Changing a Child’s Behavior


“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” ~Robert Fulghum

silly childrenI work with many parents who struggle with trying to get their children to change undesirable behaviors. Often they have good strategies, but somehow the behaviors persist.

Upon closer examination, they will often mention that they are not always consistent in their approach. It is not a question of whether the children understand the expectations or forget them, but rather that they consider the odds.

Most behaviors that are undesirable to parents are, on some level, desirable to the children. They want to pick on a sibling, keep watching television even when they have been told to come for dinner, and keep parents coming into their room when they should be sleeping.

If the behavior never worked, or always resulted in an unwanted consequence, the behavior would soon be corrected. With an absolutely consistent approach, most behaviors will be changed within fourteen days.

Getting away with the behavior, even once, teaches the child that the rule is not really fixed. Once he or she knows that, they will keep trying the behavior, thinking that perhaps this is the time they will get away with it.

An unwanted behavior can persist for an unbelievably long time so long as there is occasional reinforcement for it. So if you really want the behavior to stop, do not allow it to be okay even once.

Copyright © Gwen Randall-Young, All Rights Reserved. Contact us if you would like permission to reprint.
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