Questions and Answers

Below are posts of questions that have been raised and the answers I have given:

I have a daughter who is about to turn 1 and my husband and I, and as she is becoming more mobile and able to communicate, really want to start setting some limits on some things she does. I want to start off on the right foot. To be behavior specific some things we would like to change are pulling hair and throwing food on the floor from her high chair. I would love an overview of how to best help my one year old as she is exploring her new world. 

AH, we have a food thrower too! At that age, throwing food either means, “I am done,” “I dont want it” or “I want you to pay attention to me.” At this stage of the game, the name of the game is 99% prevention because there are few things you can do after the behavior occurs (punishment or otherwise) that will likely reduce the chances of it happening again (at least that you would be comfy with and that I would recommend). Keep her relatively close, limit the food she has available to throw and try your best to intercept if she tries. At this point, you can say “no throwing” as you stop her from throwing. Be firm, but really no need to be overly loud or mean about it. If you feel she is doing it to communicate “Im done” or “I dont want it” it is also very important to teach her at these times to say “all done” or “no thanks.” Essentially, she needs an appropriate way to stop or to communicate that she doesn’t want what you are serving her, other than plastering the wall with apple sauce or spaghetti noodles. You know the look when she is done. When you see “the look,” say, “say, all done” (or whatever you want her to say) and when she says it, remove any food from her ro remove her from the chair. This teaches her that saying “all done” works. If it is the attention she is after, make sure you attend to her at the right times (eating, saying all done, sitting quietly, NOT throwing) so that when you ignore the throwing (or block it successfully) it will feel a lot more boring when compared to when she is not throwing. Basically, your ignoring of the throwing will not work if you ignore her at other times too…there wont be any difference.

Make sense? 

Now, as for the hair pulling, when is that happening?

I used the grocery store example today at Target… I would buy raisins if my 2yr old sat in the cart and used her inside voice. It was a very quick trip, but she still managed to lose the raisin reward. So, then she just sat there screaming like a taradactel as I wheeled to the check out…now what? I asked her to stop screaming and then just ignored it. Any suggestions for next time?

*note: this is in reference to the post about “Parent Mythbusting: Bribery vs Rewards”  posted on 7/8/11

Although I don’t know everything about the situation, here are some initial thoughts that I have about it:

  • You might not have done anything wrong at all.  As you will see in several posts to come,  the real power here isn’t necessarily in the reward OR the lack of the reward…its the difference between the two (experiences when she gets it vs. when she doesn’t).  Therefore, screaming and not having access to the raisins might actually have done her (and you) some good, although I am sure it did not feel that way.  
  • Ignoring it was the absolute right thing to do, no doubt, as embarrassing as it might have been.  At that point, the only thing that would have gotten her to quiet would have been the raisins…terrible idea, though.  Good work.
  • I know you said it was a short trip, but sometimes the shorter trips are the tougher ones because we don’t prepare as much and tend to rush more than when we are buckling down for a weekly grocery trip.  Clearly, you tried to prepare by adding the raisin reward, but maybe think about the other pieces on future “quick” trips.
  • Maybe she needs more frequent experience with the “fruits” (sorry) of her labor, meaning you have something (maybe some other small edible something or stickers for her hands) to give her “on the way to earning her raisins.”  EX: “You sure are sitting nicely and talking quietly (you whisper here), you are on your way to earning your raisins.  Here is a sticker to remind you of your quiet voice.  Good job.”  The frequency at which you deliver these things depends on how long she has lasted before (minus several minutes since you want to stay ahead of it).  Kinda like what I said above…she might need more of the positive experience so her only experience isn’t NOT getting the raisins.  Do what you can to make it happen next time so she has that experience.  Have a toy, follow the suggestions below, take her for a well-planned short trip so success is most likely.
  • Sometimes the problems with the inside voice is due to our kids wanting to have our undivided attention (or the awesome echo they get at the big-box stores such as Target).  For these guys, talking with them and maintaining their attention towards things in the store (playing “I spy, for example) can be helpful in maintaining a decent volume of voice.  The louder she gets, the quieter you get.  Talk your butt off.  Be chatty…it will keep her occupied until you get to the dried fruit section. This is what I am doing when you see me whispering the Thomas the Train song in a crazy voice at The Home Depot. Unmanly…I get it, but so is shushing my son in the power tools aisle to no avail.  

We’ve all been there.  The important part here is you are paying attention and asking the questions.  Next time buy an extra Haagen-Dazs pint for yourself…just in case.

So, what if the unicorn goes running through my willful 6yo’s summer camp?  The reward chart isn’t working for us, neither are punishments, and the camp counselor has got my number on speed dial.  It’s not getting better.

*note: this is in reference to the post about “balloon factory” houses posted on 7/5/11

This seems like a perfect example of an environment where your child’s behavior is not likely to be successful.  Summer camps are often controlled (in some cases not-so-controlled) chaos.  Some kids can handle it, others dont do so well.  

This is where reward charts and punishments are least likely to be successful, because the results of the behaviors at camp are much more immediate and powerful than the special treat on the way home for a job well done or the afternoon without TV or Wii if you get a call from the camp director.  For example, pushing to get in line first, getting to play the game he wants to play, or getting out of clean up time.  The “right here/right now” consequences are overpowering what you have to offer much later in the day.  Therefore, the answer starts with prevention and proaction.

Start with the whens, whos and wheres: When is it most likely to occur?  WIth whom is it most likely to occur?  Where is it most likely to occur.  As important, the opposite questions about _____is it least likely to occur?  If these questions can be answered, you can start to work with the camp counselors about preventing these things from occurring, teaching before the events occur, and having a bit more control over the outcome before it happens (e.g. walking to the line with the student, being there when the game is being chosen or helping when clean up time starts).  Make the appropriate stuff more likely THEN reinforce at that point.

The obvious problem is camp counselors are what they are. Some can be great.  Others can be not-so-great. 

My last recommendation: talk to the director about these things.  Let them know that what you are trying but what you are trying isnt working and you need his/her help to address the when/where/who issues.

One thought on “Questions and Answers

  1. Hello, my name is Christine and I work at an agency that provides services to adults and children with intellectual/developmental disabilities in a plethora of areas, in the Chicagoland area. I work in our Training Deptartment here at Clearbrook and was wondering if Dr. Wright would be interested/able to come to our facility to do a presentation in May 2014. If he could contact me, that would be great. I look forward to speaking with you soon. Thank you for your time and consideration.

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