I am a parent, but there are days when I feel like a scientist studying child behaviour. I confess I don’t always know what I’m doing but I hope that if I do enough of the right things, everything will turn out okay.
In an earlier post, I wrote about some practices we were trying to implement to encourage more positive behaviour. While it is still early days and difficult to know if I’m having any impact with the previous practices we have implemented, my radar is constantly on the lookout for anything – everything – that we can add to it that might make things a little better. After talking to a few people, I’ve realised that we’ve missed a few things…
1. Let’s Play
A talk at school on Neuro-Dramatic Play reminded me that we’ve been neglecting something very important at home – good old-fashioned imaginative play. We used to have a healthy dose of it but somewhere along the way, we let that slide. Looks like our Forge of Honor toys have arrived just in time to help us revive our imaginations!
If you want to take this to the next level to help explore difficult emotions and behaviours, you can also try Neuro-Dramatic Play and Embodiment Techniques.
2. Positive Attention
A long, long time ago, I wrote a post about why toddlers act out and one of the reasons was to get their parents’ attention. Although the post was written about toddlers, I think the examples apply to children in general. What children want most is positive attention from their parents, but if they can’t get that, then negative attention is better than no attention.
As our children grow older, I think it is easy to make the mistake of thinking they don’t need us any more. We step back before they’re ready and we think that we’re helping them learn to be “independent”. It isn’t only toddlers who need lots of positive reinforcement in the form of “time in” and “recognition of good behaviour” – older children need it, too.
Just a couple of ways we’re trying to create “Time In”:
- reading a bedtime story
- having a snuggle in bed just before lights out
- leaving notes in lunch boxes (or writing emails!)
- doing activities together on the weekends (we’re trying hiking)
- playing games like “hide and seek”, “musical statues”, “Simon says”…
Anything that provides positive attention so your child doesn’t feel the need to behave negatively in order to force a reaction from you.
Mindfulness Meditation is a part of the MindUP program which gives some helpful directions on how to implement it with children, in addition to teaching children about the way their brains work. By helping children to understand how their brains work, they can learn to manage their emotions.
4. Guided Meditation
I’ve also noticed with G1 that it can be helpful to have a guided meditation to help him stay on track. Mindfulness meditation only works if we stay present in the moment and it’s easy to drift off with our thoughts without a guide. I used ShambalaKids – which are meditation scripts – but I have also found guided mindfulness meditation for children on iTunes:
- Amy Saltzman M.D. – Amy Saltzman M.D.
- Mindfulness for Children – Meditation for Kids and Parents – Jannik Holgersen
5. Big Brother / Big Sister
Big Brothers Big Sisters is a non-profit organization with a goal to help all children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with volunteer mentors. In a study following the program, they found that, compared to children not in the program, the children with Big Brothers and Big Sisters were:
- 46% less likely to begin using illegal drugs
- 27% less likely to begin using alcohol
- 52% less likely to skip school
- 37% less likely to skip a class
- 33% less likely to hit someone
They were also more confident of their performance in schoolwork and they got along better with their families. In short, the program had a long-lasting, positive effect on children’s confidence, grades, and social skills.
When G1 did the BrainRx program with myBrainLab, I also noticed an improvement in his behaviour after working one-on-one with his trainer. It was then that I started thinking about this “Big Brother” mentoring program. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any local programs like this here so we’re still working on this one…