I gave this blog the title “…with Younger Children” because children mature at different rates regardless of their age. Younger children have short attention spans and are typically very hard of hearing (or suffer from selective hearing syndrome). However, this is a crucial time for establishing firm boundaries and creating habits that will serve you both well as your child grows older.
Most children are eager to please and this age group is no exception. This simple system incorporates both a reward for good behavior and a consequence for bad behavior.
First, announce that you are going to make a craft with your child. Yeah! This will be fun and you will get to spend some time together. Tell your child that you will be making a face and see if they would like to do their own face, an animal, or something else of their choice. Then gather your materials such as paper plates, yarn for hair, buttons for nose, eyes, stickers, and markers/crayons.
On one paper plate you will draw a happy face. On a second paper plate, the face will be sad. Glue or tape a string on the inside so it forms a loop for hanging, then tape or staple the two plates together so they face outward.
Hang the plate in a visible place in your home (fridge door, child’s door, etc). When the child is have a good behavior day, have the happy face showing. If they are showing poor behavior, turn the plate over to show the sad face. Tell the child that when they show you good behavior, they can have the happy face showing again.
If your child moves beyond caring whether the face is happy or sad, you can provide incentives for staying on “happy” for a specified period. For example, if your child stays on “happy” until lunch time, they get to have some special time with you or whatever rewards you generally use. Then if they stay on “happy” until bedtime, they can have 20 minutes extra time before they have to go to bed (or again some other small reward of your choosing). This way if they get a “sad” in the morning, they can still earn something in the afternoon.
You can take this system a step further by creating a chart that will track the “happy” and “sad” so they can earn rewards over the course of a week. For example, 10 or more “happy” faces in a week earns an ice cream run with mom or dad to celebrate.
Thanks for reading. I hope you all have a “happy” week!