When to Be Hard and When to be Soft – Tweaking Your Approach to Small Beings

In my sessions I can be like a drill sergeant. If you’ve worked with me privately, you’ve seen this side of me -- all business! I can also handle challenging behavior by being the biggest three-year-old and find a way to play through it. Having both elements is critical for behavioral success!

In a recent session, a mom turned to me and said, “How do you know when to do which? I have no idea which tone to take when you’re not here!” Having danced with behavior for so long, I can often go on instinct. When I stopped to think about it this is how I broke it down:

If things have been going smoothly for the last few minutes and suddenly they don’t listen, then keep the fun going. See if you can bring them back into listening through light, playful redirection. Staying in this positive place is critical; we all can use reminders sometimes.

But do not joke about their behavior. Please don’t say, “No, don’t do that,” while using a joking voice. This is something I never do when small beings are not complying. Say what you mean in your normal voice, for instance, “You need to keep your hands down right now.” You can integrate some playful, movement, but the intent and tone need to be clear. Keep the positive play to bring them around!

When your small being is not listening, not complying and not in a good mood with you, this is the time to be completely serious. That is the time to be flat, stoic, and no fun whatsoever. Not angry or yelling, but simple and clear. For example, your small being was supposed to be helping set the table while you were finishing making dinner, but you look over and notice that she’s throwing a ball in the living room. Take a deep breath, walk over and in your strong “mom” voice say, “Its time to put the dishes on the table, let’s go.” Then stand there until she starts walking to the kitchen. If she doesn’t start walking, then repeat the exact same sentence, over and over until she goes. Do not yell, threaten or punish at this time, simply state your request until she listens. This teaches the small being that you mean what you say, so she needs to listen to you.

Essentially, you want to teach your small being that good things happen when they’re doing good and the converse when they’re not behaving well. Creating simple and clear parameters is the best way to communicate through your actions. (Tweet)

Insight into Action!

What is one example when you were super clear with small beings with you intention -- body language and tone of voice came together to communicate your intention. How did it go?


Feedback? Thoughts? Comments? Leave 'um below or email me at: Info@BehaviorAndBeyond.net.

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