Published On: Fri, Feb 8th, 2013

Danielle Mantakoul’s Behaviour Management Toolbox

Danielle Mantakoul

As our cDanielle Photo 2014hildren grow we find that we need to start putting into place some behaviour management strategies. When our kids are bubs, behaviour management is all about redirection, “here, play with the blocks instead of the kitchen drawers”. But as they grow, it is vital to start adding many new tools to your toolbox. There are many great behaviour management strategies and lots of not so great ones. Below I have listed some fabulous tools from my behaviour management talk, The Early Years Toolbox, strategies that are simple yet life changing.

Tool 1: Expectations
Talking about expectations sets kids up for good behaviour. Do not mistake this for a lecture! If you do, there is a good chance your kids will turn off. Rather than telling your child what you expect, see if they can tell you what they think is expected. What they recall give praise, and what they miss, simply remind. If you are creating new expectations for whatever reason, talk to them about this not at the time of the incident, but beforehand. Once again you’re setting them up for good behaviour and putting the expectation to the forefront of their mind leading to greater success with follow through.

Tool 2: Individuality of the Child
It is so easy to mistake individuality for poor behaviour and there is no magic answer here. You simply need to be mindful of the individual needs, likes and dislikes of your child. If you do this, you will become much more aware of when it is poor behaviour or simply individuality.  The more children we have the easier it seems to be to move in a group rather than tending to the needs of the individual. But if we are respectful to the differences of each child, you will find you are ending up in far less battles and with happier children.

Tool 3: We’re In This Together.  The Parent with WITT.
Be a parent who communicates to their child that you are a parent with WITT. This means getting the message across to your child that “we’re in this together”. We want our kids to know that we get it, that we understand and SHARE with them their disappointment, anger, sorrow, frustration, sadness, and the variety of other emotions we find ourselves feeling in difficult to swallow situations. By doing this our kids are able to cope better with these feelings as they feel supported and understood. It also helps us to be seen as more approachable, helping to keep a window open to conversation. Also use your own stories to help your child. Tell them a time when you were young that you were annoyed, jealous, frustrated. Stories, especially yours are very powerful teaching tools.

Tool 4: Consistency Killer Consistency King
It is as it says. Consistency is a killer cause it can be so hard to do. But consistency is absolute king when it comes to behaviour management. When your kids work out that you mean what you say and you mean it every single time, your behaviour management life becomes so much easier. This strategy can take kids a while though to see and feel, but as long as you are consistent, they will begin to truly know it get it lessening the battles.

Tool 5: Sweeteners and Ladders
Blossom, buddy, sweetness, matey. These are sweeteners. Those little words that help us to stay down the bottom of the anger ladder and show our kids we are in control. Using sweeteners helps our brain to go down a certain path, just as that swearing in your head does! Your thoughts are followed by a physical and verbal reaction . It does not make sense to the brain if you yell “ANGEL BLOSSOM”, the brain is confused! So use sweeteners to help your brain go down a different path. Sweeteners will not help you at the height of your anger, but they can certainly help you to stay down the bottom of that anger ladder.

Tool 6: Worth the Battle
We can be too quick to choose battles. To help ensure you get it right the first time, ask yourself not once, but twice if what you are presented with is worth the battle. We may have different battles, but what’s important is that when you choose it that you fight it and win. Choosing too many battles with kids causes them to rise to the occasion, after all, kids don’t mind battling with you.

Tool 7: Why Why Why
Every time you ask your child to do something, I want you to tell them why. Which ever way you look at it, behaviour management is all about teaching kids to be prepared for an independent life, and one way we can do this is to explain why we are requesting something from them. If you do this, not only do you end up with a child that will be more agreeable, but you’re teaching your kids life skills! Research has also shown that with parents who tell their kids why they want them to do something, can actually increase their IQ. So next time instead of “pick up your shoes” try “pick up your shoes so Mummy doesn’t fall and hurt herself”.

Tool 8: Choosing the Consequence
There must be consequence to poor behaviour and many times it immediately occurs itself. “I told you to walk the floor is wet”. “If you hit your brother he doesn’t want to play the game anymore”. But there are also many times that there is no obvious consequence the child can see and we must be the dishes out or highlighters of the consequence. To do this effectively consider the following: The consequence should be about what the child has done and fix it, and the consequence should be realistic and committed. It is very easy to throw out statements we don’t mean to try to have a spring into action affect on our kids but this can backfire! “If you don’t stop jumping on the bed I am cancelling your party tomorrow”. Yeah right, sure you will. If you won’t follow through with what you say then you can’t say it! Once your kids know that you mean what you say and you mean it every single time, your behaviour management life will become so much easier.

Tool 9: Successful Time Out
Time out works best as a last resort. Many are using it unnecessarily, for way too long or simply way too often. The problem with the popular strategy on making children sit for one minute per age of the child is that kids are different. Some 5 year olds actually can’t sit for 5 minutes, so we simply set the child up for failure to stick to a number. If your child is 5 but can only sit for 3 minutes, make it 2 and a half! If you are using time out, you want it to be successful. If you must, make the age of the child the absolute limit to sit for rather than the starting point. Try to consider other strategies such as ignoring, or ensuring there are related consequences and leave this one as your last resort.

Behaviour management is hard work, but remember, great kids are no accident and are the product of someone’s mindfulness and even careful planning.

By Danielle Mantakoul
Copyright 2008

Described by many as one of the most dynamic speakers in the early childhood industry, Danielle Mantakoul has now educated thousands of parents on a wide range of topics surrounding early childhood. Mum of three in 17 months including twins and a special needs child, Danielle is well aware of the battles that families face today with young children. For the last 12 years Danielle has attended Early Childhood environments all over Sydney educating parents and early childhood staff. She has lectured for organisations such as KU Children’s Services, Goodstart, Only About Children, Qantas, The Australian Financial Review, Child Protection Australia and hundreds of council and private centres.

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