Ryan's fabulous school hosts a series of parent workshops - they even offer free babysitting during the meetings. Last week I went to the first session, entitled "What Do I Do When...? Understanding and managing your Child's Behavior." What parent couldn't use that workshop?
I'm happy/disappointed to report that Chrissy had already taught me all the techniques that were discussed, so while I can pat myself on the back that I'm heading in the right direction, I can't say I walked away with any significantly new ideas. But hey, I can share the bullet points with you.
The key seems to be recognizing that your child's tantrums and other strange behaviors are attempts at communication, albeit not the best ones. You just have to interpret what the kid is trying to tell you, then teach something in place of the behavior you don't like. Gee, that sounds so easy! So why does it take so freaking long to get results?
The behavior expert, Ann-Marie, asked us to consider what triggers set the behavior in motion. Common triggers are demands placed on the child; not knowing what to do with unstructured time; transitions or changes in routine; environmental factors (too hot, too loud); or medical issues. She also had us consider the functions of troublesome behaviors: is the child trying to escape or avoid something he doesn't want to do? Is he seeking attention? Is he requesting something he just can't have? Is he stimulating himself?
Ann-Marie warned that you shouldn't try to eliminate all annoying behaviors at the same time - the kid will get stressed out and confused. Instead, she suggested a triage system.
I must admit I was really enjoying listening to the other parents discussing the behaviors they face at home: a 3 1/2 year old boy who is so obsessed with the cable guide channel that he rides his bike to Grandma's house to watch it; a child who gets hit by other kids because he has no sense of personal space; a boy who will eat no veggies or fruits except for apple juice.
So now I'm trying to figure out which of Ryan's troublesome behaviors to address first.
There's the spitting. When Ryan doesn't like a food, he spits it out, dramatically. We've tried to teach him to spit into a napkin or onto his plate, but he often spits it on the floor (and then we make him clean it up).
There's the burping. Ryan recently figured out how to make himself burp, and I guess it feels good to him, so he will sit there burping for minutes at a time, often while I'm trying to read him a story. It's annoying. When I tried alerting him to the fact that I found his burping annoying, he just did it more, so we've been trying to ignore the behavior altogether instead; little progress so far.
There's always the tv tantrum - that falls under "inappropriate request."
And going back to table manners, I'd love it if the boy would wipe his hands on a napkin instead of on the underside of the table.
I suppose scripting and stimming should be on my list of "problem behaviors," but they don't really bother me most of the time, and I don't think they hurt anyone, so that's an easy one to leave at the bottom of the list.
Where oh where to begin?