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The ABCs of Behavior Management

Parenting tips and helpful resources


Getting your child's behavior in check may seem like an impossible task, whether it's out of control all the time or just in specific situations. This ABC list of challenges and parenting tips can direct you to resources on this Parenting Special Needs site that will put you back in charge of the situation. It's not exactly as easy as ABC, but you can manage it.

A is for Analysis to figure your child out.

Image by Terri Mauro
Analysis of behavior is an essential first step to taming your child's wild ways. Until you know who, what, where, when, and why the behavior occurs, you won't know how to stop it. If you can figure out what causes the problem, changing that may be easier than changing your child's behavioral reaction. Read:

+ Behavior Analysis Basics
+ Review: Parenting With Positive Behavior Support
+ Review: Steps to Independence

B is for Boredom that makes kids squirm and pout.

Image by Terri Mauro
Boredom is like an "on" switch for your child's misbehavior, so you'd better turn it off as quickly as possible. Having a constant supply of fun and distraction available at all times gives you the boredom-busting power you need. That's true whether you're killing time in doctor's waiting rooms and long car trips, or stuck at home for a vacation day or rainy weekend. To stock up on ideas, read:

+ Keep a Big "Bag of Tricks"
+ 101 Things to Do When There's Nothing to Do
+ Games for Fun and Learning

C is for Charts to provide good motivation.

Image by Terri Mauro
Charts to encourage good behavior are often ineffective for children with special behavioral needs, if they're too complicated or abstract or dependent on the child to provide self-motivation. When adapted to your child's particular needs, though, they can be a powerful tool. They don't even have to be the paper-on-the-wall variety. Stacking beads or stockpiling coins can also be used measure motivation. Read:

+ Making Behavior Charts Work
+ Make an Emergency Behavior Chart
+ Review: Transforming the Difficult Child

D is for Dentist, a stressful situation.

Image by Terri Mauro
Dentist visits may be even more of a behavioral challenge for kids with special needs than doctor visits -- maybe because they're lying down with somebody over them touching their mouths, or sitting on a parent's lap being held down forceably, or restrained on a papoose board. Finding a dentist who's comfortable working with kids who may act up or strike out, and preparing your child for the experience, can help. Read:

+ Before You Go to the Dentist
+ What Is a Papoose Board?
+ Dentist Appointment Photo Gallery (from About.com Dentistry)

E is for Eye Contact, so difficult to make.

Image by Terri Mauro
Eye Contact is the basic social currency of interest and attention, and kids who are reluctant to make it can be in for vigorous behavioral correction. For some children with special needs, though, giving eye contact may actually mean giving up attention, because they can't look and listen at the same time. Understanding your child's eye-contact avoidance may help you find healthier and more effective ways to interact. Read:

+ Eye Contact
+ Listen to Me!
+ Book Review: Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships

F is for Family, they're sometimes hard to take.

Image by Terri Mauro
Family can be a blessing if it means you have help and support, and a curse if it means you get second-guessing and criticism. Often, it's both at once. But unless you can move to an uncharted island, chances are you're going to have to deal with extended family members sometimes. It may help to look at the behavior of unhelpful kinfolk the same way you'd look at your child's: by analyzing the cause of the behavior, changing the environment if possible, and giving time-outs when necessary. For some ideas on how to keep your family from driving you crazy, read:

+ Dealing With Toxic People
+ Special-Needs Kids and Special Occasions
+ How to Give Yourself a Time-Out

G is for Goals that are reasonably set.

Image by Terri Mauro
Goals are good ... in theory. Every aspect of a special-needs child's life seems to be aimed at achieving goals, whether at school or home or the doctor's office. But if you're setting goals your child cannot reasonably meet, then you're only setting yourselves up for failure. Try breaking down big goals into small attainable pieces, or including some goals your child can easily meet for an ego-boost. Best of all, tailor goals to where your child's really at, not where you think he or she should be. Read:

+ How to Set Get-able Goals
+ Five Secrets to Success
+ Finding Happiness in Your Child

H is for Holidays -- are they over yet?

Image by Terri Mauro
Holidays are supposed to be a time of enchantment and deep meaning for parents and children ... so why does the magic that brings sugarplums and Easter bunnies to some families turn your child into a toad? Special times bring special stress, and special-needs children react to that all out of proportion. Take a look at what you're putting your little one through in the name of holiday "fun" and "tradition," and see if a change of plans can make things more merry. Read:

+ Worshiping With a Special-Needs Child
+ Before You Throw a Holiday Party
+ Before You Let Your Child Perform in a Holiday Program

I is for iPods, to keep kids calm inside.

Image by Terri Mauro
iPods and other small music players can be terrific tools for battling boredom and preserving the peace. Load one up with your child's favorite tunes, put favorite shows in a video model, add a pair of earphones for use in quiet places, and you may be able to create a calming environment on the go. An added bonus -- those songs and shows make great rewards and incentives. Read:

+ An iPod Can Help Calm Your Child
+ Using Undesirable Music for Desirable Outcomes
+ Song Coupons

J is for Journeys, and a jolly airplane ride.

Image by Terri Mauro
Journeys are likely to be a nightmare experience for the whole family if boredom, disruption of routine, and physical discomfort are all bad-behavior triggers for your child. There's only so much control you have over the environment when you're traveling, but taking extra measures to make sure your child is comfortable and occupied can head off behavioral disaster. Read:

+ How to Reduce Child Turbulence on Plane Flights
+ How to Keep Your Kid in a Car Seat
+ Bring Your Routine Along on Vacation
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