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Transitioning Your Focus to Positive Behavior & Natural Consequences

Today is Babywise Friendly Blog Network Pinterest Day! Today’s topic is “Transitions”. Each mom blogger is interpreting that in her own way, and we have a great list of blogs to read today! Scroll to the bottom to see the full list with links and check out our Pinterest Page for more wonderful reads!

We have topics ranging from “How to Transition from Nap Time to Rest Time”, all the way to “Transitioning Your Focus to Positive Behavior” (which you’ll find right here)! With Caroline approaching the “terrible twos”, we’ve made an extra effort to focus on positive behavior and natural consequences so she knows what’s expected of her. I hope you enjoy these blogs today!

Transitioning Your Focus to Positive Behavior and Natural Consequences

Whether you have a toddler or a high schooler, or anything in between, research has shown that punishment for bad behavior typically doesn’t solve the problem long term. Students that receive punishment such as getting sent to the principals office, or being grounded at home, or even suspended from school for a bit… it’s rarely a one time occurrence. You typically see the same students in the office, and find that the same students get suspended over and over again. Obviously, the suspensions are an extreme example, but a clear one. The punishment is not something that is working and they simply become repeat offenders. The same holds true all the way down to the toddler age. At the older ages it becomes essential to troubleshoot the reason for the behavior and address the root cause rather than simply having a reaction in the moment. Sometimes that is also necessary at the toddler age, but more often than not your toddler is simply testing boundaries and still learning what’s expected of them. Toddlers literally have to be taught EVERYTHING. They may not have any idea yet, that it is not ok to hit or throw things. They may be simply seeking the attention that a behavior like that gets them (even if it is negative).

Natural consequences are a great alternative to simply enforcing a punishment. If you find a true natural consequence, the consequence makes sense, naturally happens as a result of the unwanted behavior, and will consistently happen every time the behavior happens. Here are a couple of examples:

– Your toddler throws their water cup.

A great natural consequence is that they then have to stop what they are doing to clean up the mess. The water cup will naturally spill. It is important to show your toddler what happens as a result of throwing the cup. “Uh oh! There’s water on the ground. We need to clean that up.”. Something to this effect should be said, along with a statement that “we don’t throw things”. Having your toddler clean up the mess every single time will eventually work in your favor, and they will stop the behavior, because they don’t want to clean up the mess.

– A high school student is late for class.

A great natural consequence is that they miss the warm up. Randomly decide to collect the warm ups that day. They won’t have had time to catch up, and they will get a zero for the activity. If that happens a couple of times and starts to impact their grade, they are going to be more inclined to show up on time (to your class anyways).

– Your toddler hits you.

A great natural consequence in this instance is to stop playing with them in that moment (or whatever it was that you were doing). “Mama doesn’t want to play with someone that hits”. If your toddler wants to continue playing they have to say they are sorry. We also have our daughter “be gentle” with us. She says sorry and gives a hug. Only then do I continue playing or reading, etc.

In addition to thinking through to find natural consequences instead of punishment, it is also important to recognize positive behavior, and explain what we want them to do. Again, this works at all ages.

As a high school teacher, I spent my time focused on thanking and recognizing students for their good behavior.

“Jenny, thank you so much for quietly listening as I explain this concept”. The students in the back that were talking, would typically decide to quiet down. This would avoid a confrontation, which those students in the back were already prepared for and would have escalated the situation.

“Ryan, thank you for offering another idea/opinion to our discussion. I’m sure that clarification helped many others in the class”.

“Thank you so much to those of you that have already started the warm up. I really appreciate your focus today”, etc. You get the idea. I kept the classroom positive, and, as a result, negative behaviors were minimal.

From the toddler standpoint, we have to realize that they may not know what we want them to do, if all we tell them is what we don’t want them to do. Let’s look at a couple of examples:

The hitting/biting toddler: Let’s say you have a toddler that, when she gets upset, she likes to hit and bite. It is important to tell her “no hitting” or “no biting”, but we also need to tell her what to do instead. The Toddlerwise book suggests having them channel their energy into folding their hands together. Toddlers don’t know what to do with their anger, but it is important to give them an idea or a tool to use. I just started this with Caroline at 21 months, and it is working great. Beyond great, I should say. She breathes deep and squeezes her hands together. It channels her anger and calms her down pretty instantly.

Once they know what we want them to do, it is important to notice when they do it, and praise, praise, praise! Get excited and recognize them for doing a good job! They’ll want to hear that more often and start to do the behavior more.

The clingy toddler: Your toddler always comes to you for help, always wants to be picked up, and always wants you right by their side, etc. When this toddler does some independent play- that is going to be key to recognize and praise! “What a big girl you are to play on your own! Mama is so proud of you”. If this toddler problem solves on her own, you’ll want to take note of that as well and praise her for a job well done! “Great job thinking to put the balls in the basket so you could carry them all!”. If this toddler walks for a bit instead of having you pick her up- praise, praise, praise!

In addition to recognizing positive behaviors, as a way to reduce negative behaviors, we should also just be recognizing positive behaviors to recognize them…all the time. If your toddler says thank you or please (with or without being prompted), or if she shares a toy with another child, or picks up some trash on the sidewalk to throw away, or says hi to someone, etc. It is so important that we tell them how kind and thoughtful they are. It so important to show them that the things they do that are so amazing.

Toddlers are learning our world. They are constantly being told what to do and how to do it. They hear no all the time. None of this is going to change, but can you imagine how difficult that must be? How frustrating it must feel to be living in a world where you constantly have someone correcting your every move, and you can’t even talk enough to get your own point across or express your feelings? Toddlers have it pretty rough, and while it’s also rough on us as the parents, we need to remember to celebrate all of their wonderfulness…and not forget to tell them about it! The more we show them what we want them to do, and the more we praise them for all of their good behaviors (that often get taken for granted), the more they will behave that way on a regular basis.

Caroline went over to the dog bowl a few days ago. She reached in and grabbed a handful of food. My first instinct was to tell her “Caroline, no. We don’t play with the dog food”. Instead I held back my comment just to see what she was going to do. She walked over to our dog and fed him the food. My statement then became “WOW, Caroline that was so sweet of you to feed Moose”. Moose (our dog) hasn’t been eating his breakfast (which is odd for him), but he ate breakfast that day because Caroline brought every last piece to him. I am so glad that I didn’t go with my original mama instinct. I wouldn’t have gotten to see the sweet, thoughtful moment. She wasn’t playing, or making a mess, she was simply being kind and bringing food to our dog. And it actually was helpful. I hadn’t been successful at getting Moose to eat, but my 21 month old succeeded at it! Sometimes it’s so important to give your toddler a little space in order to see all the amazing things they are capable of!


Other posts of interest:

Learning the Word “No”

Did You Ever Think You’d Yell at Your Child?

Teaching Kindness To Your Toddler

Using Sticker Charts
Look at Mama, Please

Check out all of the wonderful BFBN posts today that are on the topic of “Transitions”:

Valerie- How To Transition to Just One Child Home
(What to do with the youngest child while older siblings are at school)

Carrie- Transitioning From Nap Time to Rest Time

Natasha- How We Transition a New Foster Kid Into Our Home

Kimberly- Transitions: Helping My Child Move Across The Country

Emily- 5 Tips to Ease Transitions and Avoid Meltdowns For Toddlers

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