Laughter, joy and smiles…. Having kids can be amazing. Meltdowns, backtalk, hyperactivity?
Um, not so amazing. In her new book, Life Will Get Better: Simple Solutions for Parents of Children with Attention, Anxiety, Mood and Behavior Challenges, Dr. Nicole Beurkens discusses a few techniques that can help transform negative behavior into more positive ones. It can definitely feel overwhelming sometimes to deal with all of the challenges our kids pose on a daily basis, but with these simple strategies you can start making the best choices for you and your kids!
- Cut Back on Electronics
Studies show that too much screen time can literally rewire a child’s brain – and not for the better. The stimulation caused by the screen movement as well as the lighting bouncing off the monitors produce excess dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is associated with everything from ADHD and ADD to crankiness and addiction.
2 Hours/Day Max
While it’s ideal to have kids spend less than an hour/day on screens, this can be hard to implement if a child is used to playing much more. Start with cutting it down to two hours/day and slowly move to one.
Parents – Get Involved!
To make a change, make sure you have other activities planned. From play dates to parks, this doesn’t have to cost money. It will of course cost time, so if you don’t have a lot, be clever. Consider finding like-minded parents to swap time with and be patient as you all get used to a new normal.
- Eat Healthier
Like replacing screens with more physical activity, healthy eating takes planning. In this article (Ditch the Artificial Flavoring and Get Sweeter Kids!) you can read up on ways to cut food additives out of your child’s diet. Along with eliminating flavor enhancers, you can also consider:
- Eliminating food dyes (Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red #2, Green #3, Orange B, Red #3, Red #40,Yellow #5, Yellow #6)
- Replacing processed snacks with natural snacks
- Cutting back on fast food (Older kids can help meal prep. Younger kids will get used to the new normal of fresh potatoes versus French fries. It’s a win-win all around as discipline and responsibility birth better behavior!)
- Eating more fruit
- Cutting back on sugar (8 Healthy Alternatives to Sugar Filled Snacks for Your Kids)
- Menu planning
- Be Consistent
Dealing with poor behavior, let alone changing it, can be exhausting – but stay strong! With all due respect, it’s possible that not all of your child’s challenges are based on their poor choices or wiring. Some of it has to do with your own choices – and you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon for parents to give into extra computer time or that drive-thru combo simply to save time or avoid whining. But easy choices up front make for difficult consequences later. Here are some ways to stay strong from the get-go:
- Let your ‘no’ mean ‘no’: If you waffle, your child won’t think you mean business.
- Be flexible: A little pushback from your child is to be expected. But if a certain routine or food choice is clearly ineffective, consider revising and starting again.
- Don’t raise your voice: Anger doesn’t help. Stay calm to keep your child calm.
- Give yourself a break: Sometimes we just can’t take the whining. Get a friend to help or go for a walk if your child’s whining is overwhelming.
- Stop caring about what other people think (Let Old Lady Jones make her judgments about your kid’s meltdown on Aisle 7 and you make yours – in the form of good choices for your child!)
- Set Up Expectations
Kids will transition to new routines more easily if they have advanced notice on changes. Explain that you will be trying something new. Ask for their input if they are old enough to have opinions. But be clear that, in the end, you are the parent and your word is final.
- Positive Rewards
It can be so easy to lose your cool when your child, yet again, talks back or takes something that doesn’t belong to them. But rather than harp on them for what’s not working, try praising them for what is. This can also work when it comes to adjusting to a new diet or less computer activity. Consider giving some extra screen time if they can go one week with the new schedule. Or if they eat fruit without complaint for a whole day, give them a frozen fruit shake at night. If we as adults thrive on a compliment, imagine how your child will feel with some encouraging words!
Having a ton of information is great, but here’s a quick list of how you can redirect negative behavior today:
- Reduce electronics use
- Model appropriate behavior
- Be consistent with expectations
- Compliment positive behavior!
Take it Slow
Studies say it takes 21 days to change a habit, so be patient with yourself and your child when it comes to transforming behavior. It will be worth it! Good luck! And stay tuned… more blogs to come that will support you in being the best parent you can be!
What You Should Do Next:
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