As a parent and therapist, I am always in between both while trying to find the right response.
Over time, I've learned many strategies that have come in handy as a parent. These tips will also be more effective when the parent is feeling calm & regulated as well! (See previous blog posts on this subject).
Here are five general tips that can support positive behavior with children:
1️⃣ Sensory Regulation: Help children regulate their sensory needs to promote positive behavior. Offer sensory breaks or activities, such as deep pressure activities, swinging, or sensory bins. These activities can help children self-soothe and manage their emotions more effectively.
If you are unsure the best approach to your child's sensory needs, you can seek out a pediatric occupational therapist for a sensory evaluation. Specific strategies can be examined for your child and family dynamics.
2️⃣ Provide Visual Supports: Use visual supports, such as visual schedules, charts, or timers, to help children understand expectations and transitions. Visual supports provide a visual representation of routines, tasks, or rules, making them easier for children to comprehend and follow.
You can printable ones online (Pinterest, Google search and find) or you can create them using Canva.
3️⃣ Develop Self-Regulation Skills: Teach children self-regulation strategies, such as deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, or sensory-based calming strategies. These techniques can help children manage stress, anxiety, or frustration independently.
If unsure, connect with a pediatric occupational therapist (as mentioned above).
4️⃣ Focus on Strengths: Identify and nurture children's strengths and interests. By focusing on their strengths, you can boost their self-confidence and motivation to exhibit positive behavior. Encourage them to pursue activities or hobbies that promote self-esteem and positive social interactions.
5️⃣ Collaborate with your child: Remember that positive behavior support is a holistic approach that considers the child's physical, sensory, emotional, and social needs. Each child is unique, and it is important to tailor strategies and interventions to their specific strengths and challenges. When your child can be a part of the team, it can help them understand themselves and their reactions as much as the professionals around them too. When children can take part in assessing their interoception skills (help from a trained therapist), it can be a building block to supporting their regulation skills.
When we can pinpoint what and where anger/sadness/happiness/fear/excitement feels like inside our body, we can have an increased awareness of those feelings and find solutions to support.
In summary, there are many layers to helping children understand and manage their emotions to respond more effectively. Finding a therapist that can support you and your family uncover these areas in more detail will be helpful.
We also have to remember that expressing and "being" in those emotions are appropriate. We can't negate or ignore our children's emotions because that can also teach other coping methods.
When "we" as parents/caregivers give space for that emotion and be present for a child, it can help them feel safe and heard. This is turn can help build more co-regulation skills. Co-regulation is also explored in my other blog posts.
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If you have questions, feel free to reach out to me here or via email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your time,
Jessica Earle, Occupational Therapist