snowball the problem. Start with the thing that has been driving you crazy the most (i.e., your kid crying every time he sees but isn't handed a cell phone) and work on that. Do your best to have toys and puzzles, something like the Tegu blocks will be great! They will keep your little one entertained for hours, and it's a great thing you can play with together! Once the biggest problem is out of the way, work your way down the list until you and babe are in a good place.
DAY 3: Neutral SpeechThis is a little trick I picked up in the preschool world. The less negative speech you use around the kids (STOP, NO, DON'T) (yes all of the caps are necessary), the more effective it will be when you actually need to use it. Try your best to only use reinforcements that will still get your point across without you needing to use negative speech. If you're trying to get your child to stop something they've been doing for the 3,425th time, say getting into the cupboard under the sink and playing with the Febreeze bottle, and your go-to move is to tell them to cut it out, instead try something like, "You are such a good helper when you choose to listen. It makes mama so happy when you're a good helper," or just redirect with something like, "We could probably have more fun playing in your room." Save the stop's, no's and don't's for those times when babe is going to hurt themselves or someone else so that they are more impactful when you use them.
DAY 4: I Can't Heeeeeeear YouYes, I do mean you should ignore your child. Not like basic needs and happiness, obviously. I'm talking tantrums and fits, mamas. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, avoid eye contact, and ignore them. In almost every case, children's negative behaviors come from their need for attention or their learned behavior when it worked with you in the past (yeah, I know, makes you feel like parent of the year). When our kids have been able to cry and get what they want, they'll try it every time, and up the ante the first time it doesn't work. Ignore them for a few minutes to start, then approach them with a request to calm down and use their words, and revisit every few minutes. The hope is the less attention they get from their naughty outbursts, the less they'll do it. If you feel that your child needs more space to calm down, you can designate a space in their room or even the family room for their Calm-Down Space, and load it with books and plushies (like these super soft ones from Mary Meyer) that will help them to work on dealing with their own emotions in their own time.
DAY 5: Consistency is KeyDon't lose faith, mama. I know it's hard. It's not easy to hear our little ones cry and scream and say they hate us. But if you keep it up, and show your babe who's boss, they will eventually turn it around and accept other forms of communicating with you. You're not going to be perfect, and there's no way you're going to figure this out all on day 5--let's be real. But the truth is our kids will always benefit from consistent behavior on our part.
DAY 6: Take it EasyNow I know you're the boss and all, and honestly I think you're doing great, but sometimes you have to learn to let stuff go. Don't take everything so seriously. Let the little things go, and don't take yourself so seriously all the time. Our kids will respond to our attitudes and our responses to situations almost more than anything else that we consciously choose to do. If we are able to laugh things off that won't bother us in 20 min, or wouldn't bother us if it were any other day or time, then feel free to drop it and move on. Kinda ticked that your son dumped his entire plate of eggs on the floor and rubbed the ketchup all over his face, because he decided he wanted cereal instead? Try not to scream your head off. Grab a rag. Wipe that little one off and leave the scene of the crime until you've cooled down. No harm done, mama!
DAY 7: Treat Yourself
The right time and the right place is the key here. Pick that special little behavior that you need to end (like now), and pick a reasonable reward if they learn to kick the habit. Follow up every day (some behaviors need to be followed up with every hour or a few times a day), and makes sure and reward your kids when they make the good changes! The same way that you deserve a coke and a king-size KitKat at the end of a long day, our little ones need rewards when they have good days too.