Sunday, April 12, 2015

Focus on the Positives

Lately we've been hearing the word, "no" a lot in our house.  It's in the form of "not right now," or "don't slam the door!"  I try to use my play therapy words such as "toys are not for throwing," but sometimes it just doesn't happen.

The "no's" usually occur in the morning, when I am running on zero energy and so are my children as we get ready to leave the house for the day.  As I am rushing around making sure teeth are brushed, and clothes are on, something always happens and it makes us late.  Another trip to the potty, or someone isn't happy with the shirt they are wearing.

Last week it was slamming a door for the 15th time! I snapped and tried a Pavlov dog technique of raising my voice and saying "no!" Kind of like what you are supposed to do to a dog when they are in the middle of having an accident in your house. The sharp "No!" is supposed to trigger the bell reflex and they aren't supposed to do it again.  But on a toddler, uhm, not so much. Pavlov didn't work, it just caused more tantrums. You mean kids aren't like dogs? :)

Lesson learned from mommy. So I pulled myself together and remembered it's best to use words that describe what they are SUPPOSED to do instead.  If your child is slamming doors, instead of saying "don't bang the door!" say, "doors are not for playing with, they are to be pushed gently."  Because when you say "no", all the child hears is the action part such as "slam door!"  She doesn't hear the "don't" part to your discipline.

The best plan is to tell them what you want them to do.  I know I've talked a little much about positive and negative reinforcers, but it's so true.  When we give any attention to negative behaviors, it's still attention and they eat it up!  Especially those second borns or 3rds or 4ths who just don't get as much attention.  They seem to act out way more than the first borns, and when they pull on their sister or push her and start laughing, guess what they are trying to do? Yep, you guessed it, get your attention and their siblings'.

So stay calm (yes I know, easier said than done), and focus on the positive actions.  The louder and more energetic your response, then the more likely they will act out. Completely hard to do when your child is throwing things all over the place and you try to say all quiet, "sweetie pie, toys are not for throwing, if you want to throw something, you can throw this ball."  Just take a deep breath, realize it's not the end of the world if a toy breaks, or a toy breaks a picture frame. It may be super super frustrating, but the more calm and short the response, the less likely they will do it again.  No reaction from you = no attention = less negative behaviors.  Of course a consequence may be needed here, but still stick to your less 'attention rewarding' behaviors.

Also try to find time to give that extra attention with hugs, kisses, story time, and one-on-one play time.  It will help curb some of their acting out!  And if you're looking for a good reference, I stumbled across a book that teaches you how to stay calm and work on communicating better with your young child called What Babies Want.  Any of you have advice on less is best when it comes to positive reinforcement?


  1. Totally true, it's easier said than done. I try to remember to not give much attention to the big things, but it's hard to do when your child is hitting a sibling or acting out like crazy! I do need to remember the better.