Managing Behavior with Calm Consistency

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Managing behavior in our children is about being mindful and clear about your systems. If you set yourselves up to negotiate and argue, you might find yourselves angry and exhausted. Stop the “let’s make a deal” parenting. Set up rules for all routine behavioral expectations and transitions, such as bed time, getting ready in the morning, homework, bath time, etc. If the system is not working, make adjustments but avoid frequent changes based on mood or manipulation. Inconsistency based on fatigue or fear of your child’s whining reinforces negative behavior.
Here are some tools to help you practice through the summer, until we meet again for a tune-up:

• Meet at least once a week with your parenting partner to establish the rules. It is fine to have mom’s way and dad’s way, as long as the partner stays out of it when not his or her turn. It is fine to have different rules for different children, i.e. “what’s fair is what we decide is best for each of you.”
• Bring your voice down, not up.
• Learn to ignore…leave the tension in their court so your child has to struggle to cooperate.
• Watch your language…”Don’t whine” means they’ll focus on whining. State the expectation, ”Speak in your Benjamin voice.” Resist beginning any statement with “don’t” or “if.”
• Be clear about what is a ‘choice’ and what is not a choice. For example, if you want your children to eat a variety of food, stop making it a choice. Simply make meals and voice the expectation that your child have a few bites.
• There is no need to tie cooperation to rewards, such as toys, dessert, t.v. etc. You run the risk of being trapped in the “If…then” battles. Simply be clear, state the expectations repeatedly (be a broken record) and tie behavior to outcome in a matter-of-fact, “la dee da” fashion. So, for example, “looks like you cannot manage to get in the shower as expected…can you take yourself there, or do we need to call it a night?” The connection between behavior and outcome must be stated without emotion.
• Rather than stating the outcome that involves loss of privilege, practice “moving it forward.” In this manner, for example, when a child is noncompliant, try to resist the ‘threats’ and simply comment on the positive outcome of cooperating, For example, “Four more bites and we can clean up and go outside to shoot some hoops.” Or when your son is sabotaging a game by refusing to lose, “You can say ‘whatever’ in your head and be a good sport…you’ll be back in the game next round.” So, focus on what is up ahead and give a vote of confidence.
• Keep it simple. Behavioral change does not stem from reasoning and laying out the logic. Actions speak to your authority. Stop talking so much.
• Hold up the mirror. Focus up ahead and give a vote of confidence. So, your child is refusing to get in the car to go home. You are a confident authority who is not afraid of a tantrum or public embarrassment. First you state the expectation, then “hold up the mirror” and ‘move it forward” with a “vote of confidence.”

1. Find time to think about the expectations (rules) you set forth. Children need a roadmap, consistency and clarity. Stop making exceptions.
2. Be a broken record. Review rules calmly and frequently.
3. State the expectation, rather than focusing on the inappropriate behavior, thereby reinforcing the power of the negative behavior.
4. Learn to ignore provocation or attempts to throw you off track.
5. Stop talking and reasoning. Breathe and pause more often.
6. Be less reactive. Take the drama out of parenting. Bring your voice down, not up.
7. State the rule. Offer empathy and move it forward.
8. Try not to set yourselves up for opposition. If you have a rule, set up the situation so support the rule.
9. Offer a vote of confidence.
10. Use language that is objective and not personal.


Remember that children know who is boss by how confident and steady you are. They know whom they can manipulate. Be respectful and reasonable. Revisit any power struggle and restate the behavioral expectation. If you do not behave in a respectful manner, apologize and ‘start over.’

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 20th, 2016 at 2:19 pm and is filed under Blog. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Comment