Thursday, 22 October 2015

How to tackle unwanted behaviour in preschoolers - a pre-amble

So I really must start by saying that I apparently know nothing about this subject, as my preschooler is currently bringing us to the edge of a breakdown on an almost daily basis. Today was the point where, in addition to the reward chart that we have been trying (again) to help the behaviour change process, I decided that it was time for a little research on the subject.

Hell, what was I thinking?! This is what I do! Part of my profession as a sustainable travel planner was about behaviour change: I even presented a seminar earlier this year about how to change people's behaviour. But when it's your own child? Now that's the difficult bit. It's so hard to be objective, and to stand back and see what's actually going on.

Like most children, ours knows how to wrap us around her little finger. Let's take yesterday for example: after refusing to get dressed at all (I'd decided that I was not going to resort to any sort of negative behaviour on my own part), I simply explained that as soon as she got dressed, she could have her star on the reward chart for said behaviour. She knows that if she gets a whole week's worth of stars in a row, the boxed up play kitchen will be built and available for her to play with. In addition, she is not allowed any television until after she gets dressed.

"Mummy, can you play with me?"
"Yes, certainly, as soon as you are dressed".

"Mummy, can you help me do this?"
"Yes, certainly, as soon as you are dressed".

[insert a gazillion other requests from darling child].

So here's the thing, despite not getting any of these things, she was polite each and every time she asked. But I couldn't say yes, could I, because child behaviour theory 101 teaches you that she'd then know that she can get away with it in future. Sure, not getting dressed isn't the end of the world when you don't have to go anywhere, and many would just say 'let the little things slide'. But this is happening every day, which means we would never get anything done. Or she would live her whole life in her pyjamas. Okay, so that happens in real life. But I want my daughter to accept that sometimes, just sometimes that's not okay. I just imagine her rocking up to a job interview in rainbow PJs.


Yesterday then, was a PJ day. And somehow finished the day off with TV. Oh yes, that was because she told us that she wasn't feeling well. And we felt sorry for her. Even though at no point during the day had she said that she was feeling unwell, nor could she say exactly what was wrong. We gave her the benefit of the doubt. I told you, she has us wrapped around her little fingers. She didn't fall asleep until around 11pm.

Back to this morning, eventually, at 10am, we are finally ready to go to nursery. I decide that probably her reason for not going to sleep yesterday was my lack of giving her any active play time (on account of her not getting dressed of course) and so she would go by scooter to nursery, instead of pushchair. "I'm tired". Of course you're bloody tired, you didn't go to sleep until 11pm! I explained that it was walking or scooting, but if she wanted to just stand on the scooter, I was happy to pull her along. As neither myself nor hubbie is in work at the moment, we always try and go to nursery together, but today meant that a few minutes into the walk, I told him to go home. I figured it would make life easier if she was getting less attention for the terrible behaviour and perhaps she would just get on with it. It kinda worked, and it should have reminded me that I know these theories, I just need to put them into practice.

Okay, so I have a little background in behavioural theories, but that's all it is right, theory? Putting the theory into practice is something that I can do with sustainable travel, but with child behaviour? Now that is a whole different ball game. So I called upon my memory, my memory of all the things that I have read or heard about what to do and what not to do with your child and wrote them out. Let's see if I can't piece something together that will work.

Check back tomorrow for my plan of action!

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