“Don’t hit!” “Don’t shout!” Don’t run away from me!” Are you stuck in the Don’t Do This, Don’t Do That cycle? We are the adults and we expect our children to listen to us. So why do certain behaviors we expect to decrease seem to increase in spite of our best verbal directions? We’re drawing attention to the wrong thing, and yes, there is something we can do about it.
We can catch our children being good, and we can do it with calm, persistence, and simplicity. In fact, it’s so easy we’ll be thinking, “Wow, that was easy. Now why in the world didn’t I do that before?” Our instinct to protect meshes with our desire to correct, and there is a tangible solution to escaping the Don’t Do This, Don’t Do That cycle. Besides, you don’t want the negative energy that encapsulates you and your child from constant correcting. What you really want is a mega-dose of positive energy.
You are doing a great job following what I am writing. Do you see what I just did? I complimented you for achieving one of my desired outcomes – for you to follow along. Did you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment even in the slightest moment stemming from my compliment? I am going to assume that you did; I want you to consider that same feeling for your child.
Now, here comes the Oh Wow Moment, the Secret Sauce, okay Joshua, just get to it. Utilizing positive behavior supports – reinforce the behaviors you desire from your child – will bring you into the Can Do cycle and out of the Don’t Do This, Don’t Do That cycle.
Let’s say your child shouts at you during your trips to the grocery store. You don’t like being shouted at, and you want your child to use his/her inside voice when expressing his/her wants and needs. To decrease, and hopefully extinguish, your child’s shouting, and to increase your child’s use of his/her inside voice, you are going to catch your child being good.
Whenever and wherever your child uses his/her inside voice to express his/her wants and needs, compliment them immediately, “Thank you for saying that to me using your inside voice. I love how you use your inside voice to let me know what you want. I am so proud of you!” Keep saying that each time your child uses his/her inside voice, and your child will want to use his/her inside voice so that he/she can receive that glowing positive feedback from you.
Well, wait, what do you do when your child is shouting? In the following example you are not ignoring the shouting, nor are you rewarding your child for shouting. You are being consistent with your effort to positively reinforce the desired outcome, which is for your child to use their inside voice. You are replacing the negative energy that flows from within when stuck in the Don’t Do This/Don’t Do That cycle with positive energy, in turn carrying you forth into the Can Do cycle. You stay in the Can Do cycle, and you calmly do a combination of Acknowledge and Ask:
“I hear that you are raising your voice. Can you use your inside voice to tell me what you want? I love how you use your inside voice.” Your child might continue to shout, however, if you are persistent, he/she is very likely to stop shouting and choose to use their inside voice – which is the desired behavior, “Oh, I hear that you are continuing to shout. I really love when you use your inside voice. Can you let me know what you want using your inside voice?”
Now, I bet you’re thinking, “Wow, that was easy. Now why in the world didn’t I do that before?”
Joshua Levy is the President of Joshua Levy Educational Consulting. Joshua works with parents, educators, and children’s museums who are seeking to strengthen their relationships with individuals with special needs. Joshua is also the Founder/Executive Director of Joshua’s Stage – an enrichment program for individuals with a wide range of special needs, featuring: after-school programs; camps; workshops, and individual enrichment programs in theatre arts, improv, arts and crafts, music, dance, photography, and create-a-story. Joshua’s innovative The Creative Outlet Method includes strategies for providing children with the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity, increase their self-confidence, and build their social skills. Joshua’s book, The Creative Outlet Method Book of Creativity: At-Home Activities for Children with Special Needs is a fabulous resource for parents, educators, and therapists. Contact Joshua at firstname.lastname@example.org.