Information Bulletin Number 11
Behaviour Management Ideas for Parents
1. Be clear and fair
Children often rebel when they don't understand the behaviour expected of them or they see the rules as unfair or unclear. Rules are statements explaining the behaviour you expect from your children. Rules should be minimal in number, phrased positively and describe specific behaviours. For example, "Keep your hands and feet to yourself". It is important to clearly explain or teach the rules to your children, as well as the reasons for having them. Rules can often be more effective when they have been negotiated with your children.
2. Set limits and enforce them consistently
Children tend to argue and complain more if rules are only enforced some of the time. They need to know where they stand and know that rules will not just apply when it suits Mum & Dad. Consistency in setting limits and applying consequences is essential for modifying behaviour. Be aware that when starting to set limits, behaviour may get worse before it gets better. However, in the longer term, improvements will occur.
3. Reinforce appropriate behaviour with positive consequences
Positive consequences, such as praise and encouragement or tangible rewards and privileges, provide recognition for the child behaving appropriately. This reinforces the behaviour that you want and increases the likelihood of it happening again.
Praise lets children know what specific behaviour is expected of them. Praise should be given. Immediately following behaviour where possible and should be specific, so children know what it is they are being recognized for. For example, if you notice your child putting away his toys without being asked you would go over and say, "That's great, you put your toys away all on your own - well done!". Praise and other positives should be given frequently to motivate children to keep improving behaviour.
Examples of positive consequences:
- Verbal praise and encouragement.
- Privileges such as extra TV time, a game or special activity with Mum and Dad, or a later bed time.
- being excused from doing a regular chore.
- Tangible rewards, such as a food treat or a small toy.
4. Apply negative consequences for misbehaviour
Negative consequences are those things that your child knows will occur when they choose to misbehave or break the rules. They should be things that your child does not like or want to occur but should not be physically or psychologically harmful. Negative consequences should be applied as soon as possible after the behaviour has occurred and should be given in a calm manner. Consequences given in anger are likely to be too extreme and are often later regretted.
Extreme consequences, such as grounding for a month or taking away a privilege for many weeks, may leave your child feeling he/she has nothing left to lose and therefore wondering "why should I behave?” You are also less likely to be able to follow through when the consequence is too extreme. It is important to remember that consistency in administering consequences is more effective in changing behaviour than the severity of the consequences themselves. Remember to always follow through.
When your children misbehave, it is important to let them know which of their behaviours were inappropriate and why, or which rule was broken. This will ensure that they know and understand why they are being disciplined and what they should do differently next time.
Examples of negative consequences:
- stop your child watching a favourite TV program. - ground your child for a short specific period.
- send your child to his/her bedroom for a short, specific period for "time out". - take away possessions such as a bike, toy or game for a short period.
- dock small amounts from your child's pocket money.
Remember, it is important to respond positively to your children when they are behaving as well as discipline them when they are misbehaving.
Please feel free to distribute this information to parents via your school newsletter or at parent meetings.
Further information is available from the Peel School Psychology Service.