General Parenting Interventions and Behavior Tips
General Behavior- Tips, strategies, picking battles, rewards, consequences
Specific Behaviors- Whining, Cursing, Lying, etc
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Feelings by Age
What your child should be able to understand and express, by age
By Patience Domowski, LCSW
Age 0-1: Baby can express sadness by crying, anger by screaming, and happiness by smiling and laughing. Some babies can express surprise too with a facial expression, often following by happy smile or crying depending on how they feel about the surprise. Babies usually respond to their parents and other caregivers emotions and reactions such as being more fussy if they sense mom is upset, or laughing when big sister makes a funny face at them. [Known emotions: Happy, Sad, Angry, sometimes Surprise]
Age 2-4: These little ones are just learning how to talk to express their feelings. Parents can teach them to name their feelings such as saying “I’m Happy!” or “I’m Mad!” when they are acting like they feel that way with their behaviors or facial expressions. Often these kids have very strong opinions and feelings and may show big emotions like anger and disappointment in the form of tantrums and meltdowns and excitement or anger in screaming. Parents can try to have their child say how they feel. Parents can also model this by naming their own feelings so the child learns which emotion goes with which term. For example “Daddy is sad right now because you aren’t listening and putting on your shoes.” “Mommy is so happy to see you after a long day at preschool!”
Some strategies for calming child is to teach them to take deep breaths, give themselves a hug or ask for a hug, and taking a break (such as child going to a private area to calm down, or parents and older siblings leaving them alone in one area until they are calm). Teaching these skills when the child is not upset is helpful so they are ready to use the skill when needed. Parents can also model these strategies themselves by doing and naming them. For example “Mommy is angry right now because you made a big mess when I asked you not to. I’m going to take a break and calm down. I’ll be right back.” or “Daddy is really disappointed you didn't make a good choice and hit your brother. I’m going to take a deep breath.”
Also if the child resists using a strategy to calm down, parents can offer an incentive such as use of a toy or a treat for calming quickly. Often it’s best to ignore screaming and tantrum behaviors until the child calms (if they are too upset to reason with) and then praise them when they are calm and divert to something else. At the preschool age some children are more verbal and understanding than others so it will vary based on your child’s language ability to be able to talk out the feelings and handle them appropriately. [Known emotions: Happy, Sad, Anger, Surprise, Excited, Love, Scared, sometimes Disappointed, Frustrated]
Age 5-7: These early school agers should know the names of most common emotions by now and be able to do some calming strategies. Parents should continue to encourage them to name their feelings and model handling their feelings too. These children may also be recognizing how their actions affect others’ feelings too. Some kids are very sensitive to recognizing others feelings while others are more oblivious. Helping them be aware of how their behaviors and feelings impact others is important. For example if they are mad and hit their sister, it can make their sister feel sad. Or if they are jealous and take their friends toy, the friend may be angry. Expanding their understanding of emotions can grow beyond the basic feelings to more specifics like Happy vs Proud specifically, or Angry broken down into disappointment, frustration, or fear. There are many games and flashcards/posters to use to teach the various emotions. Having children learn what each feeling is called, what it looks like on someone’s face and body, as well as what can cause that feeling is really important for them to grow in emotional intelligence. [Known feelings: Happy, Sad, Scared, Mad, Nervous, Surprised, Excited, Proud, Loved, Disappointed, Frustrated. Maybe: Jealous, Anxious]
Ages 8-10: These kids should be pretty familiar with most emotions. They may continue to express their feelings in acting out ways, but should know some strategies for coping and calming down. If they still struggle they may need to see a specialist to help. They should be more aware of other people’s feelings and be able to offer comfort to others if needed. They should be able to name an experience that would cause a feeling. For example “If my brother messes up my lego creation, I would be mad” or “If my friend got a new toy and I didn't, I would be jealous”. [Known feelings: Happy, Sad, Mad, Scared, Surprised, Anxious, Excited, Proud, Disappointed, Frustrated, Jealous, Loved, Uneasy, Annoyed, Nervous]
Ages 11-13: Preteens are hitting that hormonal puberty stage where their feelings may be all over the place. They may be getting upset and angry for no clear reason and acting out more than usual. Helping them realize its their hormones that are out of whack, not that the world is against them may be helpful in helping them calm their reactions. They may need more space and understanding as they navigate this difficult time. Parents should be understanding but also not allow them to be disrespectful either. Often preteens need time and space to calm down and think through their feelings and when they are in a better mood often talking about it can help. [Known emotions: at this age they should know most if not all the emotions, but may struggle to differentiate specific breakdowns of feelings such as anxious versus scared].
