Establishing desired behavioural patterns in children
How to establish the desired behaviour and attitude in children,these are common concern of most parents.The first step involved in achieving this goal is to be consistent in the expectations from the children. Here are some suggestions to establish required patterns in the child.
'How do I make Varun greet visitors
without having to prompt him each time?'
'How to make Preeti understand that
she should not lie even if she gets less marks?'
These statements convey a pertinent
concern of parents', i.e. of how to establish the desired behaviour and attitude in children.
The first step involved in achieving this goal is to be consistent in the expectations from the children. To appreciate this step, let us take the example of the confused 6 yr old Vinay.
Children get confused
with contradictions, which parents often give for their own convenience
Vinay always gets a lecture from his mother on how 'action' movies spoil children. However the same movie
becomes 'okay' when Shikha Aunty visits. At that time, his mother says,
-'Vinay, go watch your movie while Aunty is here'.
Maybe as adults, we can understand
that Vinay's mother wants undisturbed time with her friend, so she lets
Vinay be occupied in something he likes at that time. This arrangement
is convenient for her. But for young Vinay, it is a matter of sheer confusion-'action'
movies- allowed or not?
Just like Vinay's mother, many a
times, parents tend to give contradictory messages about the same behaviour.
According to parent's own convenience, at a particular time the same behaviour
is allowed while at another time it is wrong. This inconsistency really
confuses the child about what is exactly expected from him. If the child
is not sure of what to follow, how can adults expect him to execute it?
This issue can be sorted out to an extent by paying more attention to how
consistent we are in our messages about the behaviour we expect. In the
example above, it would have helped better if it was genuinely explained
to him that 'mummy' needed to spend time with her friends and some alternate
healthy activity was suggested to Vinay. This would ensure consistency
about not watching 'action' movie.
get confused when parents are inconsistent in action and preaching
Another common way of parents being
inconsistent is through their preaching a certain thing and actually doing
else in reality. Kirti's father scolded her for hiding her classmate's
homework. She was told that it was wrong to come up in the teacher's eyes
by trying to bring someone else down. However she had seen her father invite
his boss for dinner and talk badly of his colleague just before the promotion
interview. As is obvious, by hiding the classmate's work, she also did
what her father tried doing with the colleague. However she was scolded
for the same, naturally, she does not know what to follow- the example
of the father or his preaching. Again, here, inconsistency in the expectations
about an attitude has really puzzled the child about what is actually to
be considered right.
I would just like to bring up here
that there are times when adults consciously take steps that seem different
from their own 'preaching' given to the child. For e.g.- at times parents
do not take calls and get it conveyed to the caller that they are not present.
Literally speaking, the child may feel that the parent is lying, which
he has been told is wrong. At such times, the parent has to take care to
explain to the child why such a seemingly contradictory step was taken.
However in situations like these, the parents have to be clear in their
conscience that they are not going against the values they advise and are
using discretion in the particular situation.
can be strengthened by paying attention to positive behaviour
After the child is clear in what
is expected from him, comes the next step in actually strengthening the
desired attitude to make it a steady pattern in the child. Reinforcing
the desired behaviour when the correct activity occurs can do this. Usually
the method used to make childrenunderstand is to correct them when the
child does something wrong. Like Varun is definitely reminded whenever
he does not do his homework, but not given attention on the days he does
his work. Instead if attention were given to him each time he does his
work with encouraging statements like- 'I am so happy to see you
doing your work ', it would establish the pattern of doing the homework
in him. The process at work here is that the activity that gets more attention
gets strengthened better. Even if with negativity, but if Varun gets attention
each time when his work is not complete, this holds more value for him
than the times when he gets no attention when he does his work. But once
a child starts getting attention for the correct behaviour there would
be no need for him to seek that kind of attention by doing the incorrect
If these factors of being consistent
in the expectations from the child and giving more value to the time when
the desired pattern occurs are taken care of, it would become much easier
to establish required patterns in the child.
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- The Indiaparenting Team