How to foster good behaviour in kids? Expert says throw away behaviour charts
New routines, new teachers and new friends can all have an impact on a child’s behaviour. While parents and teachers may turn to behaviour charts, the seemingly benign gold stickers or the smiley face magnet may have a downside.
What if a child isn’t exactly the teacher’s or parents’ pet? What are the best ways to encourage good behaviour and what should adults avoid when there is a need for behaviour correction? Family counsellor and parenting expert, Alyson Schafer, said there are two types of parenting — and one is better than the other.
“We always have to start with understanding what is the child trying to achieve, and often, they are trying to achieve attention,” said Schafer.
“You know, stand out in the class, get the teacher to pay attention to them. They are trying to get power, a sense of agency and control in their life, revenge, or the last one is avoidance. It’s one of those four goals under the age of 10. Once we can understand what the child is trying to accomplish, then we are in a better place to start thinking about how we might react and respond to get those needs met positively.”
Schafer said parenting generally falls into one of two styles.
“It’s our history to be an external control model where basically we are saying, ‘I’m going to make you do,’ or ‘mind my will.’ And we will use behaviour charts and the smiley face system which are all rewards and punishment — all fall in external control. It’s a manipulative form where the adult gets the child to comply to their will.”
Schafer said the first thing parents and educators need to do is get rid of the sticker charts or any type of punishment that would see the child embarrassed or humiliated, like not getting a sticker or sending a child to the “naughty corner” when they misbehave.
The alternative and preferred approach is called “intrinsic motivation,” where internally motivated children actually want to co-operate and get along with one another.
‘Intrinsic motivation,’ in terms of a child wanting to do right or do good, comes from two conditions happening in the home or the classroom.
“The first one is they have to feel a great sense of belonging. They have to care for their other team members,” said Schafer.
“And they have to feel that they are not in a superior or inferior position to the other person. That doesn’t mean that the teacher doesn’t have the authority, but it means that they don’t feel demeaned by the teacher. You are not going to get along with somebody who puts you down.”
Whether it’s in the classroom or at home, Schafer said parents and educators need to work on building bonds.
“In terms of the classroom, research shows that the No. 1 predictor of academic success is teacher-child ratio. Now, that’s going to be out of our hands most of the time but the second thing is the child’s perception that the teacher likes them.
“So, if you have somebody who is giving you a hard time in the classroom, you want to love that kid up. You want to build up that relationship because in a sense, when you are asking for good behaviour, you are asking for them to do you a favour.
“Would you be willing to help me out? You are making a personal request. And if they like you, they are going to want to help you out with that request.”
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