Ages 14-18: Teens should be able to name and know all the emotions and may admit to struggling with certain ones specifically- like anxiety or anger. They should know some coping strategies to calm down and be able to manage their extreme feelings. If they are extremely up and down with mood it can be a sign of a problem and they may need expert help (ask your doctor or therapist). While it’s normal to feel all the emotions at some point the teen should likely not be all over the place severely such as excitement to furious in a few minutes, for example. As they mature they should be better handling their emotions and learning how to regulate their responses. [Known emotions: All of them. They may have slang terms for some feelings].
Overall it's important to teach children of any age the names of feelings as well as how to recognize them (by facial expression and body language) in themselves and in others. It’s also important for children to learn what causes what feelings. After they learn those basic skills then they can learn calming and coping strategies to feel better such as taking a deep breath when angry or anxious (it tells your brain and body to relax), taking a break (such as walk away, go to room to calm down ,etc). After the child is calm then they can work on a strategy to solve the problem! Even positive emotions like excitement can cause problem behaviors if the child gets too silly, or screams, gets super energetic, etc and may need to calm down. Learning when and where to act appropriately is helpful too. Such as its okay to be silly when playing, or loud when outside, but not during library time at school, for example. There are many books, games, flashcards, posters, etc available for teaching these skills. Look online for ideas. Also realize that if your child has any developmental delays or autism than often these skills will be very delayed and may not come naturally- they may have to be specifically and deliberately taught. For example most children can recognize when their parents are angry, or their friend is upset, but a child with a delay or autism may be completely clueless.
If your child is struggling beyond reasonable expectation seek out help from their pediatrician, school guidance counselor, or a child behavioral therapist.
Some online printable resources:
Free Download of Various Feelings Activities
There are plenty more! Just do a search on Google or Pinterest for free printable emotions activities.
I have some books on these topics as well. "Violet" discusses Anxiety, "Brianna" discusses Depression (deep long lasting sadness), "Julian" learns about Anger, and "Lily" learns about making friends/social skills (which is related to recognizing others' feelings). They are all for sale on Amazon.
Sensory vs Behavior
By Patience Domowski, LCSW
How do I know if my child’s behavior is sensory-related or a behavioral problem? Parents wonder this all the time. The simple answer is that it's often hard to tell and sometimes the reasons overlap. Often the issues can be both.
Sensory issues are sensitivities related to the senses- see, hear, feel, taste, smell. People can be over-sensitive or under-sensitive to senses. Children can be sensory- seeking: they do certain things to get certain sensory stimulation, such as excessively rubbing a soft blanket, or sensory-avoidant: they do things to avoid sensations they cannot handle, such as covering their ears for loud sounds. Some behaviors that are sensory related can also be behaviors for other reasons, which makes this so difficult to figure out. Some children are both sensory seeking and sensory avoidant for different senses.
Some behaviors you might see in a sensory-seeking child: running around and crashing into furniture/items, desires tight hugs and squeezes often, chews/sucks on toys/fingers/etc, bites/scratches/squeezes people or furniture, likes to feel various items and objects, fabrics, textures. These behaviors are not to get something they want from another person, like a toy, or attention, but for sensory input into their body.
Some behaviors you might see in a sensory-avoidant child include: won’t touch or eat certain textures- wet or soft items often like pudding or yogurt, screams and covers ears/eyes in certain bright lights or loud noises (may seem normal lighting or sound to a non-sensory person however, but to a sensory kid it’s overwhelming), avoids certain fabrics/clothing.
