Do you dread initiating the start of the bedtime routine in anticipation of non-compliance or other problem behavior? If so, you're not alone! Try starting the bedtime routine earlier than normal so putting PJ's on isn't correlated with going to bed right away. Try engaging your child in a preferred activity (i.e., movie). Interrupt the activity (i.e., pause movie) and indicate more access can be earned but first PJ's need to be put on (ex: "We can watch more Toy Story but first put on PJ's.").
Once PJ's are on, the child can resume the activity that was in progress. This will change the sequence of events and the negative correlation with PJ's going on and going to bed. Avoid activities that elevate your child's motor activity in the 30-60 mn prior to bedtime, such as running, jumping, spinning, tickling or other gross motor, rough house play. Target calming activities in soft or low light setting, such as reading books, conversing with your child, building with Legos/Duplos, puzzles, etc. This is but one of many other strategies that could be employed to decrease bedtime resistance and bedtime refusal.
If you're experiencing frequent, daily rates of non-compliance, temper tantrums, self-injurious behavior or severe aggression or disruptive behavior (i.e., property destruction, biting, hitting), you're encouraged to first seek professional assistance from a board certified behavior analyst or other professional competent in behavioral interventions to assist you in safely reducing problem behaviors in your home.
Does your child seem bored despite having a plethora of toys available to play with? If so, try putting away some of the toys, such as in a storage bin or closet, for 2-3 weeks. Then, rotate the stored toys back into the play area and remove several different ones. This temporary absence will likely rekindle interest, motivation for and the reinforcing effectiveness of the toys. Therefore, your child may be more apt to then play with them upon them being returned to the play area versus having free access to them all the time.
BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT TIP: When stating demands to your child, avoid phrasing your demand in the form of a question (ex: "Can you pick up your toys?"). It's harder for your child to differentiate the semantics between when you're merely asking a question to ask for your child's response, input or preference and when you mean you want your child to complete the action specified in your question. Avoid this confusion by using clear language. Simply state the action you want your child to do (ex: "Pick up your toys").
BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT TIP: Catch your child being "good." Give specific praise and attention to your child for spontaneously saying and doing positive things, such as complying with directions, playing quietly alone while you visit with guests, please/thank you, cleaning up their toys, complimenting someone, sharing, accepting being told "no" appropriately, etc.
BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT TIP: Tell your children what you want them to do versus what you DON'T want them to do. For example: "Please eat with your fork" vs "Don't eat with your fingers" OR "Don't leave your dirty clothes on the floor" vs "Put your dirty clothes in the hamper". The word "No" seems to invite your child to do the opposite. Be sure to praise your child if he/she complies with what it is you're asking.
Provide specific rather than general praise so you child is told exactly what it is he/she is saying or doing that you want him/her to continue doing. GOOD EXAMPLES: "Great job picking up your toys right away when I asked" or "Wow! I like how you offered to share your cars" or "You did an awesome job playing by yourself while I talked to Grandma on the phone. Now I can play with you." POOR EXAMPLES: "Good job" or "Way to go" or "You were good today" or "Good boy". Notice these are used above in the good examples but the child is also given more specific feedback about their behavior. Give it a try and see if you notice a change in your child doing more of what you're specifically praising, such as compliance!
Out with the "Don't" and in with the "Do": Redirecting your child
It's a fairly common occurrence as parents or caregivers to redirect your child with "don't do __." At times, the child complies, moves on and nothing further needs to be said or done. However, many times it seems as though the "don't" is an invitation for the child to "do" rather than to stop. The more the parent instructs the child with "don't do" the more the child seems to disregard the caregiver's request. The next time you find yourself in this situation, try this strategy instead. Tell the child what it is you want the child to do (i.e., "Sit with your bottom on the couch," "Put your bag in the closet," "Chew with your mouth closed) versus what you don't want the child to do (i.e., "Don't stand on the couch," "Don't leave your bag on the floor," "Don't chew with your mouth open").
Children typically love to please their caregivers, so if your child complies, don't forget to heavily praise them. Be as specific as you can (i.e., "That's better chewing with your mouth closed) versus using general praise statements (i.e., "Good job!") so your child clearly knows what it is you're praising them for. For an even greater effect, try to praise your child often when she/he is acting in desirable ways (i.e., using manners appropriately, sharing, trying new foods, complying with your instructions, playing quietly while you're on the phone, puts a toy away without being told, etc.).