“We keep taking all of his toys away and nothing is working, HELP!”
Why is it that as human beings we think that by taking things away we will get the results that we want from another person? This seems to happen in all relationships through life, but more frequently (if not every day) between adults and children. When we do behavioral consultations we hear this over and over again, while well-meaning parents explain that consequences don’t work. It is important for kids to understand that their behaviors do have a consequence just like adults do, but at what expense? If the child loses an item every day as a consequence for negative behavior, and doesn’t know when s/he will get the item back, the consequences might not work. The child might be thinking that no matter what s/he does he will lose something, so what’s the point of behaving well? In this case, the parent is right and consequences really aren’t working. The negative behaviors will only continue. So, what can a parent do?
You can say, “Rewind!”, “Let’s try that again,” or, “How could you do this differently,” to let the child have a second chance. Taking things away at the moment the behavior occurs doesn’t give the child a chance to change the behavior. Teaching the child that there are other options is very important for moving forward. Every time you want to take something away, think of it as a learning opportunity – this is a time to teach your child a new way to act. Once you experience multiple days of frustration (both parties) it is important to take time out from life and spend quality time together. This isn’t about reinforcing negative behaviors, but about building the relationships, as we must do as adults with out partner.
Building an unconditional relationship with your child will show that you love them, apart from their behavior. Building quality time into your day should not be conditional on your child’s actions – instead of taking away story time if your child had a giant tantrum, try using story time as a way to repair what has been broken by the frustration of raising kids. Building relationships and teaching your child new ways to respond to life, will change behavior faster than any negative consequences.
More importantly, it will keep you sane.