If a child is screaming or running around, those are not obviously sensory related behaviors, so how do you know the difference? The way to figure it out is to try to figure out the function, or the WHY, of the behavior. Is the child running around because they are trying to get your attention? (Behavioral) Do they seem to be very hyper and struggle to sit still? (Could be Sensory) Is the child screaming to get what they want, get attention, or because other people are doing it? (Behavior) Or are they upset with no clear reason why? (Could be sensory) Would the child do the behavior if no one was in the room with them? One of the simpler ways to figure out if a behavior is for sensory purposes is if the behavior would occur without any other interaction from another person. If the child was alone in a room and would still do that behavior, it is likely sensory- because they are not trying to avoid something they don’t want to do, get attention, or get something from someone else (the other functions of behavior). [For more info on functions of behavior see my other article on this topic].
Many children do sensory-seeking behaviors that are not a major problem as most children like to run in circles, dance around, touch soft items, etc. because it feels good to them. It's only a sensory problem when the behaviors are disrupting the family or school setting, or causing distress or interference in the child’s life. To have your child diagnosed with a sensory disorder please seek an evaluation from an occupational Therapist (OT). OTs are available through Early Intervention (if your child is under age 5), the school system, or private agencies.
If the behavior is for any other reason than sensory-stimulation it's a behavioral issue, not a sensory issue. If a child is throwing a tantrum because they didn't get candy, that’s behavior. If they are melting down because the lights are too bright- that’s sensory. Sometimes it's hard to know why so trying to figure out when the behaviors occur, what set it off, and the environment is very helpful. If your child is verbal, ask them what the problem is if they can verbalize it. Sometimes taking data is helpful to see patterns and figure out what settings the behavior seems to occur in most often.
So what do we do about it? We want to treat the behavior differently based on the function (or WHY) of the behavior. If a child is screaming for attention purposes, we would likely want to ignore them and teach them a better way to get attention. But if the child is screaming to avoid a loud sound, we would want to help them protect their ears- such as providing headphones in noisy environments. If the child doesn't want to wear underwear to be difficult or in control that is much different than a child who is complaining the underwear is itchy. So once we figure out WHY the behavior is occurring, then we come up with a solution.
OTs help kids de-sensitize and meet their sensory needs in more appropriate ways. So a kid who cannot tolerate certain clothing would probably be brushed until they could tolerate it. They would have the child do sensory activities like jumping on a trampoline or crashing into cushions to meet those needs instead of grabbing people or running into walls. Behaviorally the child can be given rewards for making good choices- like using a sensory toy or strategy, such as biting a chew toy instead of mom’s arm. We want the child to meet their needs in an appropriate way or get them to a point that they don't need that problematic behavior anymore.
Often the behaviors are both sensory and behavioral and they can feed each other, so sometimes a combined approach to treatment is helpful. Many children with ADHD, autism, and anxiety also have sensory issues. However a child can have sensory issues without a mental health diagnosis as well. Try to have your child evaluated by both a behavioral/mental health therapist and an OT to figure out the right diagnosis as that will be very helpful in coming up with a treatment plan.
Because sensory and behavior needs vary so much per child, and figuring out the function can be difficult sometimes, it is important to meet with an experienced professional to help figure out a plan specifically for your child. OTs and Behavioral Specialists/Therapists are the best professionals for this. Some Physical Therapists (PTs) can be helpful as well. Not all child therapists are familiar with sensory issues however, so find someone who knows something about sensory concerns and behavior.
- More information on Sensory Processing Disorder, including symptoms and treatment see: https://www.sensorysmarts.com/signs_of_spd.html https://www.sensorysmarts.com/sensory_diet_activities.html
When your kid says “I hate you!”
by, Patience Domowski, LCSW
When your kid says “I hate you!” and how to handle it…
1) Remember you’re not alone. Many kids say this at some point to their parents.
2) Recognize they usually don’t mean it. Knowing they don’t mean it and it’s not personal can help parents feel better about themselves and also not overreact. Instead of getting hurt or angry, recognize that your child is really trying to communicate something.
3) Realize it’s a lack of skill. They don’t know how to express their frustration properly. Teach them by modeling the correct feelings words, giving them space to calm down and later discussing with them how they could’ve handled that situation differently.
