One of the most common requests we receive as Behavior Therapists is the desire for support in learning strategies to help children regulate their emotions and behaviors in the classroom, home, and social settings. Small, consistent changes over time can lead to big, lifestyle changes. Here is a glimpse into some of the strategies we work with caregivers on to support behavior management and develop healthy relationships with children. It is imperative to note that every child is unique, and having an individual, consistent plan for the child will benefit their development.
Praise is a powerful tool to motivate and encourage children to continue trying. It helps children to take the next step with confidence. There are two main types of praise, namely personal praise and effort-based praise. Both types focus on different aspects of praise, while encouraging children to display expected behavior.
Tangible rewards are another type of reinforcer that can be used to foster positive behaviors in children. A tangible reward is something concrete, for example, a popsicle, additional privileges, stickers on a chart, spending extra time with friends, coins, etc. These rewards should be used less often than social reinforcement such as praise, compliments, high fives, hugs. Tangible rewards are recommended to be saved for encouraging children to accomplish a difficult task such as toilet training, learning new morning routines, how to do chores, etc. Tangible rewards should not be relied on alone. It is important children continue receiving social rewards when tangibles are used. Social rewards are better used to reinforce small steps children take to master a new skill or behavior whereas tangible rewards are used to reinforce the achievement of a specific goal.
Use effective limit setting and natural/logical consequences
Clear limit-setting is helpful in setting boundaries around expected behaviors. It is important to have realistic expectations when setting limits with children. All children will test their parents’ rules and standards. Research indicates that a typical child will fail to comply with parents requests one-third of the time. This may happen through tantrums, or protest behaviors, and is a healthy expression of a child’s need for autonomy and independence.
Clear limit-setting means we are communicating to the child what is expected, and the rules and standards for the environment in a clear manner. We are also communicating a logical consequence that pairs with the limit set. Logical consequences are consequences that are logically related to the rules that are being enforced. For example, if a child does not turn down the TV volume after being asked, then the adult may turn off the TV. Logical consequences make sense to the child and teaches them how the world generally works. An example of a consequence not logically connected to a rule being enforced would be, ‘if you don’t pick up your toys, you won’t get dessert.’
Research has shown that time-outs can be effective in reducing the occurrences of unexpected behaviors in children who are two to twelve years old. Time-out can be effective because it interrupts the ongoing inappropriate behavior or interaction. Time-out prevents the child from receiving further negative attention for misbehaving. It gives both the child and the parents time to emotionally regulate and think about the problem, and it’s a non-violent intervention.
Teach children problem-solving and relapse prevention
It is very important for children to learn peaceful problem-solving strategies that do not include hitting, arguing, grabbing, yelling or other unacceptable strategies to meet their needs. The first step caregivers can take is brainstorming with the child about appropriate solutions to the problem and examining the consequences together. The more often this is repeated, the child will begin to internalize the steps and develop independence toward the process. It is important to validate children’s emotions, while setting boundaries for behaviors and teaching problem-solving, to influence their response next time the issue arises.
At MTC, we encourage parents and caregivers to teach problem-solving through evidenced-based social thinking concepts such as “size of the problem”, social stories, play-based learning, and technology. We encourage parents to consider their child’s strengths and interests when deciding which ways they feel would work best to teach their child problem-solving skills. It is recommended that parents stick to the selected method for 30 days, because it takes about 30 days to change a behavior. Parents are encouraged to model the selected problem-solving method at home in the family environment.
At Mobile Therapy Centers, counselors offer a Parent Training Program that provides parents and caregivers useful tips and strategies to assist with managing common behavior problems and building strong, healthy relationships. The Parent Training Program is a 5-session online program where parents/caregivers meet with a counselor to discuss parenting strategies including positive communication, rewards, effective limit setting, time-outs, problem-solving and relapse prevention in depth. The sessions are tailored to the specific needs of the child/family, and appointment times are flexible.
For more information, please contact Mobile Therapy Centers at 847-816-7200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to enroll in the MTC Parent Training Program.
Mobile Therapy Centers is a Multidisciplinary Clinic and services include ABA Therapy, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Behavioral Therapy, Feeding Therapy and Counseling. We see children at our clinics, at your home or at your child’s school/daycare making it convenient for you and your family.