Written by Rebecca Smith | International Coordinator

Becoming a new parent is filled with feelings of excitement, anticipation, and sometimes feelings of anxiety with the unknown. How will I know what they will need? How will I know if I am teaching them everything they need to know? How will I know what to do when my child is laying in the middle of the grocery store aisle because they want a candy bar? You are not alone! These feelings and questions are not uncommon! Even in these moments of uncertainty, when you cannot alter your child’s behavior, you can change the emotion and the environment to help them grow!

Utilizing behavior modification techniques can assist you in motivating your child toward positive choices that allow them to feel empowered, encourages growth, and builds attachment. The following are five methods to help your children begin to understand their own needs and emotions while teaching them behaviors that will help them thrive:

·         Active listening

·         Addressing basic needs

·         Altering stimulation

·         Utilizing positive or negative reinforcement techniques

·         Creating teachable moments

The first technique seems simple, but in moments of distress, it may seem easier to ignore your child’s requests or behaviors. Active listening builds a child’s sense of attachment, it encourages their ability to become independent, it teaches healthy interpersonal communication, and how to empathetically engage with others. Utilize direct eye contact, get down on their level, listen without interrupting, repeat back what they said, and ask questions.

The second technique is to assess if your child’s basic needs have been met in that moment. When your child is upset, think about if they have eaten today or if they missed their nap. You can ask yourself, is my child tired, hungry, or do they feel safe? Especially if your child has a history of trauma, they may not have the ability to overcome their behavior if they are missing that basic need. Trauma affects the growth and function of the brain’s development, altering a child’s ability to display behaviors that are congruent with their biological age.

The third technique is increasing or decreasing stimulation. Sensory, language and play stimulation is essential for the growth of a child’s brain and development. You can ask yourself, has my child been inside most of the day with little to no individual interactions? Is there a lot of noise and lights within the store that may be causing overstimulation? Altering your child’s interaction with their environment will help them to modify their emotional reactions.

Positive and negative reinforcements are some of the most commonly used behavior modification techniques. Positive reinforcements would be creating a sticker reward system and negative reinforcements would be placing your child in time-out or taking away a toy. These techniques are helpful to utilize after or congruently with the three other techniques above. Lastly, you can create teachable moments. When your child hits another child because they took their toy, use the opportunity to give them other methods of conflict resolution that lead to positive communication and interactions with peers.

As your child grows and develops, they are observing your interactions with others, the world around them, and the identification of their own emotions. We want our children to develop healthy relationships, productive communication skills, the ability to be introspective, and empower them to be an advocate for their own needs. As you continue to guide your child, make sure to give yourself, and your child, grace as you navigate growing up together!