Improving Your Child’s Behavior 101

"grow the tree you've got" and more parenting advice from Dr. Gilboa

Last night I sat in the basement of the Steinway Reformed Church in Astoria with 30 other parents to discuss the issue of behavior and how we as parents can get what we really want out of our kids. At the helm of this discussion was Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a family physician and mother of four boys ages 8,6,4, and 2; one could say that she knows a little about parenting. Deborah, a charismatic sports fan who uses references like “sudden death” when talking about parenting, stood at the front of this room of parents and asked us to shout out what we really wanted to change about our kids behaviors. Deborah thinks it is important to get the sense that you are not alone in your parenting strife. As we shouted out things like “Whining, Talking Over, Ignoring, and Aggression” it did begin to feel like we were all in the same messy boat.

The lecture was called “Getting the behavior you want without being the parent you hate” and by the end I was converted to Deborah’s way of thinking. “Parenting is a new kind of love and unfortunately you will be the cause of most of your child’s pain for the first 18 years” she said. She stated clearly to all of us that we should be focused on raising someone who we can admire not someone who likes us, a very important distinction in the world of parenting.  “Equal” treatment is not necessarily “fair” and you must give your kids what they want according to their needs.

Dr. Gilboa went on to discuss with us different tactics that we as parents can use when dealing with sticky discipline situations. Here are some of her tips on coping with and changing bad behavior:

Be Consistent- If you say” I won’t talk to you if you whine” then don’t talk when they whine. Avoid whining by asking your child to whisper “you can’t whisper and whine at the same time”

Do not threaten something you cannot deliver – if you say “we are leaving the party” and you don’t intend to follow through, then don’t threaten that specific action. Instead focus on something that you can enforce like sitting alone in a separate room for 15 minutes.

Let your kids have a “do over”- give them an opportunity to start over with something that they possibly messed up like having an outburst or hitting you.

Life is the best teacher- if your child treats another child poorly and looses a friend in the process, let your child suffer a little of the consequences

Do not respond to your kids’ bad behavior- a long pause and a stern look is a good non response. This will also teach your child to not respond to bad behavior as a teenager.

Teach Remorse and Regret– don’t be afraid to make your child remorseful. Say you are sad and upset if your child hurts you. Empathy is a good quality.

Non Verbal Reminders – non verbal reminders are a way to cut down on feeling like a nag when you communicate wit your kids. If your child is talking over you, hold their ear, or place your hand on their arm. This will get the result you need without having to say things over and over.

Separation is a good thing- A time out for your toddler, time apart from your tweens – but not necessarily to their room can be a much needed break for both you and your child. You can just turn your back for a minute if you are not in a place to put them in another room.

Rights vs. Privileges – Decide what your child’s rights are as a member of the home (food, shelter, bed, etc). Everything else is a privilege that can be taken away.

Do not over praise your kids- Do however “catch them doing something good”. Randomly point out their good behavior and gossip about your kids on the phone to others so that they can overhear. It is a good self esteem booster and will get your children invested in good behavior.

Clinging is communication – it means I am scared, I don’t like where I am, I don’t feel well, etc. Kids don’t always understand why we don’t like clingy behavior. Figure out what your child is saying when they cling. Decode and replace it with something loving or a reward.

Some other helpful parenting tips:

Follow the number game –If your child has trouble remembering their nighttime routine or needs help getting out of the house try labeling a process with number stickers from 1-5. This way your child can just follow the steps.

Everyone should have chores in your house. This way they feel invested in an activity that they do in the home. Helping is empowering.

Deborah’s Spanking Disclaimer: Spanking is damaging unless the behavior is life threatening and happened once a year or less.

More advice from Dr. Deborah Gilboa can be found on her website where you will find her blog, more information about her seminars, and even an area to ask her your very own parenting questions.

Wise Parting words:

“All kids come with a blueprint and we have to help them build their house.”