Rochelle Dunning otherwise known as Aunty Ro has been a Special Instructor with Imua Family Services since 2005. When not facilitating Imua Family Services PTG (Parent Toddler Group) on Mondays and Wednesdays, you can find her out and about working with our keiki. Currently Aunty Ro is studying to be a certified Behavioral Analyst and has experience with keiki at the elementary, high school and college level.
Below Aunty Ro lists 10 behavior strategies that may be helpful to parents and caregivers.
1. Family is encouraged to set aside learn-and-play time twice a day to focus attention solely on child.
2. Family encouraged to provide attention, praise, and reinforcement frequently throughout the day whenever they observe child displaying calm, desirable, acceptable or appropriate behavior (playing alone nicely, sharing toys, persevering on difficult tasks, using words and signs, following directions, responding to his/her name…) without being told.
3. Family encouraged to provide rules and boundaries, defining expected behavior and consequences for behavior (eg: praise for appropriate /desired behavior, time out or loss of toy or privilege for inappropriate behavior)
4. Family to redirect or ignore inappropriate behavior, providing attention only for desired behavior.
5. Family encouraged to provide functionally equivalent alternate behaviors where possible. Give child something he/she is allowed to throw when he/she can’t throw a toy. Child can hit a pillow but not a person, can suck on or bite a piece of tubing. Encourage the use of words or sign. Instruct child to not grab or whine rather ask for a drink. Use deep breathing for calming, blow bubbles, stomp feet, say “I’m mad”, squeeze a stress ball, show child how to calm themself.
6. Family encouraged to remain unemotional and avoid getting angry or frustrated. Administer the consequences objectively. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Following through enables trust and reliability (AND you can’t be manipulated that way.)
7. Family encouraged to set child up with an activity that interests the child and is attainable. Explaining and demonstrate for the child what to do before leaving child to play on their own while parent completes a chore. Reward child (ex:praise) for following through and not seeking attention with inappropriate behavior.
8. Family encouraged to use a timer (if needed) and gradually increase the time (30 sec. to 5 min) child is left alone (to play or try to sleep). Set child up to play, set timer to come back in 30-60 seconds (even less if need be) then leave to do a task. Give child some attention for a minute (that he doesn’t need to earn) then return to chore and repeat process. This helps with problem behavior for a child needing attention all the time.
9. Family encouraged to use a timer and gradually increase the time to play with adult directed activity before child can choose a new, preferred activity. Acknowledge sharing, turn-taking and completing tasks with praises.
10. Avoid asking open ended questions. Provide a choice of 2 (foods or activities) and help child say/sign the word. It is often frustrating for a child with a communication delay to think of the words needed and easier to limit choices to one of 2 words.
NOTE: In the beginning of the behavior program, the child may perceive that you are changing the rules of his/her world expect tantrums and behavior shifts for a while- but then it will get better if you just stick with the strategies. Remain calm. These are the INVESTMENT tantrums. If you follow through with strategies consistently and unemotionally, this will subside and begin to improve.