managing out-of-control children

Managing out-of-control children during COVID-19 Lockdown

Most parents are used to dumping their children in day-care/school as a way of managing out-of-control children; but since the COVID-19 lockdown, most parents find it difficult to cope with the management of their children out-of-control behaviour.

In this blog post, you are going to understand:

  • The tactics of changing the behaviour of your children through the art of positive reinforcement, ignoring, modelling and shaping behaviour.
  • How to teach your children, consequences and repair, in order to manage their behaviours.
  • How to observe limits in order to regulate the behaviour of children.

A. Changing the behaviour of children through positive reinforcement

  • Positive reinforcement aims at increasing a positive behavior by rewarding it. 
  • Example of positive reinforcement:

Henry is an active second grader who hates homework. He prefers active games  like  soccer  and  begs  to  play  on  his  Game  Boy. 

Writing  sentences  with  his  spelling  words  is  boring for him. His parents note that if he starts homework before dinner he works more efficiently than when he starts later at night. 

They make a rule that there are no computer games or television during the week, but if he finishes all his homework before dinner, he can have  30 minutes of television or Game Boy later in the evening. 

Henry starts doing his homework before dinner to get this reward.

B. Changing the behaviour of your children through the act of ignoring

  • When you want a behaviour to disappear, you ignore the behaviour and do not reinforce it. Often there will be an initial increase in the behaviour, but if you stay strong and stick to your plan, the undesirable behaviour should go away.
  • Example:

Emmanuella wants you to buy her a new toy.

You explain that it is too expensive and that she should use the ones she already have at home.

Emmanuella starts screaming that you are unfair and that she must have this new toy.

You explain that you are not going to discuss the matter anymore. When she starts on this subject you ignore her or leave the room. 

Emmanuella immediately went into her room and throwing all of her toys on the floor.

You ignore her. She does not get the new toy  and gradually stops demanding that you buy it. 

You have decreased her undesirable behavior.

C. Teaching Consequences and Repair

Children need to know that there are consequences for their actions, but at the same time one wants the child to retain some self-respect and not feel stupid and rejected.  When one wants to  stop  a  behavior,  and  positive  reinforcement  of  the  desired  behavior  has  not  worked,  you may need to impose a consequence on the child. Picking the right consequence needs careful thought. Ideally, natural consequences work best.

D. Observing limits

In dealing with hard-to-manage children, it is always difficult to know where to draw the line.  The important thing is not where you draw the line, but that you actually draw it. These intense,  reactive children respond intensely to limits, in part because they have so little control of themselves. Yet limits are often what they need in order to feel secured and contained.

We differentiate between “observing” limits and “setting” them. Because hard-to-manage children are easily humiliated, they often react negatively to someone “setting” limits,  which they may perceive as arbitrarily telling them what they can and cannot do. When you set limits, these intense children may think that you do not trust them or they have done something wrong. 

What helps is being clear about your own limits. When you observe your own limits, you are simply saying what you can or cannot do, so that it is more about you and the household functioning effectively. Observing limits means that you are putting a structure in place for the benefit of the whole family. By doing this, you are able to be a more effective parent and provide the order and stability that your children need. The rationale between setting and observing is important. However,  the language of the final instructions may be the same.

Steps to follow in observing limit:

  1. Goal:  Figure  out  what  your  goal  is.  What  is  the  issue  and  what  do  you  want  to have happen? What is necessary for one family will not be the same for a different family.
  2. Observing limits:  Define your limits in specific behavioral terms.
  3. Validate the child:  Show your child that you know how he feels.
  4. Explain limits : as a need to observe your own limits. This is about what will work for the family as a whole. We need a plan that works for everyone, including mom and dad.
  5.  Evaluate: Try this for several weeks and then decide if it is working. If you are continuing to have a problem,  you may need to change your goal or introduce consequences to support the limits that you need to have respected.

Having understood what it takes to effectively manage out-of-control children, you should be able to have some peace in your house, or what do you think?

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