Postive Behavior Through Play

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It is well-known that young children have a short attention span.  Moms everywhere know how exhausting it can be to keep a toddler entertained and happy.  Well, I have good news.  There are ways of doing this without becoming exhausted or losing patience; keeping your cool might be a very important key to your success at this game.  “Some children who have a short attention span can amaze people by the long term attention span they can give to things they are really interested in!” says Learning Consultant and Literacy Adviser Chris Lawrence, B.Ed. M.A.  Did you know that those infamous meltdowns your children sometimes have aren’t your fault or your child’s fault?  Misbehavior could actually be a sign of boredom!  They could also be hungry or tired – or maybe YOU are!  Just don’t fall into the trap of getting angry before you get creative.

Many moms have learned clever ways to keep their children behaving in a positive manner.  For example, they often carry a “bag of tricks” full of coloring books, puzzles or snacks just to get through a meal at a restaurant!  When we come to entertain at your party, we bring our “boxes” of tricks!  Children usually are very curious as to what is in them and many people ask why we need to bring so much.  The answer is simple.  It takes a lot of STUFF to engage young children for even just an hour.  “Hands-on learning keeps kids much more interested. Sitting in a chair listening to someone … will allow the child’s mind to wander.  Allowing him/her to DO the task will keep them interested and challenged.”  (Donna Thacker, E-how Family)

The Art of Distraction:

So you are at the supermarket, and you are trying to quickly get a few things for dinner.  It is hard not to get completely frustrated when your child sees something in an aisle like a toy or a colorful box of cereal they saw on TV.  You can see it coming – the quivering lips, the tearful eyes, the defiant look.  They are pointing at it, pulling at you and starting to whine.  You have to do it. You say “no.”  How do you avoid not joining right in on the tantrum because they “just won’t listen to you?”

“You can’t teach self-control unless you have self-control,” says Dr. Beckey A. Bailey, author of “Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline.”  The only person we can control, in any situation, is ourselves!!  We have to realize we can’t CONTROL our children just because we are the authority!  The louder you yell, the less they hear.  So first thing I recommend you do is count to 10 in your head or take a deep breath and get yourself together.   Think about it.  Your child is not defying you.  They really want that cereal or toy!

I know when I want something I shouldn’t eat or can’t afford, I feel like throwing a tantrum too.  I would certainly not “learn” that I can’t have it if some older person was yelling at me or giving me a time-out or getting frustrated with me for wanting it in the first place!

Young children need to be distracted, not punished for this kind of behavior.  When you are calm, maybe you can find something else your child CAN have like a toy you have in your purse, or their favorite cracker in the next isle.  Remind them where you are going after the market, or start a game like “find the potatoes.” Ask them to help you shop and make it exciting!  Give them the “job” of putting things in the cart.  There are a lot of things you can do if you think creatively or use your sense of humor. Your child might just be bored.  They are not being “bad.”

These tantrums can start anywhere, anytime.  If you can stay calm, get past the feeling of helplessness and lack of authority, you might see it from your child’s perspective.  Just get down at eye level with your child instead of looking down at them, and try to smile with understanding.  Even if they are very little, talk to them like they understand everything.  Explain in detail why this is not okay right now and then try to find something that is okay.  Offer two choices (no more than that) of things they CAN have and give them a sense of personal power.  Praise them for cooperating by THANKING them for understanding you and for doing the right thing.  They want nothing more than to please you, so give them that opportunity!

Here are some extra ideas to help you stay positive:
• Save “NO” for the really important times like alerting your child about danger.  Say things like “Not for Baby!”  (When they get older, use their name.)
• Tell your child what you want them to DO, not what NOT TO DO.  They can only attend to part of what you are saying, so instead of “Don’t run!” say “Walk, please!”
• If you want to teach them to have respect, be respectful of them.  When asking your child to do something, say “please” and “thank you” so they will learn from your example.
•  Repeat what you want in the same calm but firm tone of voice –  several times if necessary.  Yelling gets ignored because it is probably scary to them.  Repeat Repeat Repeat.
• If you warn your child of a consequence, you must follow through.  If you are not going to leave the party, don’t tell them that is what will happen if they don’t listen!
•  If you don’t have any idea of what a good consequence could be, distract your child from one behavior by giving them something else to play with.

There is no one answer for anyone because every child is different.  We all need support and should never be afraid to ask for help.  Just remember to treat your child just like you would want them to treat you.  With love and respect.   I’m positive  you will get it back.

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