Parenting Strategies

Parenting Strategies – Behavioral Issues

Last week I was in the home of a foster mom who is parenting a three-year-old boy.   I shared some child development information with her and we discussed different parenting strategies for handling behavioral issues.  In particular, she wanted some ideas on how to handle, “No.”  Her little guy often responded with an emphatic “No!” to her requests and followed up with the “wet noodle” response when she tried to physically encourage him to comply.  When she took him by the hand he would go limp and fall to the floor.  If she tried to help him up he would flop back down.

I suggested that she not engage the, “no,” in those situations.  Ignore the “no” and offer two choices.  I gave her a few examples but could tell that she wasn’t totally convinced.  I played with the little boy for a while and it came time to go home.  She said to the child, “Let’s walk Ms. Barbara out to her car.”  He immediately responded with “No!”  She took him by the hand and as if on cue he flopped to the floor.  She looked at me with a look that said, “See what I mean!”

I leaned over to him and said, “Do you want to hop like a bunny or jump like a frog?”  He looked at me quizzically for a brief second, grinned and said, “Hop like a bunny.”  “Well, let’s get going, “ I said.  He immediately jumped up and we hopped together to the car.  Foster mom stood in disbelief and said, “If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

Young children love to flaunt their new-found independence and “no” is one way that they declare it to the world.   Engaging the “no” of a young child usually results in a power struggle that the adult will win only with a tremendous amount of power, control and intimidation.  Giving a child two choices is a way of sharing power, assumes obedience and allows the adult to remain in control without being controlling.  I have used this strategy at home and in classrooms and it is one of the most effective ways of engaging a child’s cooperation.  No strategy will work every time with every child but it is one of the primary guidance strategies that I recommend to both parents and teachers.    Give it a try next time your child pushes back and let me know how it goes!

See you on the next page…

Dr. Barbara