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Responding to Challenging Behaviours

As parents we often only have the energy or time for a quick read. So here is a new series which will hopefully give you a few ideas for helping out your busy family.

Five Tips for Responding to Challenging Behaviour:

1. Remain as calm as possible:

This is obviously a lot easier said than done, but when a child is struggling with very overwhelming feelings a large emotional response may only escalate the child’s frustration and anger further. When you are able to stay calm you are better able to support your child, helping them to understand what their feeling, how to cope with that, and role model a more appropriate response to a difficult moment.

2. Choose your battles wisely:

Where it is reasonable and possible, resist the temptation to end a tantrum by giving your child what they want (e.g. a toy every single time you enter a shop). Giving in will only teach them that through either nagging or exploding that they will get what they want. In the long run, no one wins. Another internal battle may be to ignore some negative behaviour as even slight and incidental negative attention can act as a reinforcer for certain behaviours. What is more effective is clearly labelled praise of the behaviours that you want to see. This is far more rewarding for a child, encouraging of the desired behaviours, and creates a positive environment.

3. Consistent consequences:

Every member of the household needs to know what the consequences are for negative behaviours (e.g. no screen time) and what the rewards are for positive behaviours (e.g. child selects weekend family activity). An example of clear positive praise would be “great job getting your homework done before dinner time”.

4. Wait till the storm has passed:

Waiting till everyone is calmer before a discussion will lead to a more effective parenting-child interaction. Creating the space where all members of the family are to express themselves creates a parenting relationship based on a foundation of respectful communication.

5. The relationship: Strengthening the parent-child relationship is an important part of working through challenging behaviours. By increasing the number and frequency of positive interactions and those that will typically not result in conflict. When looking to nurture the relationship, what are the positive aspects of the parent-child bond that can be built upon? Are there common interests or new family rituals that could be established?

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