Parents get stressed just like everyone else, if not more so. Constantly juggling so many things can sometimes, unintentionally of course, make our kids feel like less of a priority in all the chaos. Acting out gives them the attention they are craving. However, attention is like carbs. There are good carbs and bad carbs. Good carbs can sustain us in a positive way. While bad carbs make us feel bad and often times, guilty. It is our job to teach our kids which behaviors cause good feelings and which behaviors cause bad feelings. Just like adults and carbs, tracking them can be extremely important for accountability and patterns. Including your kids in the process is the most important part.
Kids crave structure, as well as control, no matter how small. Invite them to brainstorm different rewards they can earn with positive behaviors. Try to focus on a activities and quality time. Examples can be, picking the movie on family night, a one-on- one day date with just dad or just mom, building a model airplane plane, picking the music in the car on the way to school, etc. Together, come up with small rewards and big rewards. They can cash in rewards sooner for smaller rewards or build up for bigger rewards. This can motivate them and build patience and determination. Try to avoid rewards such as video games, phone time, food, etc.
Next, you need to decide what negative behaviors you’re trying to decrease and which positive behaviors you would like them to replace them with. For example, using kind words instead of yelling or asking for help before becoming frustrated. The next part is a fun activity to do together! Create a poster and/or container that helps track your child’s progress and how much they can cash in at. And remember, everyone has to follow the rules, including parents! If your child earns a reward, try your best to follow through with the reward as soon as possible to help solidify the connection between good behavior and rewards!
Brittany Miller, MS, Registered Mental Health Intern