The problem with “Quick-Fix” behaviour management techniques

The problem with quick-fix behaviour management techniques

From The Secure Child set of talks and materials.

Your child is a growing, developing bundle of opinions and deep-rooted drives.  That is a lot of behaviours to manage within a body they are only just learning how to control.  Not to mention the frustrations of not being able to make yourself understood and feeling powerless 90% of the time. This is why using quick fix behaviour management techniques won’t cut it in the long run.

If you want to mould your child’s behaviours, and yet raise them as a thinking, creative individual, unafraid to try new things and to say no when they need to… you need more than a sticker chart

Behaviour is influenced by the positive and negative outcomes we got last time we tried something.  If we get a reward for doing something, we are more likely to do it again, and may think twice following something negative.  But this is short lived and has little impact when rewards are not around. It also teaches nothing about why the chosen behaviour was right or wrong and neither does it give children any motivation to do the right thing when the attention is not on them.

Besides, research shows that a smile, a hug or an encouraging word has far greater influence than any number of bribes, threats or reward, and continues to take effect even after the incentives have gone away.

To behave in socially acceptable ways involves your child understanding what is expected of them, with the ability, experience and inclination to do it.

To maximise the potential for positive change, you need to give your child reasons to change. And while this will start with lots of encouragement, long-term positive change is far more influenced by their own motivations – but this takes conscious thought, and permission.

Avoid “What’s in it for me”

Point Systems and sticker charts using this approach are all about external control. They will not teach your child anything about their choices, or the reasons for them beyond asking “What is in it for me?”  Your child needs to recognise and understand their actions, making active choices and taking ownership of them. 

Time out for children – not for parents 

Time-outs are useful in offering your child the opportunity to calm down from an emotional outburst, but more often they are used as a punishment through physical or emotional removal.  Children learn from doing something correctly, not from punishment.  And a “naughty step” simply teaches a child “I’m naughty!”, not what went wrong or what they should do the next time.

And save “No” for when you mean “No”

If your initial “No” often turns into an “Oh, go on then”, especially if you are tired, distracted or busy, you may have already realised that this simply results in a child who cannot help but argue the toss.  Relenting on the little things teaches your child, that “No” does not really mean “No” when it comes to the big things, and this can be a dangerous place to find yourself in.

Managing your child’s behaviours when they are young enough to be moulded is one of the most important things you can do for your child.  These should not be “quick fix” solutions but rooted in a carefully considered long term impact that you can both live with and thrive on.

This article is taken from our course: The Secure Child

Dr Kathryn Peckham is an Early Childhood Consultant, author and researcher and the founder of Nurturing Childhoods.  Providing all the knowledge, understanding and support you need to nurture your growing child.


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Managing emotions in a social world: Because they rarely happen in a vacuum.