Last weekend all my toddler would do is cry. Now, of course, I’m used to whining here and there or a fit at the store. But this time we are talking crying-for-30-minutes-straight crying. This is the kind of crying that will drive you CRAZY.
Let me put this into perspective for you. My 4-year-old son didn’t want to eat his food. He wanted snacks, for obvious reasons. So I usually handle this by telling him, “No, you can have snacks after you eat.” Then he normally sulks and eats slowly until he’s done.
This time, he started crying and whining. I then ignore his crying, as this is what I am taught to do as a behavior technician when you want to end a behavior. While I uncomfortably and painfully ate my food and tried to tune out the piercing cries of my 4-year-old, I decided I would give you desperate parents out there some tips that I have learned over the years as a single mother and then as a behavior technician to special needs children.
Now, I am no professional, but if you have some behaviors you want to reduce in your child or some that you want to increase, follow these simple tips. I know that I found great results and most of them are backed by research! Reinforcement for good behavior!
#1: Reinforce Good Behavior!
Basically this means that any behavior that is positive, or good, you want to reinforce. Reinforcement can be anything from praise to a hug, a high-five, or any snack they prefer. The trick is to give them the reinforcement ONLY when they perform the good behavior and immediately after.
For example, little Joey is learning to say “please.” Every time he uses the word “please,” you give him a fruit snack (the holy silencer for parents LOL). After a while, you will notice that little Joey is saying please without being given a fruit snack. Tah-dah! Magic!
#2: IGNORE Bad Behavior
So, I know you’re probably reading this and thinking, “Omg, she has no idea how hard it is to ignore my little one while he’s banging his head on the floor!” Well, let me give you a piece of information that will prove this method works.
Think about this: WHY do you think toddlers headbang? Well, they either want attention, food, a toy, etc. It’s because they want something and you aren’t giving it to them. What happens if you give it to them? They stop banging their heads. Now, this only creates a vicious cycle where they bang their heads any time they want something.
So how do you stop the behavior? You ignore it completely. My son was 2 and a half when he started the headbanging phase. I ignored it EVERY time. It didn’t matter if we were in the middle of WalMart on a Saturday morning and it was packed. I picked him up off the floor, put him in the cart, and carried on. He would cry and cry and hit things and all the while I just ignored him and said nothing.
Do you know what happened after a few weeks of me ignoring him and using this method? He stopped. He learned that in order to get the thing he wanted, asking nicely worked better.
Now, that’s not to say that ignoring him was easy. It was very, very difficult. Some days I was so tired I didn’t think I was going to stay strong. But you have to think about what you are doing in the big picture.
#3: Support, support, support
I was a single mother for a long time. Support was not an option for me sometimes. But if you have people willing to help you in any way, DO NOT be embarrassed to ask for help! Sometimes you just need an afternoon to yourself so that you can relax and refresh your mind.
I know that I have been a better mom because I have learned to take care of myself first. That means taking care of myself mentally and physically too.
I hope this helps any mommies out there struggling to correct bad behaviors! Parenthood is stressful and we all need to share information and tips with one another to survive!!
-The Breathing Poet