With these wild times there has been a mass cry from parents on social media about their children and the increase in tantrums and unwanted behavior.
Ignore the behavior, not the child.
Your child needs you! Even if your blood is boiling you have to also try to stay calm. You want to do your best to ignore the unwanted behaviors. Do not react, some kids will take that as we reward & continue the behaviors for your reaction. This means you both need to be working on your behaviors during these tough moments.
Learn more about how to calm a child during tantrums here
You also must remember it’s okay for your child to feel mad. You also need to let your child know, it’s okay to feel mad. They are never wrong for their feelings. Here is an example of what you can say, “It’s okay to be mad, but it’s not okay to hit.”
The point of a sticker chart is to help the child feel more positive. By giving them something to work for, they are going to start trying to correct their behavior more quickly. Once they start working on correcting their behavior, then they are now creating a new habit. A habit to correct the behavior before it turns into a massive melt down.
It’s also important to let them know although it is okay to feel mad, we don’t want to stay mad/upset. “It’s not healthy for you to stay mad/sad/upset. We need to try some strategies to feel better.” Talking about feelings with your child is very important.
You can’t just do a sticker chart. That’s like putting a bandaid straight on a cut. First you need to examine the cut, clean the cut, add antibiotic ointment and lastly put a bandaid on.
1. When you examine the cut, you are examining the behavior of your child and trying to figure out what may have caused it? Are they frustrated, over tired, hangry, anxious, sensing your stress? What caused the anxiety or frustration? Sometimes we can’t answer all of these questions, but it’s important to think about them and examine what caused the behaviors/tantrum. 2. Next you implement some strategies. Your child will not be able to get a sticker on their chart if you can’t help give them strategies for dealing with their big emotions.
You need to give your child strategies! Why? Here is the thing, everybody has feelings. Your child will still get frustrated and be upset at times. Strategies help them to calm down or learn how to get themselves to a happy place again. Eventually you want them to use these strategies on their own. Here are some examples of things you can say, while the child is upset. “Let’s take a breath together.” “Do you need a squeeze?” “Let’s get ourself calm and feeling better so we can earn a sticker on our chart today.”
Here are some strategies you can try:
Teach your child how to take a deep breath and slowly release it. Daniel Tiger, on PBS kids sings: “If you are feeling mad, like you want to roar, take a deep breath & count to four.”
Give a Squeeze
Some kids need a nice tight hug to help calm them down. Much like a weighted blanket, it can be relaxing for some. At first you will ask them if they need a squeeze. Then they will learn to request one.
Your child may need to grab a sensory bottle, shake it & watch the glitter & other items in the bottle drop to the bottom of the bottle to cool down.
Do or say something silly to help calm your child. My husband is great at this and often helps get Izzy out of a grumpy funk with this strategy. He can really get some great belly laughs out of her.
Sometimes you just need to leave the scene of the crime, so to speak. Some kids like to go in a teepee, to their bed, or just go to their room. In this space is where you would keep sensory bottles for their use if needed.
Once your child is calm, talk with them about what happened. Maybe they were frustrated because they couldn’t do something the first try. Talk with them about how when they were a baby, they had to try so many times and practice to walk. Sometimes your child may not know what set them off and you may not either. Sometimes life just eats at us slowly, right?
Now for the Sticker Charts
1. Pick or create a chart based on your child’s age & unwanted behavior frequency.
2. Younger children may be working towards something at the end of each day. Older children may be working towards something once the sticker chart is full. You want to start off with them earning a small amount of stickers so they can grasp the concept and see they really are getting a reward. Then putting the sticker on the chart becomes a fun daily reward to work for. They become so proud of their good behavior. This is when you can make them earn 8+ stickers to get their reward.
3. The reward can be anything that motives them. Maybe that is an ice cream Sunday, or they get to sleep in your bed or do create a fun family pizza party in the living room. Some kids like to have a prize box with different things they see they are working for. Again, fill it with things they like, things that will motivate them.
You don’t actually have to use stickers for the sticker chart, you can have them mark it off with a crayon or marker.
The end result is not to have a sticker chart forever. Maybe you wean it out or maybe you transition it to a chore chart. Here is the thing, we all do things for some kind of reward… right? Sometimes it’s to impress someone, to intrinsically make ourself feel good or to get something tangible.