Usually when kids say “I hate you” or similar mean things like “I want a different family!”, “You’re the worst parent”, etc… they are really trying to say “I don’t like the answer you gave me”, “I’m upset I'm not getting what I want”, or “I’m mad/frustrated/etc”.
Instead of saying “We don’t say Hate” or “You don’t mean that” or “You’re hurting my feelings” etc try saying this instead: “Sounds like you’re frustrated. Can you say “I’m really mad!” or “I don’t like that!” Model it for your child and hopefully they will copy you in the moment and then remember next time how to handle it.
4) Teach empathy. Talk to them later about how they would feel if someone said “I hate you” to them when they really didn’t mean it. Even if they apologized later. Explain how it makes parents feel. Talk to the child about their feelings and teach them to identify some better coping strategies.
5) Train kids to change their thoughts from Negative to Positive. Instead of seeing the bad sides to situations, help the child identify the positive sides of the situation. Over time they will better be able to handle disappointments.
Depression in Children
by, Patience Domowski, LCSW
Depression is often characterized by symptoms such as severe chronic sadness; frequent crying, difficulty or resistance in doing regular activities like going to school or work, not interested or motivated to interact with others like hanging out with friends or going to social events. Sometimes there are also suicidal thoughts or actions as well. However in young children the symptoms for depression can look a bit different. Often parents are looking for the symptoms listed above in their child to identify them as “depressed” and are surprised or confused when their young child is identified with depression or a mood disorder when they really don’t seem sad.
Children with depression may have the above listed symptoms, however oftentimes children present with symptoms of anger or rage outbursts, often very cranky or irritable, easily frustrated or upset, and overreaction or extreme aggression outbursts (often over small problems). Aggression can be physical- like hitting, kicking, throwing objects, or verbal- screaming, saying mean things.
Sometimes depression comes from a specific event such as someone dying, parents divorce, being bullied at school, or a traumatic event. Other times it comes from “nowhere”- it could be genetic, or just something is off in the person’s brain chemicals. Often depression and mood issues are genetic and run in families. Sometimes symptoms only occur in one setting- such as just at home, or only at school. Sometimes they are worse or more prevalent in one place than another (more at mom’s house than dad’s house, for example in divorced families).
It’s helpful to be aware of what depression can look like in young children because it differs from the typical symptoms we think of that are more easily seen in adults and teens. By being more aware we can help get children and families help sooner. If you see these symptoms or have concerns about a child, please have them see their pediatrician, school psychologist, or a behavioral therapist/mental health clinician. The clinician or doctor can help figure out what the problem is and how to fix it so the child is feeling better and behaving better at home and school.
There are a few different diagnoses that may be considered. Here are some general ideas of what each disorder means. They must be diagnosed by a licensed therapist or doctor however. This is not an exhaustive list or inclusive of all the symptoms, but just a very brief overview/explanation.
Depressive disorder – depression symptoms, as listed above
Mood disorder - mood issues, doesn’t fit exact definition of another disorder
Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder (DMDD)- depression symptoms such as frequent irritability with oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) symptoms
Childhood emotional disorder- other emotional issues related to children
Adjustment disorder with depression- patient is adjusting to a trauma or life event that is causing the depression symptoms
Prognosis is usually pretty good for young children who are identified and treated early. Some children will just “grow out” of their symptoms, while other children may need treatment. Sometimes the symptoms occur at different times and go away and then return in a different form. Children with depression/mood disorder don’t necessarily have a diagnosis for a lifetime. Children often may only have depression symptoms for a short period of time, or they may occur cyclically, while some may suffer for a longer period of time, even into adulthood. Usually with treatment children can learn to manage or overcome their symptoms. Parents can also learn how to better support and help their children going through this as well.
