Helping all children become happy learners
How do you retreat without your child winning?
A retreat realistically means that your child will 'win' and this is something to avoid in order to have consistent boundaries. The more you can keep to agreed rules and consequences the more likely you are to affect a long term change in behaviour. However, sometimes there are other factors that mean that tackling the issue now is not something you can do.
One strategy is to acknowledge the conflict and try reaching a compromise. For example:
'I can see that you are upset as you were really enjoying your game. I will give you an extra ten minutes of play only but then we need to go home'
Modelling compromising behaviour is also important if you want your child to learn to compromise too.
Children often struggle with time concepts so you if you give a time extension then you may need to give countdown reminders.
Avoid empty threats
If you threaten unenforceable or disproportional consequences you are going to have to 'back pedal' on what you've said. It is often better to say that there will be a consequence but not specify what that will be. This gives you time to reflect on it so that you can choose something that you can enforce. For example:
'If you don't do what I've asked you to do there is going to be a consequence.'
'All you need to know is that will be a consequence and I will think about what later.'
You need to ensure that there is a consequence 100% of the time so that they learn that when you say a consequence you really mean it. Remember it is not severity of the consequence that is important it is the certainty that it will happen.
One way of reducing the need to retreat is to try to plan ahead when going to be in places and other situations where you may have difficulty dealing immediately with behaviour. Prepare the child with reminders of your expectations and that there will be a consequence later if they let you down. Again do not specify what the consequence will be or when and where it will be given. This maximises the options open to you. For example:
'You got a bit silly at Sam's party and it all ended in tears. I'm going to stay and help at Alex's party. I want you to think carefully about your behaviour otherwise there will be a consequence.'
Ignore Secondary Behaviours
Try to ignore secondary behaviours like stamping feet, slamming doors and 'final word' comments as your child leaves. If your child is complying with your original request to change their behaviour then the secondary behaviour should be ignored. This is not your child winning but rather them 'letting off steam' as deal with the situation.
Prepare anxious children for change
For children who struggle with transitions always give a countdown in advance. This helps your child process the transition so they don't get overwhelmed when suddenly confronted with the demand to change. It can help to give lots of time reminders to help your child be ready to stop an activity they enjoy such as a computer game. Counting down ten minutes, five minutes, two minutes etc can help your child come to terms with stopping.
Use partial agreement to deflect arguments. For example:
'I understand that you say you didn't hear me but now you can I want you to...'
Shut down arguments
Shut down arguments and then walk away. For example:
'I'm not going to argue with you anymore, I've told you what I want you need to do.'
Try to identify contexts when your child demonstrates poor behaviour so that you can either avoid these or prepare your child. Be very specific about the behaviour so they understand exactly what they can and cannot do. Sometimes sorting behaviours can help or consider using a social story.
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