How to Encourage Discipline in Children: Principle #10

We have briefly interrupted our series on ways to discipline children but now are ready to conclude discussion of the 10 principles on learning how to self-regulate and be emotionally healthy during growth and development. Once again, I am so thankful for the research of Sarah Landy who pulled together this information. We can glean a wealth of knowledge from what she has accumulated.

Six problem-solving strategies for challenging behaviors

Be specific about what behavior you want to change.
Be specific about what behavior you want to change.

Principle #10 is to use problem-solving strategies to find solutions to challenges in discipline. This principle needs to be considered when a caregiver is  repeatedly confronted with the same behavior problem, and why it is important to take the observer role with the child. The goal is to figure out why the child is persisting with such behavior.

Here are some steps to consider.

1. Be specific about what behavior you want to change. It is important to specify what behavior you want to eliminate and explain the behavior you want to encourage in exact terms. This should be set up in a way it can be counted and measured. That is, you cannot count “good” behavior but you can count the number of times the child picks up the toy.

2. Measure and count the behavior for a short time before implementing the discipline strategy. This is called taking the baseline. It can mean counting the number of times the child takes a toy from his sister, or the length of time he plays cooperatively. This “before” measure can be used to compare to the “after” measure to determine whether a change that has been implemented is working in the desired direction.

3. Observe the situation. Notice a) the factors that lead to the situation and triggers that set it off, b) the behavior that you want to change, and, c) what is following the behavior, or the consequences of it that may be encouraging the child to continue the behavior.

4. Change what leads to the behavior or the antecedents (e.g. arrange to leave the child with another caregiver when you do the grocery shopping).

5. Change the consequences of the behavior and explain to the child what will happen if the behavior occurs and follow through with them.

6. Keep measuring the behavior while you make the changes. Note if the appropriate behavior increases and the inappropriate behavior decreases.

I realize that all these steps seem like a lot of effort. However, it could really become a learning experience for caregivers as they attempt to figure out how to deal with persistent negative behaviors.

Sometimes it is better to strategize and ask the evaluative questions that can lead to what works in changing a difficult behavior. In so doing, we are willing to explore options that the child will understand and thus experience success in changing. In turn, this will add to their sense of pleasing their caregiver as well as finding success in changing negative behaviors. It can be a win-win for both the child and caregiver, and bring a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment to each.

Gerry Vassar,  President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Information taken from Pathways to Competence, Sarah Landy, p. 412

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