As you probably know by now, I am a parent of a 5-year old boy. And like me, if you are a parent, you would definitely empathize with me on this. Getting things done from our child is really tricky. Several times in a day, I find myself stuck with him whining to complete his assignment, cleaning his room and other similar chores. Usually, my instinct would be ‘If you do not do this in the next five minutes, you will lose your TV time!’ Even worse, ‘If you do not finish writing till I count to 5, you will write another page of words!’. Before you get me wrong, allow me to explain. These are just instincts now. Yes, I am guilty of having taken such measures in the past and I am not very proud of it. Also, these measures have essentially been ineffective or even counter-intuitive. It is usually reciprocated with some shabby writing or a clean-up job.
While studying Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA), I listed down a few handy tips that I thought would help me and my child get through these situations. Today, I am writing to share these with you.
- Rule out basic, logical explanations like- hunger, lack of sleep, any other underlying medical conditions that may be playing a part in the whining and crying for your child. Follow the next steps only if you know your child is well-fed and well-rested.
- Assess whether the task assigned to him is appropriate for his skill level. Sometimes just because a teacher sent homework, we expect our kids to know how to do it but most often, a child has no idea what he has been asked to do. Making sure that the directions are clear with the child and he is able to do it independently or is able to ask for help.
- Ask him what he would like after he is finished with his work? (Reinforcement) It usually helps in having his input rather than us deciding. He may not be in the mood for TV or must have already watched his favorite show in the morning. Also, it gives the child a sense of control- that his input matters.
- Set basic rules and expectations before he starts on his work- for example for my son when he practices writing 4-letter words- expectations are legible letters, spacing, and a target of 20 words. It is helpful for the child to know clearly when the work ends. We also discuss expectations in case of errors.
- Understanding the demand of the task helps us in deciding on the amount of reinforcement. For example, for my son, writing 4 letter words is very new and challenging and so I give him 30 minutes of his choice of reinforcement for doing it. It is different for each child depending on the age and the complexity of the task. The proportion of reinforcement to the expected task is very important for the compliance to be consistent in the future.
- Most importantly, if the child completes his work and all expectations are met, he should be immediately reinforced with whatever was decided in the beginning. This should not be delayed.
- Keep changing the activities and tasks to maintain their interest.
I hope you find these ideas helpful in resolving your everyday arguments with your children.
Until next time.