As always, I’ll start this post by offering my usual disclaimer that I am in no way a behaviour expert and my children are definitely not angels! However, I have been a primary school teacher for more years than I care to remember, with a copious amount of time spent taming unruly small people! So here are my top tips for managing the behaviour of your little monsters, which I truly believe can be applied to all ages. Even younger than a year old children can begin to recognise a firm ‘NO’ when they’re up to no good!
When you’ve had a bowl of Weetabix thrown at you, 36 minutes sleep and your eyeballs scratched out, it’s very difficult to remain calm and full of praise but finding even the smallest of actions to praise is vital in keeping your little one engaged with what you’re saying. It could be ‘Well done for looking at me when I’m speaking to you’ or ‘Thank you for stopping when I called your name.’ Keep it clear and keep it simple. Even as adults we like to be praised so this is absolutely key, at various points throughout the day, as well as in the middle of what feels like World War 3.
Reward charts can definitely be a worthwhile tool when focusing on one particular behaviour or action that you want to instil in a child but it’s so important that it is kept simple and used consistently. For that reason, reward charts are most effective when used for one aspect of home life, such as teeth brushing. Children need to see instant consequences so by promising a sticker for their reward chart when you get home, this is unlikely to have much impact.
Throughout teaching and parenting, the most common root of misbehaviour has been boredom. It’s pretty impossible to give children our full attention 100% of the time and I’m not suggesting that you have to give a (less creepy) Mr Tumble-esque performance every day, but make sure a few toys are out for children to play with and mix them up occasionally. And at those times when kids are kicking off and our first instinct is to just shout and scream, distraction is absolutely key. Musical instruments (or makeshift versions) are my go-to for this, especially when there is a mini riot going down. A surprising, sudden noise will get their attention and usually makes them forget their original issues!
If all else fails, counting down from 5 is where we head. I rarely get to zero but if you do get that far along there absolutely has to be a consequence. This is very last resort for us and usually results in a screaming, crying fit (from Erin, not me!) followed by complete emotional exhaustion. Of course nobody wants to see their child upset but kids don’t hold grudges and, at the end of the day, you need to parent them, not just be their best friend.
Ultimately, my top tip is always consistency. If you’re lucky to have other people involved in your child’s life then the rules should be the same with all adults – everyone should use the same way of counting down, with the same consequences, the same rewards, whatever it is. Kids need to know where they stand and consistency is the only way for that to happen.
That all being said, kids will be kids. They all have their moments of madness, tantrums and cheekiness… it’s just part of growing up, isn’t it?!