Teaching Good Choices

I’ve talked to a lot of friends lately who want to learn more about teaching their child how to manage their feelings, manners, and social skills.

As a teacher, building on children’s emotional development is somewhat like clockwork because you have a bird’s eye view of the behavior and have the resources to teach about the behavior. Whereas, as a parent, you have been so entwined with these emotions since your child was born, that it is hard to see beyond what you know about them and you often try to “fix” your child’s behaviors.

Well, the good news is that you can TEACH your child positive behaviors and encourage your child to PRACTICE these interactions and eventually you may not have to focus as much on their “misbehavior.”

Some of my “tricks” include REINFORCEMENT (a lot of repetition), REFERENCE (referring to characters in books that the child does want to be like/doesn’t want to be like), ROLE PLAY (allow your child to act out behaviors through characters they become), and CONSISTENCY (choose methods for teaching and consequences that work and stick to them).

I cannot cover the whole spectrum of teaching positive behaviors in one post, but I will introduce some things that I find effective in most circumstances.

As a first example, when I observe that a child is acting out on their anger, I have them go sit at a designated table/desk where I will meet them shortly after they cool down a bit. At this table I keep a basket of books and dolls/puppets under the table (not to be a play table but a table to work out emotions). This can otherwise be referred to as the “PEACE Table,” where you will HELP your child resolve and learn from these issues. When I bring children to this space I might say something like “I see that you do not have control of your feelings and you need time to get control. I will be back in ____minutes, (a minute for every year old) so we can talk about it and solve this problem.”  **Casey suggests not starting the timer until the tantrum has settled because children can’t cognitively reflect and process their behavior or consequence until the mood swing has subsided.

If you are not at home, take their hand (as early as possible), and walk them over to any private area, out of the environment where they lost control.

I will make sure to tell the child that it is not bad to be angry but that it is NOT okay to act on it. I will give them examples by taking out a doll/puppet/g.i.joe. “This is Jack, and his toy was taken away from him. How do you think he feels? (mad). Yes, mad, and that is okay but what if jack hits the table because he is mad? Is that going to help him get his toy back? No, what is something that he can do to earn his toy back?” This starts to get your child to think about alternative behaviors to solve their problems. Then I would act out a similar situation WITH my child, and then I would have my child reenact the situation of their anger from earlier and talk about what went wrong and have them reenact what happened with a different ending to the story.

Children WANT to learn alternative behaviors! Most of their behaviors are instinct or habit. I am not encouraging you to stop issuing discipline and consequences…not at ALL. I am just giving you ideas of how you can start TEACHING positive behaviors in addition to discipline.

Additionally, reading books that discuss feelings, pose problems that need resolution, and identify children with different characters is a GREAT way to model inappropriate and appropriate behaviors.

So, here are some ideas of books that you can read so that when you are at the peace table you might either close with one of the books, OR refer the child to one of the characters in the book and how that character dealt with their similar problem. Go to your local library or thrift store and see if you can find any of them!

Summarize longer books for children with shorter attention spans 🙂

Hope this helps!!!!

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