Education / School
by Erika Ordonez
We all have had a child who has struggled with their behavior and we know it is not easy to handle! Most children have different struggles (emotionally, physically and mentally). Sometimes they don’t know how their little bodies get so worked up or how to calm themselves down. I have incorporated notes from previous lectures and my personal experiences to help us learn how to manage challenging behaviors.
First and foremost what classifies challenging behaviors?
• Any repeated pattern of behavior that interferes with learning or engaging in pro-social interactions with peers and adults
• Behaviors that are not responsive to the use of developmentally appropriate guidance procedures
• Has many topographies: prolonged tantrums, aggression, disruptive motor and vocal behavior, property destruction, self-injury, noncompliance, and withdrawal.
Discipline and learning doesn’t require language. We can replace words, lectures, and warnings with action. Also, make behaviors and consequences concrete. A child can remember and learn. Setting limits will not break a young child’s spirit. We want to develop rapport with our clients and rapport building requires setting limits. Children who are happy all the time are shocked when they grow up and get out in the real world.
Know your expectations (keep them high). They are more capable of doing things than what people think. Clearly define your expectations and be consistent! Our children need consistent stable environments to make learning easier and decrease their frustration/anxiety when they know what is expected.
Teach desired behaviors and social expectations. For example, turn taking (waiting your turn), hands to yourself, and eye contact.
Have a few simple rules to create a structured environment. Clearly define them in advance. For instance, before an activity in therapy, class or at home review the rules. Rules help to provide the structure necessary for the activity to run smoothly and enhance opportunities for learning. Effective rules are also useful in helping to prevent behavior problems before they occur. Teach rules directly and systematically. Remember some of our kids have auditory processing disorder or slow processing speed therefore, they need visuals to get a clear picture in their mind to understand what they are excepted to do. Remember, you don’t have to be an artist to draw a simple picture.
Practice desired behaviors. Desired behaviors, such as being generous and helpful, can be taught to all children regardless of their individual temperaments. Getting your child to demonstrate a desired behavior requires time, understanding of your child’s individuality and modeling this behavior in your own life. Praise the success immediately.
It is important to have consistent and clear consequences.
• Appropriate to the situation. i.e. children don’t choose to clean up, then those toys “disappear”
• Naturally occurring consequences
• Enforceable statements – use limits that you can enforce 100% of the time
> “My friends who come to circle go to the playground.”
> “I’ll know you’re ready when you’re quiet”
> “I’ll listen when your voice is as calm as mine”
> “Feel free to keep the toys you pick up”
> “My friends who share can stay at blocks.”
> “I’ll help you when I see you’re working harder than I am”
• Allow the consequences to do the teaching (no lectures, warnings). Actions speak louder than words (“Uh-oh”).
• Provide choices to give them a feeling of control. Always provide choices that are safe and make you happy. Such as, “Do you want the red train or the yellow train,” “Time to go – do you want to sit on the big square or the little square,” or “do you want to work on your words now or in 1 minute?” Provide most choices when things are going well. If the child doesn’t choose in 10 seconds, choose for them. Also, some things are NOT a choice.
• Save most attention for happy times. Catch kids doing the right thing. Especially when they are showing desired behaviors.
Avoid power struggles by setting limits once and following through. Use “Uh-oh” as a warning (instead of threatening). You can say, “How sad” when they make “sad” choices. In addition, change the child’s location or take the offending object away.
Use empathy because kids can tell if you’re faking it, so be real! For instance:
• Consequences + Anger (adult) = More Anger (child)
• Empathy + Consequences = Learning (child)
• Child “owns” their mistake; prevents resentment & payback
• Models & teaches respect
• Your face and your voice must show how you feel
Redirect when our children are off task or do something they shouldn’t be doing. Again they may need more than one cue to help them understand. Verbal or non-verbal cues (pictures, gestures, physical, “uh-oh,” The Look)
Don’t feel scared/nervous to remove the child from the group or activity. Remember set your limit! They need boundaries.
Some children need social scripts to prepare them for a specific situation. Such as, what to do/say when a child hits, takes a toy, etc. Don’t forget to praise the appropriate action.
Challenging behaviors are most often related to some skill deficit (cognitive and emotional delays). Behaviors that have persisted over time are working for the child. Having positive relationships, supportive environments and focusing on teaching social and communicative skills reduces the likelihood of challenging behaviors.