Treatment for children usually involves first identifying the need such as noticing the symptoms, and reaching out to a child specialist to help. Getting your child diagnosed may also be the first step. Pediatricians, psychiatrists, school psychologists, mental health therapists and clinicians can diagnose, treat, or refer to someone who can help. Sometimes there is just an initial discussion with a therapist or doctor about the symptoms and other times there is a more formal assessment (including observations, testing, etc) for diagnosis. Treatment can include cognitive behavioral therapy with a child behavioral therapist, social worker, school counselor, or psychologist. A psychiatrist or pediatrician may recommend medication to help improve mood, which affects behavior. Sometimes if there are behaviors at school that are causing a problem there may be a need for a formal school evaluation and services provided via a 504 or IEP plan. Often a mix of treatment modalities such as medication, therapy, and school supports are the most effective.
Other helpful articles:
When your kid picks a college/career choice you don’t approve of…
by Patience Domowski, LCSW
So your kiddo is all grown up. And now they are ready to spread their wings. But you aren’t quite ready to let them leave the nest yet. You’re really struggling to accept their choices perhaps, or you just want to slam down the hammer and tell them they have to listen to you. You want to protect them, you want the best for them, and you know more than they do too. But it often causes a lot of arguing and upset between parents and emerging young adult and makes the distance between you even farther apart.
Let’s think about their point of view. We all value our freedom and ability to make choices. Children have very limited choices and very limited freedom. Most kids can’t pick their school, teacher, class, etc as a child…until college. Now they suddenly have a lot of choices and a lot more freedom. They can pick their major, future career choice, college location, etc. They want to make their own choices, and parents also want to help them make their best choices too.
Often parents will be firm and tell their kids which college they have to attend or just give them a short list to pick from whether its about where the college is located (close/far from home, suburbs or urban), type of school (private, religious, public, etc), as well as what to major in, where to live (on campus/dorm, in an apartment, or at home with family), etc.
The problem is when your child disagrees and parent stands firm opposite them it will just drive a large wedge between you and really mess up the relationship. In order to continue to have a good relationship with your child you should try to hear their side/viewpoint, don’t just argue but really listen. You should present your reasons factually, not emotionally. And in the end let your young adult child make their own choice, because now they are becoming an adult and need to make their own choices and learn from them.
Maybe they will fail and come back to you crying that they learned their lesson. Maybe they will do great and surprise you. Either way it’s a good learning experience. While college and major is important it’s not going to ‘ruin’ their life to pick the ‘wrong’ one. Sometimes kids have to come home or switch schools after first semester/freshman year. And that’s okay. Try not to gloat if you were right, but lovingly welcome them back and help them figure out what to do next.
Divorce tips to co-parent better - because it’s really all about the kids
by Patience Domowski, LCSW
1)Don’t try to ‘get back’ at your ex via the kids such as trying to take the kids away, limit visits, get the kids to not like them, etc
2) Try not to always have your way or the control. It’s about what’s best for the kids, not you. If you and your ex both think your opposing ways are the best for the child and you can’t agree- meet with a mediator or therapist.
3) Don’t use your kids as “spies” asking what their other parent is doing or who they are dating (there’s social media for that)
4) Don’t let your kids get stuck in the middle. They shouldn’t have to hear both sides and make a choice whom to believe. Don’t make them feel like they have to take sides.
5) Don’t bad mouth your ex to the children. Even if its completely true. Try to find something nice to say or don’t say anything.
6) Don’t try to get your child to not like your ex or their new stepparent (if applicable). It’s okay for them to love mom, dad, stepmom, stepdad, new sibs, etc all at once.
7) If the kids ask why the divorce occurred and it’s a complicated or “adult” reason, don’t tell the children exactly what happened, instead explain that ‘mom and dad just couldn’t work things out’ reassure the child you still love them and that won’t change and that the child is not at fault at all. Be careful about saying you don’t love the ex anymore because sometimes children worry that because parents don’t love each other anymore they might not love their children anymore at some point too.
8) If you have to argue with your ex, try not to let the children hear. Use a professional or unofficial mediator if needed. Try not to respond in anger to texts, emails, etc. Wait until you’ve cooled off before replying.
9) Spend quality time together, especially if you don’t have a lot of time together. Do fun things together, talk, bond. Sometimes do things one on one with the kids (without your new spouse or other children if possible) so they get some alone time. Encourage them to talk by being open and not judging or criticizing.
