Dr. Leman has a technique that he uses for a lot of different behavior problems. This one works particularly well when the purpose of the misbehavior is to get your attention and to control you. It goes like this: 1. Say it once. 2. Turn your back. 3. Walk away.
Telling your child more than once, he believes, just teaches your child that you think he/she is too stupid to understand you the first time. I tend to think it teaches children that they don’t have to obey until you have gotten worked up about it. That’s why counting is usually a bad idea.
Turning your back keeps your child from the reward of your attention. Children sometimes want your attention so much they don’t care if it means being punished. Not giving them attention when they are misbehaving breaks that link. Later, when they are doing well is the time to reward them with your attention.
Walking away is the hardest part of this method. When you walk away your child begins to panic, “Why isn’t mom giving me what I expect?” Dr. Leman says not to even say why you are walking away, just do it and it will result in a teachable moment.
So here are a couple common scenarios for toddlers.
The purpose of most temper tantrums is to get attention and to exert authority over you. Many kids have tried a tantrum in the past and it worked, so why not try it again?
Dr. Leman says, “Step over the child, totally ignore the behavior, and move on with whatever else you were doing. If it happens in the mall, just ignore her and move on ahead. (For those of you who are worried, I can guarantee you that any 2-year-old who sees Mommy or Daddy moving away into the crowd will stop the fit she’s throwing andrun to follow her parent. She won’t be out of her parent’s sight because she’s not that confident.) And without an audience there, there’s really no need for the temper tantrum to continue.” He goes on, “But this method requires consistency, follow-through, and no looking back to see if the child is following. Otherwise she gets clued in: Hey, Mom is nervous about this. She’s checking to see if it works. Aha! That means she doesn’t want me to be out of her sight. So she’ll come back. I’ll just continue this fit thing a little longer.”
Here’s what Dr. Leman has to say, “Every child on the planet will push to lengthen bedtime routine. My advice, from personal experience with 5 children, is to not let that happen. If you read “just one more story,” you’ll need to do that every night. The smart parent will make routines brief and simple.
“No matter what routine you come up with, when 9:00 (or whenever bedtime is) comes, once that child is tucked into bed, it’s important that she stays there.
“Children are adept at manipulating parents…especially once they are in bed. They can manipulate by needing water and a snack, seeing imaginary monsters, claiming they don’t feel good, or tattling on a sibling. Some kids go to bed just fine. Then, a half hour later, you’ll see little eyes peering out at you from the stairway. Without even turning your head or acknowledging the child, simply say, ‘It’s bedtime. You need to go back to bed,’ and return your attention to whatever you were doing. There will probably be a hesitation, perhaps even a request again for something, but ignore it. Simply go about your business. As far as you’re concerned, the bedtime routine is over. The bedtime job is done, and now you’re on to something else.”
So again, it is the same principle. Say it. Turn your back. Walk away.
Next month I’ll share an other method and examples of how it works.