Often times, I have parents approaching me to ask what they should do with their child who seems to be off their rockers. Let me tell you are little secret… You are not alone! We’ve all had moments where we wish we could go hide in a closet, eat chocolate and drink wine but that is not our reality or an option!
Instead, I am going to share with you a little thing called preventative teaching! This is where you do little things daily to help reduce the occurrence of the problem behavior. The idea is that you will teach replacement behaviors BEFORE a challenging behavior even occurs.
Trying to teach during a challenging behavior is hard because a child will not want to listen in a time of ‘crisis’ (How many ‘rational’ thoughts have you had in a heated moment? Probably not many!). Instead, you are will teach appropriate behaviors in a fun way which will likely reduce the challenging behaviors in the future!
I was trying to explain this to one of my friends. She provided me with the following scenario. “My 3 year old daughter is fiercely independent and she wants to do everything herself! Sometimes, that results in frustration and in turn, a tantrum. Lately, she has been crying when trying to put her socks on because she wants to do it herself but still needs help and she won’t let me. I’ve been trying to validate her feelings but I don’t know what else to do!”
My Preventative Teaching Suggestions-
Oh those threenager years! These kids are wanting to be so independent yet, they are still lacking some basic skills to allow for full autonomy. If you’re only addressing the tantrum behavior after it has happened, you are only looking at half of the puzzle. In this situation, I am suggesting to work on the sock learning behavior BEFORE it actually needs to happen. It is also hard to ‘teach’ during a tantrum so try and be proactive. Your babe just has a skill deficit of putting on socks… No biggie.
If you’re terrible at laundry like me, then I am sure you have a pile of mismatched socks laying around.
- Grab some of her old baby socks that have been laying in that pile and teach her how to put them on a doll.
- When practicing on herself, try finding socks that are a size too big. This will make it easier to learn this new skill. As she becomes more confident, you can scale her back down to her appropriate size.
- Let your daughter practice on you or your significant other and have fun with it. Maybe let her pick out silly socks and turn this “putting on sock” experience in to a positive interaction!
The idea is that your independent child will learn the skill of putting on her socks outside of a tantrum and in a fun learning environment. When it comes to a time when she ACTUALLY needs to put her socks on, she will have acquired these skills more rapidly. Having more confidence in this area will hopefully reduce frustration and in turn, reduce tantrums!
One other benefit of working on this preventative teaching strategy, now those ‘pairless’ socks have a purpose again… Win-win!