An Age-By-Age Child Behaviour Management Tips Guide
“Behavioural Management” is guiding your child’s behaviour so that he/she learns the appropriate way to behave. A positive and constructive approach is often the best way to guide your child’s behaviour. This means giving your child attention, rather than just punishing her when she does something you don’t like. This blog post presents an age-by-age guide of some of the best child behaviour management tips.
As much as we’d like our children to learn how to follow rules, we’d also like our children to be thinkers – to know the reason why rules are set, instead of blindly following a set of rules given to them. In Josiah, we want to raise up children who are critical thinkers; children who know how to make good decisions, who are able to solve problems on their own, and understand that consequences follow every action they make. In Josiah, we believe in not rebuking or nagging at our children for their behavior just because we are irritated at their wrong actions. This should never be the reason why we manage our children’s behaviour. Instead of raising our voices at the children out of sheer anger and dismay, we seize the opportunity to teach our children the right values and appropriate behaviour expected of them firmly, yet lovingly.
Here are some general considerations to take note before we discuss age-by-age child behaviour management tips in detail:
- Understand what triggered the inappropriate behaviour. Is the child getting enough sleep? Every behaviour may be caused by a certain situation and it is helpful to know in order to take the next step.
- Think about the child’s development. According to Raising Children Network, “It’s good to keep in mind that different kinds of challenging behaviour are normal at different stages of development. For example, tantrums are very common in toddlers and pre-schoolers because at this age, children have big feelings and not enough words to express them.” Here’s a video to explain further.
- Are there recent changes in the family or environment that might affect the child’s behaviour? Every person will exhibit his/her own response to changes in the environment. As parents, we support them by understanding their emotions & behaviour, and take every opportunity to help them cope with the changes in their lives.
Before we move on, here’s a video to help you better understand age-by-age behaviour management:
It is very important that we use an action suitable for the child’s age. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of behavioural management. The following table illustrates how we at Josiah, carry out age-by-age behaviour management.
Child Behaviour Management Tips : 18 months – 3 and a half years old
Redirection is used to guide a child’s behaviour from inappropriate to appropriate. This includes:
Request Desirable Behaviour – Statements of verbal redirection should be specific so that your child knows exactly how to behave. Instead of saying, “Don’t run!” we say, “please walk.”
Model Better Behaviour – Children learn by example, so it is important to model behaviours that you want your child to exhibit. For example, if your toddler pulls the family cat’s tail, show him how to properly pet the cat instead.
Make Substitutions – A common problem with children is that they often want to play with toys or other objects that are already in use. An easy way to alleviate issues that arise when your child wants something that is not available is to provide something else to occupy his/her attention. The substitution could be anything from another toy to a book or a pen and paper for drawing, or it could simply be your undivided attention until your child is ready to choose something else on his own.
Relocate Your Child – Often, the best way to redirect negative behaviour is to remove your child from a situation that he is handling inappropriately. For example, if your child repeatedly tries to climb up the slide at the park while other children are trying to go down the slide, ask your child if he/she would like to go on a swing instead. If your child refuses to abandon his/her post at the bottom of the slide, escort him/her to the swings, or to another area of the playground.
Child Behaviour Management Tips : 3 and a half to 5 years old
There are different ways to manage children in this age group, and we suggest the 8 ways below:
1. Set clear limits
Establish clear rules (max 3) and set consistent limits. Keep consistent rules and follow through both positive and negative consequences.
2. Offer limited choices
Children need help in learning how to make good decisions. Offering limited choices help teach your child problem-solving skills. Ask, “Would you rather clean your room before or after dinner?” Either choice is a good answer, as long as it gets done.
3. Give clear directions
Before giving instructions (max 2 instructions at a time), gain the child’s attention. Place a hand on your child’s shoulder or gain eye contact before you attempt to give directions. After you give instructions, ask your child to repeat what you said to ensure he/she understands.
Provide lots of praise and encouragement to promote good behavior. It can be helpful to children of all ages, but for this age group, it really gives them the confidence that they’re on the right track.
