When you became a mom, you likely had dreams of your child’s polite and courteous behavior and looked forward to the tender moments you would share. While you have likely had some of these positive times, if your child is a particularly behaviorally challenging tike, these moments could be few and far between. To increase the prevalence of this positive togetherness time and help your child develop the social skills necessary to exist as a productive member of society, you must tackle his behavior problems head on.
Select the behaviors that you want to change. You can’t change your child’s behavior if you don’t decide what it is about the behavior that you dislike. Simply grouping all of his behaviors and labeling them as bad will not do the trick. You must select specific behaviors to target in your quest to modify the way in which your child behaves. For example, if your child becomes argumentative when you make a request of him, you may want to target and eliminate this behavior.
Pick relevant punishments. The more relevant your punishments are to the behavior itself, the more effective they will be. Instead of just putting your child in time out for everything that he does, tailor the consequences to the behaviors themselves. For example, if your child lied to his father, request that he write a letter apologizing for lying instead of just serving some time on the time-out chair.
Create written rules. Children with behavior problems do best in regimented settings in which rules are clearly stated. By writing out your rules on a poster, you can ensure that your child is fully aware of what is expected of him.
Consistently enforce your punishments. The more consistent you are in your punishment enforcement, the more effective your efforts will be. If you only enforce your punishments periodically, your child will see that you don’t mean what you say, and will, as a result, be less likely to listen to your commands.
Reward the child for positive behaviors. Giving your child a reward when he does something good both helps to build your relationship with him and allows him to see that being good has its benefits. This practice also ensures that your constant emphasis on behavior doesn’t hurt your child’s self image, as children who are constantly being scolded can eventually start to internalize this scolding and see it as a reflection upon them as a people.
Communicate with the child’s school regarding behavioral issues. If your child’s behavior is unacceptable at school as well, he may miss out on educational opportunities. To decrease the likelihood that this happens, keep the lines of communication open and speak with his teachers regarding his behavior regularly, sharing with them what works at home.
Consult the child’s doctor if his behavior fails to improve. While nearly all children misbehave from time to time, consistent and severe misbehavior could be a sign of something more serious. To ensure that your child isn’t suffering from a behavioral disorder, share your concerns with his doctor if your efforts continue to not yield success.