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.
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.).
Jami Hughes, Psy.D, LP, BCBA-D, Executive Director