For those of you who are signed up to receive my free online Parent Coaching Program, you will know that we have covered three parenting topics this year.
- January – We looked at ways to become more intentional in our parenting practice
- February – We focused on the HUGE benefits of Self-Care
- March – We developed some strategies to help us Shape Our Behavior and become more conscious
With April upon us, I’d like to introduce you to the theme for the month and it’s a big one:
Decoding And Shaping Our Children’s Behavior
- What is behavior?
- How do you view behavior?
- How do you deal with unacceptable behavior?
- Does your approach work?
Behavior is a means of communication.
How I chose to respond or react to my children’s behavior and shape my resultant behavior will have a big impact on the choices that my children make regarding theirs. Which comes first? Does my child’s behavior trigger my behavior or does my behavior trigger my child’s? Interesting question…
Children are not born knowing how to behave. As they develop they will try out many different “behaviors” to establish which ones work and which ones don’t. Their behavior evolves and changes as they move from infant to toddler, to pre-tween, to tween, to teen, to young adult. Each stage is an experimental time period in their lives. Once a certain behavior appears to work, they start to use it and it can become a “successful” pattern of behavior to them.
These words are key here: successful pattern of behavior to them.
The problem is that sometimes a successful pattern of behavior for the child does not always equal an acceptable pattern of behavior to the parent or family! It is only when a particular pattern of behavior no longer serves a child favorably will they move on and try something else because no habit is maintained when it loses it’s purpose.
The key to our children developing and choosing acceptable patterns of behavior lies in our ability to shape their behavior and not let unacceptable patterns of behavior evolve, become habit, govern the way and work for them.
How do we go about this?
Decoding our children’s unacceptable behavior is key to us being able to respond to it in such a way as to bring about and shape a more desirable and acceptable behavior.
Here is a very common behavior challenge that many of the clients I work with experience:
“My toddler will not stay in his bed. As soon as he is tucked in, he comes back downstairs. First, he says that he needs to go to the toilet AGAIN so off he goes. Then he says he is thirsty so I get him a drink. Then he says he is not tired so he comes back downstairs with us and so it goes on. He often ends up negotiating for another 10 minutes on the iPad. It’s been going on for months and we are fed up with it.”
When I face challenging patterns of behavior with my children I ask myself 3 questions. Doing so helps me separate the child from the behavior, get behind the behavior and see it from a different and more useful perspective. Let’s use the example above to decode this pattern of behavior:
- What is the purpose of the behavior?
He wants to spend more time with his parents and/or he wants to play on the iPad.
- Is this behavior working to his advantage?
Most definitely YES. He is extending his time spent with his parents, he sometimes gets more time playing games on his iPad and he has his parents running circles round him.
- What do you think drives / motivates his behavior?
Possibly feeling disconnected and the need to feel that he is in control.
The only way in which this child will change his behavior is if the parents change theirs. Right now, the child is getting what he wants but the parents are not. A win for the child but not for the parents.
A key piece to finding a workable solution to any behavior challenge is to create a win-win. As Dr Shefali Tsabary discusses in her wonderful book, The Conscious Parent, it inevitably comes down to two things (which are of course influenced by many other factors such as temperament, mood, tiredness, hunger, us and where we are at to name a few):
- 1. Connection – Am I willing to connect?
- 2. Containment – Am I willing to set a boundary?
It is in the balance of connection and boundary setting that a win-win can be created and a solution found to many common parenting challenges. Also, remember that whatever the “solution”, it takes time for any new pattern of behavior to become the default pattern and over-ride the old one.
Do you have a pattern of unacceptable behavior with a child that you would like to change?
Ask yourself the three questions above and see if doing it gives you fresh insight to finding solutions using connection and boundaries.
Over the next few weeks, provided you are signed up for it, I will be giving you other tips and ideas pertaining to this. The first tip will be around the use of consequences and how to make them work…
PS. If you have a behavior challenge that you need some help finding a solution to, please do give me a shout. I’d love to hear from you and am always here to help.