Grades 6 - 8 Behavior
How can I help my child at home?
Social and emotional development during the middle school years can be difficult for parents and their adolescent children. Adolescents are becoming more socially aware while seeking more independence from parents. These changes combined with physical changes and increased hormone levels, can result in behavioral changes and mood swings that can make behavior more difficult to manage. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) provide ways for children to meet their needs in ways that don’t result in “acting out” behaviors. School districts are increasingly using these approaches as ways to help reduce challenging behavior and increase appropriate behavior. Using these approaches at home may also be effective at improving your child’s behavior.
Develop Positively Worded Behavior Expectations
It can be helpful to write down a list of behaviors you want your child to show at home. When writing the list of behaviors, you may find that keeping the focus on what they should do rather than not do will prevent children from resorting to troublesome patterns of behavior. Select a set of three to five behavior expectations that all family members agree on and are willing to enforce. You can then come up with a longer set of positively stated rules that can help define the expectations. Children this age should be encouraged to help define and agree upon the behavioral expectations to help them buy into the expectations.
As a family, decide on three to five rules such as 1) Respect others, 2) Respect house property and 3) Respect yourself. Then brainstorm a list of positively stated rules such as “Use respectful language,” “Ask permission before using someone else’s things,” “When you finish with an item, put it back in its place,” and “Tell us where you are going before you go.” These types of statements will work much better than a list of negative statements such as “Don’t swear” and “Don’t leave your things lying around the house.”
Look for and Praise the Use of Behavior Expectations
Did you ever stop to think about how much time you spend telling your child what they should not do? Punishment serves only to interrupt behavior, but it doesn’t improve behavior. Instead, try giving specific, positive attention to the behavior that you want to see. This will teach your child what you want him to do and increase the likelihood that this behavior will occur again. Praise should include your expectations, be descriptive and genuine.
Instead of just saying, “Good job!”, explain what you like and how it benefits them. “Thank you for putting your clothes in the hamper! They’ll get washed much faster now.”
Stay Calm and Be Consistent
When your child’s behavior is unacceptable, keep in mind that when it comes to parent response less is more. Acting calm will reduce the risk of strengthening the very behavior you wish to discourage because it puts less attention on the behavior. When you remain calm, you model for your child appropriate ways to respond to difficult situations. It can be difficult to react calmly to challenging behavior. To help yourself remain calm, keep your verbal responses short and specific to the behavior. You will also find that when you are calm, you are much better able to be consistent with your consequences. It is important to remember it is not the intensity of the consequence that gives the consequence power; it is the consistency that the consequence is given.
Your son comes home four hours after his curfew. Instead of grounding him for an extended period of time, have him earn back his privileges by having him write a plan to come home at an earlier curfew time. Have him increase the length of his curfew time until it matches the original curfew time. He is able to earn back his original curfew if he is able to come home at the times you and he have put in his plan.
Give Your Adolescent Choices Between Two to Three Parent Desired Activities
Adolescents may begin to practice independence skills before they are ready to regularly make good decisions about their behaviors. One way to let them meet their need for control and independence is to replace a command or directions with a choice between two activities. If possible, offer a choice between two behaviors that result in positive outcomes. If that is not possible, offer a choice of a parent preferred behavior and a natural consequence.
You tell your teenager that she needs to clean her room. She responds by yelling, “No!” You respond by telling her, “You have a choice of cleaning your bedroom now, or doing the dishes and then cleaning your bedroom afterwards.”
Talk to Your Adolescent About Their Behavior When Everyone Is Calm
People do not think the same way when they are angry or excited as opposed to when they are calm. Calm time cannot be found in the middle of a difficult situation that is filled with strong feelings. Instead, talk when everyone is calm enough to think and talk and listen. This can occur either before or after a child’s problem behavior occurs, but not during. You can use these times to talk about positive ways to handle problems in the future.
Getting your adolescent to begin his homework has become a nightly struggle. You create a schedule where homework will begin every night right after dinner. You calmly remind your child during dinner, “Homework will be right after dinner. I will help you with your homework after you try it by yourself, and we are just going to try our best.”
Are you worried your child may have been or is being bullied? Has it been reported to you that your child may have bullied or is bullying others? Bullying is a serious problem, and all adults have a role in helping to stop it. The Center for the Study and Prevention of School Violence (2008) uses three criteria to distinguish bullying from other occurrences of misbehavior or isolated cases of aggression:
- It is aggressive behavior or intentional harm-doing.
- It is carried out repeatedly and over time.
- It occurs within an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance of power.