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Kids fighting nonstop? How to manage during school closures

There’s screeching and yelling, rising ever louder (and there even might be some claws extending). School closings and increased family time together can make your living room turn into a wild animal safari, yet without the joy expected from a vacation. If this sounds familiar, try these tips for children 10 and under to help you manage fighting during school closures.

Create a rotating schedule

Structure and routines are key for children, as noted in my previous blog on school closures, which has tips on creating a schedule. Your first goal is setting up a natural daily routine during an unnatural time.

Children usually do not spend all day, every day with their siblings, so have your children follow the schedule you create in different orders. If possible, use different areas of the home to allow them to have some space from each other. For example, if you set up a craft corner, a schoolwork corner, and an independent reading corner, three children could spend 30 minutes or one hour doing separate tasks. Have your children rotate in a clockwise direction to prevent them from arguing who gets to be in which corner. Families can come together for meals and an evening activity, such as playing a board game or watching a movie.

Reward respectful behavior

Keep this in mind: any behavior that gets attention will continue. Yes, even yelling “Knock it off!” can encourage a behavior to continue. So, focus attention on behaviors you want to see happen more often instead of less often. Here’s how to do this:

  • Provide labeled praise. Labeled praise is specific and enthusiastic. If you say, “Good job,” your children will not know what they did well. Instead try saying, “Nice work playing a game together cooperatively and respectfully!”
  • Pair touch with labeled praise. Adding touch when you provide praise offers extra attention and reinforces the behavior you want to see. After you praise, you could give high-fives or pats on the backs to your children. If you have children who are sensitive to touch, you could give a nonverbal gesture that does not involve contact, such as a thumbs-up.
  • Praise the positive opposite. Remember, any behavior that gets attention will continue. Keep your praise focused on the behaviors that you do want to see. For example, “Good job not hitting each other during the game,” gives attention to the hitting. Instead, you could try, “Way to go on keeping your hands to yourself while playing the game!” (and give high-fives to each child).

Add a tangible reward system

Pairing labeled praise with a tangible reward system may encourage respectful behavior even further. Set your children up for success by creating specific windows of time to earn stars or stickers (or incentive points for older children).

For example, a child could earn a star for keeping her hands to herself during each meal of the day.

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Written by Shobha

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