I caught my son and his good friend fighting together recently. They were choking each other and calling one another names. Should I tell them not to fight like that anymore?
Whenever we are dealing with a child’s behavior, we always want to respond in a way that will be effective, not only now but in the future as well. The best way to do that is to teach. If it is a good behavior, such as sharing or caring, we should describe the behavior and relate it to a specific skill that our child used. Point out how it will benefit him to continue to use that skill in the future.
If the behavior is inappropriate, such as choking or calling a friend insulting names, discourage the behavior by:
- Stopping the behavior.
- Issue a consequence for that behavior, such as apologizing.
- Teach a better way to respond when your son is being called names or when he feels like calling others names.
- Practice the good behavior.
Help your son practice handling the situation with his friend differently. Pretend to be the other child involved, and actually have him show you how he can do it differently. Ask him to practice his apology in a sincere manner. Until he follows through with the apology, he does not have any privileges. Point out to him that the longer he waits to do it, the more difficult it will be.
My four year-old son hits others. When I tell him to stop he yells at me saying that he doesn’t have to do what I tell him to do. Sometimes, he will run away from me into his uncle’s room. How can I help him change his behavior?
There's reason behind every behavior. At four years-old, your son is still testing boundaries and exploring his surroundings. When he hits it's important that you act on the unwanted behavior immediately after it happens. For example, take his hand and say "no, we don't hit" and then explain that hitting is wrong because it hurts others. It may take several repetitions before he actually understands what you are trying to teach him. His ability to comprehend and make sense of things is much different compared to that of a teenager or an adult.
Effectively utilizing consequences can be a helpful way to change unwanted behavior. Consequences can be positive and negative. A positive consequence, like more playtime or a treat, increases the chances of a behavior happening. A negative consequence, like a time out, decreases the chances of a behavior happening again.
When administering consequences it's important to keep four things in mind:
- Keep it important to the child (a special toy or book)
- Make it immediate (directly following the unwanted/wanted behavior)
- Keep it appropriate (not too big and not too small)
- Make it relate to your child's behavior (if he hits with a toy, take the toy away)
It sounds like just telling him isn't working, so now is the time to try something new. If he is not supposed to talk back and if he's not supposed to go into his uncle's room then those are both unwanted behaviors and appropriate consequences need to be applied. Be consistent. If you stick with your new routine, his behavior should change.
I am a single mom with a 5-year-old daughter who is not happy unless my full attention is always focused on her. I have tried explaining to her that mommy is not always able to play with her. I've also tried to play for a little while then leave her to play on her own. Usually when I do this, she immediately stops and insists I join her again. Can you suggest some parenting tips that would enable her to be more comfortable playing on her own, which will give me the ability to focus some attention on the other responsibilities I have?
Being a single mother is hard work. Adding a child who needs a lot of attention doesn't make your job any easier. It sounds like your daughter loves having you around. It's difficult if it's just you two at home because her only option for attention is from you. Rather than playing with her for a little while and then leaving, try having her play on her own first. When she is able to do that successfully, reward her by having one-on-one time with her. That will teach her to seek your attention by doing positive things such as playing on her own. Remember, set your expectations low at first -- five minutes and then gradually increase her alone play time to 10 minutes, 15 minutes and so on.
While she’s playing on her own, make sure you’re near enough to verbally interact with her. Praise her throughout for playing nicely and also comment on things she is doing. For example, "You're doing such a great job of playing with your toys. I see you built a very big bridge with your blocks. That's great!" This lets her know that even though you aren't on the floor playing with her, you are still acknowledging her.