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Every kid is a world


Sergio García Gutiérrez,
specialist in child psychology

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Each child is different, that cannot be denied, that is why there are no effective universal strategies for all of them, and what works well with one may be ineffective with another, even in the same family.

Still, there are a number of principles that, used skillfully enough, can put us “on the right track” toestablish, modify, or eliminate some behaviors in children. I indicate some that seem practical to me …

-Limits. They are fundamental and necessary when faced with certain demands of children. If it is not done at an early age, it will be much more difficult to establish them later. For this, it is necessary to explain things calmly and adapting it to the child’s age. It is not good to use the imperative tone or shouting (although I know that it costs “a bit”). It is better to let your child know that you are sad about his behavior, that you are disappointed, but still stick to your position. It is necessary to establish, from early childhood, adequate eating habits, sleep rhythms, etc … It is the parents themselves who have to set their own limits and norms based on the child’s age and educational values. Setting limits should not be considered as coercive work with the child, but as a game of balances, in which the child will learn the meaning of giving and receiving, while internalizing a series of guidelines and values ​​that will serve him well. later as references

-Clarity.  It is necessary to be clear in the instructions, since if we want to establish limits, the child must know exactly what we ask of him. Saying “be nice” can mean different things in different situations. It is more efficient to specify the demand in a specific situation. For example, in a situation of a walk in the street we will say “do not cross until the green traffic light is on”, in the house in a play situation “do not throw the toys on the ground”. 

-Attention.  It is highly advisable to pay attention when the child performs the desired behaviors, otherwise withdraw it(attention). Verbal and sincere praise works very well, as support from other reinforcers. In the event of disruptive behavior (tantrums …), withdraw your attention from the child’s behavior.

-Minimize . When giving instructions, it is advisable to minimize NO. With children, it is more effective to tell him what to do than what not to do. For example, it is more convenient to say “speak softly” than “do not yell”, since the first sentence is experienced as a suggestion, the second as an imposition.  We must always disapprove of behaviors (biting, disobeying, yelling … ..) never to the child (you are a disaster, you are very bad, you are …).

-Choice.  Basically it is that the child can choose. When giving orders, we can minimize the likelihood of disobedience by providing the child with several options for him to choose from. For example, instead of just saying “collect the toys”, we can add: “Mom is going to help you collect the toys, tell me which ones do you prefer to keep? The child is reminded that the responsibility for storing toys is his, but at the same time he has a certain sense of control over the situation and is more tolerant of adult demand. Once you’ve gotten in the habit of picking up, you’ll probably do it without too much fuss and help.

-Explanation. Accompany the demand with a brief explanation. If we give an explanation to a given instruction, we can help them internalize behavioral values. For example, we can say to him: “If you hit your brother, he will become sad and he will not want to play with you anymore.” It is about understanding that our demand is not on a whim or because it is contrary, but because it has annoying effects on us or other people, and that this has consequences. 

-Complicity.  Whenlimits or norms are established, these must be respected by all members of the family. Parents, siblings or grandparents must act in the same way, in the face of inappropriate behaviors of the child. If it is only the father or mother who demands certain requirements from the child, progress is much more complicated if not impossible.

-Alternative.  By this I mean having an alternative when we have to say NO. When we have to pronounce NO, it is important to minimize its effect with an alternative “I can not buy you a candy before eating, but afterwards I will give you the ice cream you like”.

-Flexibility.  We must create limits and rules, but at the same time we must know how to be flexible in special situations (to be valued by parents). Children grow, and problems and their circumstances change, so we must be open to review and modify our strategies when necessary. An extreme rigidity in the configuration of the system and its rules is the best invitation to non-compliance. 

-Coherence.  There must be coherence between what is required of the child, and what he observes in his immediate environment. We cannot ask obedience and respect towards the mother, from a child who lives in an environment of contempt or family abuse.

-Control.When the problem flares, it is essential to control the emotions with certain behaviors of the children. When unwanted behavior is repeated and everything seems to sink, it is best to take some time before responding. We know that it is complicated, and that if a cry is not launched something seems to break in our guts. Control of emotions is essential here and now. Our goal is to educate the child, so if we are too emotional, we are not in a position to offer the best model of ourselves. It is necessary to give yourself a break time, withdraw your attention from the child in the way that circumstances allow, immediately let him know your displeasure and then, coldly, analyze the situation and make the appropriate decisions. Do not reason in hot, since you are not (neither you nor your child) in the best conditions. Don’t fall into the trap of engaging in a recriminating dialogue with your child, as it will lead nowhere. This does not mean that misbehavior should not have its consequences for the child, but rather that these should be cold-thought but applied as soon as possible to be effective.

-Constancy.  It is totally basic, to be constant in the application of any strategy that wants to modify or establish behaviors. Do not be discouraged the first time you change, as it is often the case that when limits or rules are applied for the first time, there is usually a negative reaction. This is especially notable in those cases in which the child perceives that certain privileges are going to be withdrawn, which may initially cause an increase in the frequency and magnitude of the problematic episodes that later, in most cases, remit and are correct. 
As I said at the beginning, each child is differentand each problematic behavior is the result of multiple external and internal factors. When the behavior becomes uncontrollable, it is necessary for parents to invest time, energy and effort in dealing with it, do not let time pass without acting.

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