5. Teach alternatives
When the child misbehaves, teach him/her alternative ways to get his/her needs met. If he/she throws a toy when he/she’s angry, teach him how to manage his anger, rather than simply punishing him/her for misbehaving. Help him/her make better choices in future.
6. Time-out/ Quiet time
When you’ve said “No,” and your child doesn’t stop, a time-out can be an effective consequence. Place a 5-year-old in time-out for 5 minutes and 4-year old for 4 minutes. By this age, most children can tolerate serving time-out in a chair or other quiet area.
7. Natural Consequences
Natural consequences can be effective as children can really start to grasp that their behaviour is directly linked to the consequence. If your child insists on doing something his/her own way, give him/her a chance if it’s safe. Allow him to face the natural consequences if he makes a mistake.
8. Informal Rewards
Most children love opportunities to earn rewards. Instead of threatening consequences, try spinning it as an opportunity to earn a reward. So instead of saying, “You can’t play outside until you’ve cleaned up your toys,” say, “As soon as you clean up your toys, you can go outside to play!” Phrasing things in the positive can make a big difference in the way your child responds.
Child Behaviour Management Tips : 6 Years Old
As children get older, parents may need to adjust the way they manage behaviour. Managing behaviour problems in 6-year-old children is often a matter of establishing firm guidance and boundaries, and then giving the child the opportunity to make the right choices. You may find that discipline strategies that worked well when your child was younger – such as time-outs – are less effective, now that your child is older.
However, when handling behaviour problems in your 6-year-old, it’s important to keep in mind that children this age are feeling out their newfound sense of independence and testing their limits in all areas of their lives, including behaviour. Stay patient and try the following strategies for disciplining a 6-year-old child.
1. Be clear and consistent about rules
Now that your child is almost going to primary one, he/she will be expected to follow certain rules at school, such as listening when the teacher talks, or sharing with others. At home, you can talk to your child about the behavior you expect to see in him, just as his/her teacher may explain what he/she wants to see from your child when he/she is in school. Your 6-year-old may even be able to contribute to the making of some house rules (e.g. agreeing to try speaking to his/her sibling nicely, even if his/her sibling irritates him/her).
As your child gets older, you may expect your child to finish all of his/her homework before he/she turns on the TV or plays a video game, or that he/she may be able to take on more responsibilities around the house; you may even expect him/her to complete his/her chores before he/she can play. Whatever the rules, talk to your child to make sure he/she understands them, as well as the consequences for not obeying the rules.
2. Listen, but do not engage in debate.
While you want your child to feel like his/her opinions and thoughts matter, and that he/she is being listened to when he/she expresses him/herself, it is also crucial that you do not enter into long debates about the rules of the house.
3. Reconsider the consequences.
Many parents of 6-year-olds find that what worked when the kids were younger such as time-outs, are not as effective. Older kids are generally less affected by being put in their rooms or by being asked to sit somewhere else by themselves because they are better able to understand that the negative consequence won’t last long, and are less bothered by being alone.If that’s the case, you may want to consider alternatives such as taking away privileges or toys, or not allowing play dates with friends or video games. Whatever the consequence you decide should be for the misbehaviour, be sure to stay consistent when enforcing the rules.
4. Give warnings, but do not waver.
You’ve given your child one warning and then another in your attempt to curb a bad behavior. If your child continues to do something you asked him/her not to do (or vice versa), follow through with the necessary action.
5. Take the long view.
Remember that conflicts will arise in all phases of your child’s development. But when parents establish firm boundaries and clear expectations, children will be less likely to test their limits, and behavior problems will be less likely to arise.
We cannot expect children to change their behaviour overnight, or in a single sitting. It is an ongoing process of reminding, instructing, supporting, reinforcing and understanding. Children learn through repetition. The more consistent we are as parents, the more secure the children are, and the more they can learn.
In conclusion, the above child behaviour management tips and strategies work best when we put in time and effort to build a positive atmosphere, and to strengthen relationships with affection and communication. Good relationships help the child feel secure and loved, which is what children need to learn, grow and develop happily and healthily.
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