“Sort of” using a behavioral change plan to help your child develop good habits is “sort of” like being on a diet. And it works about as well.
Once you commit to helping your child learn a good habit you need to help the child by being clear what you want him to do, be consistent and be positive when he does what you want him to do.
Children do not tend to develop good habits from being punished for a bad habit. Show your child what you want. Find out what is getting in the way of the child using the new habit. Give positive feedback as the child attempts the new habit. Focus on changing one habit at a time. If you try to change several things at once, it is unlikely that any of the habits will be learned.
Many parents are applying to schools for their children, or helping their young people apply to schools and colleges. I have been told that the following advice has been useful. Be realistic; if a school or college does not select your student, perhaps it is not the best school for your child anyway. You and your child should be looking for goodness of fit with a school. It should be the right fit academically, socially and philosophically. Ideally your and your child will visit a prospective school or college, such as attending athletic events, drama presentations or science fairs. Many colleges have “Picnic Day” or “Open Campus” days when anyone can visit the campus and see lab demonstrations as well as recreational events such as parades and sports. As you research schools be sure to be clear with your student that the selection process is a mutual process between parents and schools. The student might express preferences, but should not be given the impression that he or she can “choose” a school. Nor should he or she be given the impression that an admission is guaranteed because of family history, excellent grades, or a verbal commitment. Be sure to tell the truth as you are interviewed or complete forms about your child. Schoolls and colleges often reserve the right to dismiss a child if the information on the application is found to be false, such as not disclosing a known learning disability when asked. Be sure to turn forms in on time! Every year schools and colleges receive applications late and turn away qualified students; don’t let one of them be yours. Keep records and receipts. Follow directions during the application process! This is a major complaint from schools and colleges, that applicants and families do not follow directions. Show up slightly early so you and your child enter a school interview or tour relaxed and ready to go. Don’t limit your options prematurely or count on anything until you have it in writing. If your child needs help with something to get into a school or college of his or her choice, get them help early, not during the application process. Don’t let your child overhear negative comments regarding himself, other students or the schools. And remember “No school or college is perfect. Choosing a school or college is like choosing a mate. You have to choose one with the faults you can live with.” MML
I have a few suggestions for parents whose children are assigned homework. First, DON’T DO THE HOMEWORK FOR THEM! It is so tempting to try to help your child by relieving his stress or pressure. Unfortunately, this is parenting for the short run. It deprives the child from learning the material assigned. It teaches them that they will be rescued from poor time management. What could you do instead, in order to be helpful? Read on.
Do provide quiet space for your child. Many children are distracted by the TV or radio in the background. Does your child like to do homework alone or in a room where you are working on something else? When your child is having difficulty with homework it is not an optimal time to scold them for delaying. Scold later, but help them solve the problem right then by asking what they might do to solve the problem: e-mail a fellow student, check the assignment again, look something up in a dictionary or encyclopedia, or even write the teacher note regarding why they think they are having trouble with the assignment.
Check with your child’s school to find out what their homework policy is. Is your child taking significantly more time that the school indicates in the policy? This might suggest that your child needs some extra help with a subject, but it can also happen when teachers of different subjects don’t coordinate the timing of assignments.
Even more fundamental, is your child getting enough sleep? Pediatric research suggests that many children and adolescents are seriously sleep deprived. Is your family and/or your teen over-scheduled? Finally, think through your family’s policies regarding use of technology. I prefer to have cell phones turned off at bedtime so adolescents are not awakened by texts from night-owl friends. I also recommend that computers be used in public areas of the house so that children and youth are protected from outsiders and from their own impulse to connect with friends rather than concentrate on homework.
Many parents believe that team sports are necessary for their children. Sports are valuable for physical health and coordination. Research does not support the idea that team sports are inherently better than individual sports for children. Many children thrive by participating in individual sports.
Other things to consider as you make choices regarding your child’s participation in sports: make sure the coach emphasizes safety and sportsmanship over winning, allow your child to participate as a recreational athlete and not become competitive until he or she is emotionally ready. If a child chooses a sport, consider allowing him or her to have one or two private lessons before beginning group lessons or joins a team. This allows the child to gain confidence and decide whether to continue or not, before making a commitment to a group. Once a commitment is made, consider requiring the child to finish out the season or series, as long as the program is well-run. Finally, research by i9 Sports found that as many as one third of children wish their parents would not attend their athletic events because they are uncomfortable with their parents yelling and pressuring them.
Key idea: Require good sportsmanship of your child, and yourself.
Children learn habits more quickly if they do their tasks in the same order all the time. For example, in the morning: toileting, washing hands and face, putting on clothes, eating breakfast, brushing teeth, in that order but television, toys or computer time would only be allowed after the list of responsibilities is completed. It takes about a month of repetition for a habit to be changed. Another habit for you consider for your family would be for each object to have a “home.” For example, shoes have a home in a shoe rack in the closet. The parental message would be: “Shoes can be on your feet or in their home.”
A habit that many families have found very helpful is: “The speaker goes to the listener.” Many times families call to each other from one room to another and then argue or scold if the request is not followed or if a message is misunderstood. If the person who wishes to speak goes to the person to whom he wishes to speak, then they can get the attention of the listener, make eye contact and deliver a clear message.
Key idea: Help children develop habits so you don’t have to nag or remind them.
When a child misbehaves most parents reprimand the child. Hopefully parents also explain to their child what behavior is expected. But what happens if, after several incidents, reprimands and explanations, your child is still misbehaving in the same way? I have a suggestion: anticipate to prevent. Therapists use the ABC”s: antecedent, behavior, consequence. Parents usually use behavior-consequence, but parents have the most leverage in the antecedent stage. Begin by identifying a problem behavior that has happened at least three times. Think about who, what, when, where and why. Around whom does the behavior usually occur? What, actually, is the problem behavior? When is it most likely to happen? Where is it most likely to happen? Now, why do you think the child is misbehaving? If the child misbehaves around one person, but not another, perhaps the rules are inconsistent. If the child misbehaves early in the morning, maybe she isn’t getting enough sleep, or needs to be awakened earlier so you don’t have to rush her to get ready. If the child is misbehaving in the car, does he need non-messy toys to amuse him so he doesn’t make mischief. Finally, “prep” or “preload” your child with a reminder of the behavior that you desire, and how pleased you will be when he does it.
Key idea: Anticipation and prevention is more effective than reacting after misbehavior.