I'm a preschool teacher and mom to a 3 year old. One of the behavior techniques I use in my classroom is phrasing things in a positive way. For example, instead of saying, "no running!" to a young child, I say, "walking feet". This lets children know very simply and clearly what kind of behavior you want from them.
Absolutely true...I always used this very same technique with my two children, now grown and they have nothing but graciousness and manners with each other, friends, family and the outside world. This truly works, for the betterment of everyone. Thanks for sharing it with others, Lisa!
Other ideas I have also had good luck with:
Provide choices whenever possible. We all like to feel we have some control over our lives. (Would you like to put your socks on first, or your shirt? Would you like juice or milk? Would you like your sandwich cut in rectangles or triangles? Would you like bubbles or no bubbles in your bath?) By offering choices, you meet several objectives. 1. You encourage your child to make decisions--this seems simple, but is a skill to be learned. 2. You let him/her feel like they have a say in things, and that you respect his/her decision. 3. By not including "no" as an option, you can often head off a battle before it even begins. 4. In a child who is just learning language, you encourage them to use words.
Thank them for positive behavior. Much misbehavior in young children is attention-getting behavior. If a child is given positive attention for positive behavior, you are telling him/her that you are noticing the good stuff. ("Thank-you for being so patient while we waited in line." "I appreciate how nice you were, sharing with your sister." "When you __________, it makes me very happy.") Be sure to mention the specific behavior so your praise doesn't sound empty. This also encourages YOU to look for the good behavior--causing you to look at your little ones in a positive light. Even on the worst day, you'll find it.
Explain desicions/directives when appropriate. There are times we say "no", and that's that; but most often, we do have valid reasons, and if we explain it in a way the child understands, they will learn that we are not just being arbitrary or "mean". And if they understand our reasons, they are more likely to comply.
Respect the little ones. Don't ever doubt that they're intelligent--they have the IQ now, they just don't have the experience and the language to back it up. If you are doing something to/for/about him or her for which YOU would want to hear a "please" or a "thank-you", give your child the same courtesy! Don't be afraid to apologize to your little one, either. ("I'm sorry mommy yelled, I was very frustrated. Just because I get angry about your behavior sometimes doesn't mean I don't ALWAYS love you.")
I agree with "Jilson" on the "give choices". This technique works with students of about any age. Jim Faye of Love and Logic is the King of this. He has several books that would be an excellent resource.
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