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Ways to steer away from behavior issues

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Want to develop good parenting skills and help your child avoid behavioral problems? Here are some of the tips developed by pediatricians and researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s PriCARE program.

• Attention is what children crave the most. Use the precious commodity of your attention to praise good behavior. Strategically ignore negative behavior, as long as there aren’t any major safety issues.

Practice “labeled” praising. Be specific. Instead of saying, “Good job,” say, “I like how you put on your jacket so quickly.”

Give clear, authoritative commands: “Mason, please put on your jacket.” Don’t muddy instructions with phrasing like, “Mason, Mommy really needs you to put on your jacket.”

Play with each child for five minutes a day. Don’t do instructive activities, such as puzzles or model-building, where there is a right or wrong way. Instead, allow the child to take the lead and make comments on his actions, such as “I see you used the blue Lego.” Children blossom with this attention.

• When a tantrum happens over, for example, a refusal to put on a jacket, try to ignore it. However, watch for the slightest sign of compliance. If the child sticks even a hand in the sleeve of the jacket, praise that: “I like how you are listening to Mommy and putting on your jacket.”

Try to remember that it’s not personal. Children can get tired and overwhelmed.

• If a child has had a traumatic experience, it may take a little longer for his or her brain to process commands. Be patient.

• Think about ways, such as deep breathing, to decrease your own stress.

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