Most people aren’t happy when someone, without any warning, does a “180″ on them –meaning they change the subject, get up and walk away, leave them suddenly for something different and so on. Imagine a little child playing happily and then suddenly their playmate jumps up and gets the phone, makes a move to cook dinner, etc. In my limited experience with children with learning delays, they need time to process their communications that are incoming and outgoing. I try to count to ten before expecting an answer, for example, and I keep my mouth shut as best I can while my daughter is processing her answers before speaking. It’s not easy, and I do my best.
Setting Expectations…and Reminders
I didn’t realize that everytime I jump up and change directions I am confusing my daughter who is 2 years and 8 months at this writing. I can’t always offer some buffering but I am learning that it is important to set her expectations so she doesn’t get mad when I change directions. Here’s what I am doing now:
- ”First we’ll read this book and then Mommy will take you for a walk/bath/etc.”
—–”Remember: Mommy is going to take you for a walk now that we are done with reading a book.”
- Set a timer for 2 minutes: “First we will play for two minutes and then Mommy has to go cook.”
—–”Remember: When the timer goes off, Mommy is going to go to the kitchen to cook and Daddy is going to play with you.”
Show them what they can do…
If your child is old enough, show them pictures of activities that they might choose from to do when you are done or that someone else can do with them while you are busy with whatever it is that is going to disconnect you from your child.
Puzzle pieces as a reward…
Cut an activity picutre card into three or four pieces and put them into your pocket. As your child does what you ask of them, reward them with a piece of the puzzle. When they collect all pieces and the picture of the activity is formed, you must drop everything and do that activity to reinforce their success at practicing acceptable and good behavior.
Using my problem as an example, when dinner time approaches, I can tell my daughter, “Head’s up! Mom has to cook in 2 minutes” –set the timer and train her to listen for the dinger/alarm so that she learns the sound and that means a change of program.
Reinforce Appropriate Behavior…15 to 20 times a day!
- Thank you for telling me how you are feeling.
- Mommy knows how you feel/what you want now.
- Thank you for asking nicely.
- Good asking. High five!
- Oh, someone’s mad: tell me why.
Praising good behaviors…dozens of times a day!
Make sure that your praise is appropriate for their age and that you are not giving a sticker, for example, to a toddler who will put it in their mouth and try to chew and swallow it. I know because I tried it and it backfired! One thing is for sure, you want your enthusiasm to reign supreme in giving praise right now. It’s essential that you do not give any bad behaviors a raised voice; but good deeds must be praised well enough for your child to notice the difference between regular talking and scolding (low tone/voice) and excited, joyful praise that says, “Gee, I must have really done something very exciting and good!”
Be sure to reinforce good behavior in the beginning 1 for 1. Later on, reward at a rate of 1 for 2 and then 1 for 3. In other words, the first several times they do what you want, praise, praise, praise. Then let your praise come every other time they do what you want. Later on, let it be every third time.
Mix and match any of these rewards:
- Verbal praise: Good talking! Good telling mom how you feel!
- Activity praise: go play, read, walk outside, bath or pool time
- Token praise: give a piece of food like a cracker, sticker, puzzle piece to an activity
If you are like me, and you have been yelping in pain everytime you’ve been bitten, and you gave a dramatic display of displeasure worthy of an Oscar, it is now time to reverse your reactions otherwise you will be played for a fool. Biting now gets a low toned, low volume reaction, “No biting! You just earned a time out! Two minutes!” and a dramatic drop into the crib on her diapered butt. No more dramatics for biting; it all must be saved for rewarding and reinforcing good behavior.
Stay tuned…more to come!