Wednesday, April 9, 2014

When Behavior Stands In The Way Of Learning: 10 Tips For Changing Problem Behavior

Sometimes problems in school don't arise from learning difficulties, but, instead, from behavioral challenges.

Impulsivity and lack of physical or emotional control can really stand in the way of a child trying to learn. What do you do when behavior stands in the way of learning?

Here are some tips that I have found help mine when these things become an issue:

  1. Empower them to come up with solutions, systems, methods, and goals. We try to make this a joint effort. The more your child feels he or she is in control of her own life, the better!
  2. Create reasonable goals together that define what type of person and student your child wants to be. We set large goals twice a year: January and August. Sometimes they will come up with goals during the year for special things they are working on or behaviors that they feel they need to change. Goals are written in journals.
  3. Review goals regularly. Let them stand accountable for their goals. Everyone needs to stand accountable to someone sometimes. As parents, we can take this role to help our children in their efforts. In our house, each of our children takes a month. In their month, they get time with mom or dad to discuss how their life is going, problems they may be having, and how they are doing with the goals they have set.
  4. Create a system that helps your child Prevent problem behavior. Sometimes formal systems are necessary and provide the structure and visual reminders that children need. We have used check lists for after school, posters hung on the wall to remind them about keeping their rooms clean, notes hung various places, like the bathroom mirror to remind them of things they need to remember or things they are working on. We recently wrote "I am honest" on the kid's bathroom mirror to remind one of ours to say this each morning as he is brushing his teeth. These reminders help brains remember important things. We all need reminders!
  5. Identify and discuss situations or times when it is difficult for  your child to remain in control. We recently had a discussion with one of our children about his behavior in school and discovered that it was after he was finished with his work, and he often finished early, that he was having a problem controlling himself. We discussed things that he can do when he's finished and things that he cannot do. 
  6. Discuss the physical cues that might signal that he or she is about to slip into problem behavior. We call it the "red zone" in our house. Even mom slips into the red zone sometimes. It is so helpful for us to recognize the physical cues that signify we are about to lose control, because, ideally, we can stop before the problem behavior starts. After our bodies are flooded with emotion, it is nearly impossible to regain control. Discuss methods to calm down, such as, leaving the room, counting to 100, running up and down the stairs when your child is about to lose control. Let them take this break even if in the middle of an important task! Talk through it, and don't make the time to regain control a punishment. 
  7. Help them come up with methods, tips, and tricks to use when they are tempted to slip into the problem behavior. Count to 100, jump rope, go outside, jump on the trampoline, talk, sing a song, come up with a phrase they can repeat in their heads.
  8. Encourage them to change their environment. You can help them think of ideas and make this happen. If your child has a difficult time with behaving when there is too much noise during or after school, or if he gets overstimulated on the playground, discuss ways with your child and his teacher to change parts of his environment to be more conducive to good behavior. 
  9. Together, come up with a reminder they can carry with them at all times. We recently had our son wear a plastic bracelet at all times. We had written on the bracelet the steps that we discussed he do when he is about to make a choice: Stop. Think. Make A Good Choice. 
  10. After implementing a system, defining situations and discussing physical cues, practice the method, tips, and tricks that you have come up with together. Practice by role playing often enough to remind them. Role playing allows your child the chance to visually and physically "write the script" before it happens. This is extremely helpful for their brains!

5 Things To Keep in Mind As A Parent:
  1. Be consistent.
  2. Talk about consequences.
  3. Think about implementing some type of rewards system.
  4. Communicate openly about their day. Gather as much detail and emotion as you can to piece together what your child experiences throughout the day.
  5. Spend more positive time with them.

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