Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How to Connect with Kids and Support Behavior Change

The best way to effect change in children's behavior is to be engaged with them. Being engaged with children goes beyond giving them instructions and explaining appropriate behavior. It is about exploring the behaviors to try and understand where they come from and what they really mean. Parents can do this by:

1) Talking about feelings with children - modeling the expression of feelings (sharing how you feel) and mirroring emotions (acknowledging and empathizing with what the child must be feeling).

2) Thinking about the context of the behavior - why might the behavior be happening now and what purpose does it serve (how does the child's behavior feel to you - like he/she is scared or anxious and acting out or needing attention)?

3) Giving words to children's experiences - using metaphor, stories, and real life examples to demonstrate reasons for behaviors and ways to make change, that children can relate to, so they can begin to connect their feelings to their behaviors.

Children might not always directly respond to these interactions but even when they are quiet, they are taking everything in. Further, these interventions are not always easy or straightforward and many parents look for other concrete, structured ways to help their children manage their behaviors.

Sticker charts can help provide some structure and routine while attempting to help children work through a particular behavior problem. They provide a visual reference and serve as a mutual grounds for communication. More importantly, they can bring families together, as parents and children are engaged in developing and monitoring goals and offering/accepting feedback and praise.

I was recently introduced to some great resources from Victoria Charts. The Victoria Chart Company has a series of sticker charts to help children with a variety of behaviors including sleep, socialization, grooming, homework, etc. The charts are clear, simple, sturdy, and vibrant. They help children and parents develop and maintain consistency and routines and provide children with a mirror of their successes.

Creating and being consistent about routines and structure helps parents connect and engage with their children and provides a comforting, supportive space where parents and children can talk and think about behaviors. When parents are connected to and engage with their children, life feels predictable and safe. When children feel safe, they are able to learn, explore, grow and develop behaviorally, socially, emotionally, and inter-personally.

For anyone interested in using any of the Victoria Charts as a supplemental means of engaging with their children, feel free to use the code 'DrDDuval' at checkout and receive a 15% discount.

Connection and engagement is the key to children's success and an important part of behavior change.