I have found the following guidelines helpful for many of my families. I should specify that the following information is anecdotal and is to be viewed as such.
An important step to minimizing unwanted “bad” behaviors is to establish simple house rules. These rules must apply to everyone in the household, be simple, and remember to keep them positive. Adults are inclined to say “don’t hit your brother,” whereas I recommend the rule of “nice hands.”
I recommend the following house rules: (1) Nice Mouth; (2) Nice Hands; (3) Nice Feet.
Almost any unwanted behavior can fit into one of these rules. Hitting?, nice hands. Spitting?, nice mouth. Running/kicking?, nice feet.
These are simple, easy to remember rules for both your child and you. Additionally, I recommend posting these rules in multiple places in your home, but always on the refrigerator (low enough so the child can see) and accompanying pictures are always good for the little ones since they may not be old enough to read the words. A week of children getting used to the rules and nice reminders from you (“Sally, use nice hands please.”) should be enough time to learn the house rules.
2. Understand Why They are Misbehaving
It is important to remember that all behaviors are a form of communication. Kiddos are still learning how to maneuver this crazy world and compassion goes a long way for their mental health.
3. Be Consistent Over time, when these behavior modification protocols are used, the frequency you will have to use them will diminish. It is important to be consistent and commit to these rules yourself. Children know how to manipulate and we all know they will test you. Stay strong. Follow these guidelines and I think you will be amazed at your success.
Amy Grant, M.S., CCC-SLP