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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Encouraging good behaviour for young children

As parents, we are the first role model for our children. We have to use our own behaviour to guide our children. What we do is much more important than what we say. For example, if you want your child to be helpful and kind, remember to allow others to enter the lift before you, give up your seats to an elderly on the bus or train, etc. This way, they will have a perfect example on how to be helpful, be courteous, generous, and any other good behaviour you would like to inculcate.

As a parent, we must keep the promises we have made and follow through. Only then will your child learn to trust and respect you. For example, when you say you will leave the play ground if she continues to throw sand around, then be prepared to leave immediately if she does do so. No need to make a fuss about it - the more matter-of-fact you behave in this situation the better.

When speaking to your young child, kneel or squat down to her level. By getting close, you will be able to tune in to what they might be feeling or thinking. When you are close to her, you will have her attention and so she can focus on what you are saying or asking her.

Listen actively by repeating back to them what you think they might be feeling. This will help to relieve some of their tension and make them feel respect and comforted.

Reward good behavior. Whenever your childs is behaving in a way that you like, give her positive feedback, for eg, "Wow, your play area is so neat. I like it when you return your toys to your toy box after playing. This is called 'descriptive praise'. By saying positive comments like praises and encouragements instead of negative comments such as criticism and reprimands we help to build their self-confidence and self worth. Do remember that children will seek out negative attention if they do not receive any attention at all.

Reserve rules for the most important thing. Before intervening in anything your child is doing, ask yourself if it really matters. Keep interventions, requests and negative feedback to a minimum. So that there is less chance of conflict and bad feeling.

Always give clear instruction in simple terms so that your child will know what is expected of her. For example, "Please hold my hand when we cross the road".

Explain to your child about her responsibilities and the consequence for unacceptable behaviour. For example, explain to your child that toys should be shared among friends and that snatching a toy from another child is rude. Agree on an acceptable punishment such as no TV for one day etc.

Avoid nagging or repeatedly criticising your child as it gets boring and doesn't work. Your child will just end up tuning it out. Especially avoid idle threats. Children work out these very quickly and ignore them. So let them know what you think once and take action if you need to set limits or back up a rule.

Introduce simple chores to your child to make her feel important. Let her know that she plays an important part in helping the household so that she will take pride in helping out. Doing these chores help her feel responsible, builds her self esteem as well as help you out too. Older children can help to take out the trash while younger ones can help fold clothes like hand towels, handkerchiefs etc.

Use humour to diffuse tension or possible conflicts. Rather than "Clean your room now!" saying "This place is like a biology lab! I don't see mould yet but it'll start growing soon" will be more effective.

Plan ahead to prevent problems from arising. Find ways to help your child stay engaged, busy and active so that she does not become bored or do something disruptive. This is especially important in situation like on a long journey, sitting around in a waiting room or standing in long queues etc. Encourage your child to read books during long journeys or bring along spare paper, pens and pencils for your child to doodle, draw or play simple games like tic-tac-toe. You can also pack some song CDs for long car journeys, so youngsters can sing along to the catchy tunes.

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