10) Allow your child to take favorite toys and comforting transitional objects, and call their other parent if they miss them. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you because they miss their other parent or ask for them. Try to help ease the transitions.
11) If your child seems distressed about the divorce, arrangement, etc have them go to therapy. If parents aren’t handling it well go to therapy and handle your stress yourself, don’t dump/vent to the kids.
Communication between parents and children/teens
by, Patience Domowski, LCSW
Isn’t it so frustrating when your child/teen won’t talk to you? Especially if they seem to talk better to their other parent, stepparent, friends, teachers, etc. Communication with your child/teen is so important as it builds your relationship together, and prevents some risk factors as well (like drug abuse, for example). Here are some ways to work on this.
If your child won’t talk to you…
· Initiate/ask about their day. Don’t accept shrugs/”fine” answers, press a little more and then back off a little and wait for them to answer. (Riding in the car is the best time to talk usually).
· Try being more approachable- Don’t expect your child to talk to you every time you try to initiate a conversation but be open and ready when they bring something up/start to talk. If it’s really not a good time tell them that what they have to say is really important to you and tell them when a better time is- and then stick to that time/make sure to come back and discuss it later.
· Don’t overreact- Even if your child tells you some shocking things- please act cool or he/she will automatically shut down and refuse to tell you what’s going on. It’s better to know what they are thinking and doing than not so be open minded to hearing what they have to say.
· Don’t respond with shut downs like “you shouldn’t feel that way” or “don’t do that!” or “you have to do…” but instead just listen to their feelings and give advice if they want it without telling them no or shutting them down.
· Be nice- don’t make fun of them or say something demeaning or insulting, try not to yell, don’t make a big deal about small things, don’t punish constantly for small problems, try to listen and not just talk. Compliment them when they make good choices or you are proud of them. Tell them specifically what you liked about their behavior/choices/etc.
· Ask your child how to make things better and try to take their suggestion if possible- If you realize there is a problem but don’t know what it is exactly that is causing your child to pull away or not want to be around you, ask them what the problem is and then try to take their input and see if its fixable.
· Try to fix the problem – If your child says what the problem is or you realize what it is try to fix it! Be open to changing and don’t just expect your child to change but parents to adjust too. Be willing to compromise.
· Do fun things together- Find something you have in common to do together or at least something your child enjoys even if you don’t. Go out to eat, go shopping, mini golf, bowling, make crafts/build something together at home
Some writing prompts could work really well as conversation prompts. Check these out.
"Error Correction" is an "in the moment" teaching opportunity.
Basically take the child back to where they made the error (physically) and "re-do" the behavior the correct way.
For example: You are holding child's hand walking in the store. The child suddenly runs off. You chase him down. Instead of just telling him "Don't do that again!" Take him back to where he started to run off and hold his hand and make him walk that same space.
Another example I can give from experience. I used to see a child for therapy in a daycare. When I would show up he would rolls his eyes and groan. I was teaching him social skills and that is not the proper way to greet anymore, especially an adult. So I said "Let's try that again" and I told him what the expected behavior was: "You should say "Hi Miss Patience!" when I arrive. So I went back out the door and came back, expecting him to use the right behavior. We practiced that awhile. Another client I had would stick out his tongue when I arrived. I tried the same thing. I would go back outside and re-knock on his door and have him greet me properly. After a few weeks of that (I only visited 1-2x/week) he now does it properly without having to "re-do" the greeting.
By redoing the behavior in the moment it helps the child learn "muscle memory" to remember what to do. Kids tend to learn better (and so do some adults!) from kinetic learning (using your body) more than just verbal learning. So acting out a behavior or role-playing a social scenario can teach the skill better than just lecturing or telling a child what to do next time without practicing it.
