Last week we talked about the dinosaur brain. The dinosaur is the part of the brain that reacts with fight and/or flight. It often does not think or respond but simply reacts. This part of our brain can get you into trouble if you don’t have checks and balances. The best way to deal with behaviors, including your own, is by preparation and planning, establishing alternatives, and creating a clear and consistent understanding of consequences.
How Can You Prepare and Plan?
One of the best things you can do is look at your day and plan for you and your family. Do you have so many things planned that your day is a blur? Over scheduling the day will overstimulate and put you on edge. The stress and negative energy can transfer to your kids and impact their behaviors. One of the first places to prepare and plan is to look at your schedule to see if you can maintain your own sanity!
When looking at your schedule, also think about your travels for the day. You may have planned a trip to the grocery store. Is the checkout line a problem for your child because they want gum and candy? Have you prepared with distractions to help head off some of these behaviors? Does your child have hearing sensitivities toward loud noises? Did you remind your child to put a pair of earplugs in their backpack for school? Doing small things like this may save you from getting a call to come get your child because they got overstimulated and started hitting other children. Taking simple steps to plan ahead of behaviors is the first step to avoiding the agony and stress associated with them.
Do You Offer Alternatives?
The step beyond planning is building in alternatives. I always sit down with my son to coordinate our day. I share with him what I have to do, but he also picks something he wants to do. It cannot only be about YOUR errands and accomplishments. Validating your child's needs and wants are just as important. Incorporate your child into the day and give them some alternatives for ways they can engage and be a part of the daily schedule. My son used to love Block Buster as a kid. Block Buster was a great alternative for my son that: a) broke up a long day, b) gave him something to look forward to, and c) made him feel that his input mattered in planning our day. It also helped to decrease behaviors because, if he acted out, he lost the ability to go to Block Buster.
Does Your Child Understand Consequences?
Almost every child craves structure. Part of that structure is knowing the consequences of both good and bad behaviors. As parents, we tend to focus on the poor behaviors and give a lot more attention to those than the good. Begin focusing on what your child does well and you may see improvements from that alone.
In addition, does your child know the boundaries and have a very clear understanding of what is appropriate. Do they understand why something IS appropriate versus NOT appropriate. Many times we teach our children that a behavior is about compliance and doing everything WE want them to do. The child may ask, “Why do I have to do that?” Our reply might be, “Because I said so that’s why!” I have more success in getting my son to understand that consequences and responsibility for his behavior are on him, and are not just about complying with my demands.
Here is an example. He loves being with people but can also be annoying. This causes people to avoid him. If he wants friends and to be included, he has to adopt behaviors that will get him what he is looking for. I find role playing and mirroring his behavior helps so he can feel and see the impact his behaviors have on others. For my son, driving internal motivation produces greater and more lasting change because HE values it. External motivation drives compliance or him doing what I want because I value it. If he values having friends and the feeling of being included, he will have to put in the work to change some of HIS behaviors!
This week we have a parent training on practical ways to help your family deal with behaviors. Dr. Michele Havens will be speaking to us virtually on September 22 from 7:30-8:30 about behaviors and practical ways we can all work to improve them. Click on the logo on the top left of the blog. It will take you to the home page of the website so you can register! Behaviors are never easy but getting the help you need can make everything easier! Join us this Thursday!
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