Children don’t need more things. The best toys a child can have are parents who get down on the floor and plays with them.”
– Brue Perry
Saying the N word to a child is extremely similar to holding a flame to a fire alarm. We know it won’t go easy so sometime we avoid saying it, risking “spoiling” the child, and other times we say it and RUUUUN!
The two ends of this spoil/scar sword is not a given. If done in a certain way, withholding something a child wants (not something that is needed), could be a great way to teach patience, hard-work, and self empowerment that are otherwise fleeting in todays easy-come-easy-go world.
Let’s start at the BASE:
Its always better to start early, where the child still hasn’t reached the age where demands start to become increasingly numerous and unattainable (like that 6th Gold Edition Play Station that is WAY cooler than the 5th edition one he already has).
Teach appropriate behavior:
At this point, it is always a good idea to start introducing ways that a child can get preferred items. It may be a chore chart, a stickers chart for good behavior, or even an occasions-only rule. If you’re starting clean, then start with clear golden rules. Rules and routines catch on to children like the daily dose of sugar.
Surprise for the right reasons:
Of course, this doesn’t mean that surprising your child with an unexpected gift or rewarding him/her for no specific reason is not a good thing. It is encouraged to provided reinforcement for any behavior or none at all. What is NOT encouraged is to provide the reinforcement for unwanted behavior like asking inappropriately, like crying or demanding, or grabbing something from another kid then “mommy ends up buying it for me”.
If you’re heading somewhere you KNOW will cause some chaos with the demands, like the toy store of the supermarket (CANDY ISLE!), then start prepping before the tantrum is set to begin, before you leave the house. Go for something that you can actually withhold. This might take some practice; so make sure you go with the child on a day where you have your patience packed. One way to do it is to promise a preferred item, activity, or anything that means something to the child BEFORE you head to the store (using store as the go-to example, but this could be anywhere where saying No happens). Here, BEFORE is the key word, because anything you offer the child after he started screaming for ice-cream, in order to get him to quite down, is bribery, not reinforcement (and we don’t like bribery, bribery is not good; see below).
Let’s be fair: Make your offer, give clear rules.
“we need to go into the store and ONLY buy these stuff without any fuss” to avoid feeling guilty for not warning or advising. Also, this helps the child know what is expected of him. If you’re saying no about something the child is currently doing, trying offering an alternative activity instead of just saying “don’t do that”. This would look something like “Try using your jump rope to see how many you can do, instead of jumping on the couch”.
Don’t mix up rewards for bribes:
One of the most common mistakes parents make is mixing up rewards for bribes. It’s all about the timing: anything that comes AFTER the breakdown is a bribe to end it; anything that comes BEFORE the breakdown is a promised reward, a reinforcer for good behavior, and also a kind of punishment if it is lost following inappropriate behavior. So try to avoid throwing out promises when the child is engaging in inappropriate behavior, because that would only encourage more of it next time.
A: Cry for toy B: get promised that if you stop crying, we’ll go to Grandma’s house C:cry for toy next time and wait for offer.
But you can still offer choices:
This looks like “no, you can not have this right now, but you CAN have this other thing if you want it”. If this is accepted by the child, then BINGO. However, if it is not, and she proceeds to inappropriate asking, then the consequence is having lost the offer, and the original item asked.
Avoid exaggerated threats:
Because we all know they’re not feasible, try to avoid the “ if you ask for stuff then it’s the LAST time I’m taking you to the store”, we all know that this is not an option, including the child. Let your words have more meaning and value, use warning that you can actually follow through with. You wont feel so bad withholding her favourite candy bar for the day, whereas you wouldn’t stop taking her to the store, ever.
Maintain your calm ground when it comes to not giving in:
If the child still engages in problematic behaviors, make sure she loses access to the promised item, as well as access to your attention, because it’s a rule of thumb that ANY form of attention is good attention (is: there’s no such thing as negative attention).
Work as a team:
One final import thing to note, is that if the child has a way to get access to your promise reinforcer or to the item requested but denied access to, then this strategy will not be as effective. Children always look for the way out. So sometimes going to grandma will result in EVERYTING I’VE EVER WANTED, in which case, your interventions will lose their grip. Get everyone one board with your plan, and make sure that you keep the ultimate best reinforcer to yourself (like that Gold edition play station), as a reward for the behaviors that make your life and the life of your child smoother.