— Teach child to control impulses using games like Simon Says
— Remind them to STOP and THINK
— Raise your hand silently as a cue to raise hand if child is calling out and wait to call on them until they raise their hand (ignore them if they call out)
— Eliminate/avoid distractions in the room as much as possible
— Sit ADHD child in FRONT of the class so they avoid distractions such as other students
— Sit child so they do NOT face window, doors, highly decorated areas of the room
— Sit away from toys and computers
— Use a file folder “office” to block distractions
— For tests sit in quiet section like back of room where less children are around
Keeping organized and on task
— Many kids with ADHD cannot keep themselves regulated in If you can’t keep things regulated/organized INTERNALLY (in your head) you have to do so EXTERNALLY such as using calendars, to do lists, charts, sticky note reminders, etc
— Help kids stay on task using Timers (www.timetimer.com), make reminder notes, have visual schedules, mark backpack/folders with reminder notes, completion checklists, picture schedule of the day, and other visual reminders
— Often children with ADHD, and ODD, and other behavior disorders (Autism, Disruptive Behavior Disorder, etc) do not have the internal motivation or desire to want to perform well, please parents/teachers, or achieve/succeed within themselves. (Let’s face it we all have those days we’d rather play than work or learn! ) So they need EXTERNAL MOTIVATORs such as incentive/reward charts, tokens, behavior systems, earned allowance, etc. Basically find out what they want and then help them get that with doing the expected/preferred behavior.
— Reward systems/charts should be individualized, tailored to child’s wants, needs and interests. If child is NOT interested/doesn’t want the reward, its too hard to achieve, or its not related to them, they are highly unlikely to utilize it and actually do what you are requesting.
— Rewards DO NOT have to be Toys/Food (tangible) they can be –extra time, -special choice, -extra attention, -computer time at end of the day, -stickers, -coloring pages they enjoy, etc
— For younger children small token/reward charts work great. Make it achievable. They should be able to earn in an hour or day if they are very young, or weekly for kids who are a little older or have achieved daily rewards already.
— Older children should earn tickets/money/chips to cash in for prizes/rewards/ privileges
Other helpful tips
— place child closer to front of room, sit student next to a calmer student or away from distractions, call on child often to answer questions, or repeat back information, sit child in a chair versus on the floor
— Tap their desk/call name while teaching to get their attention
— Have them run errands/be helper for class to get out extra energy
Remind of expected behavior and establish reasonable consequences
— Tell children the expected behavior and the consequences if they don’t follow it – should be clear and concise. Remember if its simple they are more likely to hear it! For example “We are going to play musical chairs now. If you don’t follow the rules and get “out” when told, you can’t play the game again when we play next time” or “Now its time for art. If you splash the paint on the floor on purpose, you will have to sit out”.
Other disruptive behavior tips
— Out of seat on carpet/crawling around:
-try a chair, carpet square, move away a little from the group
· Talking to peers next to them:
- move them away from that peer, put them next to calmer/quieter kids (boy/girl/boy/girl can work)
- try a fidget toy to hold (if that toy becomes distracter, take it away until they focus, then return toy to them to see if that helps. If not, fidget toys won’t work. )
-Sit on a fidget seat (School’s OT consultant should have one), exercise ball, or bean bag for extra sensory input.
— Butting in line/pushing children in line:
- put child at front or back of line, or several feet from others in line, remind of consequence “keep hands to yourself or you will have to go to back of line/lose recess/etc”
· Have child take a walk/movement activity before having to sit for a while
— Wandering around/not transitioning to correct center/activity:
- small chart/list of centers to choose from. They mark off each center they complete on the list.
— Not staying on task in the center:
- timer or task completion checklist
— Waiting/transition time - fidgeting/touching others/etc:
-suggest a wait game or sing songs during that time
Classroom Rewards and Consequences for everyone
— Can be individuals earning stickers/rewards/tokens or whole class/group earns a collective prize:
For example if everyone is quiet they get extra 5 minutes recess, or if they are following directions all week, they get a special activity on Friday
— Consequences could include sitting out of the activity, not being able to sit with a certain peer, losing a toy or other privilege, and call to parents
— Be Consistent (keep rules the same)
— Be Fair (don’t always have one child be in trouble if several are doing same behaviors)
— Give Consequences/Follow through! (if you said it would be the consequence- then make sure it is! Child will learn from that and not keep making same mistakes!)
— Use Rewards !! (makes everyone more happy!)