Hi and welcome to Ask Missy Mondays where I respond to email questions from readers who have questions about behavior. Today’s question comes from Jillian and J.D. who ask,
“We have 2 children ages 2 and 4. They are driving us batty with their crying, whining, and tantrumming! Seriously, I cannot even get in the shower without one of them having a major meltdown. Please help us before we go crazy!”
I replied to Jillian and J.D. and said,
“I wish I could solve this problem for you but I do need a little bit more information. Tell me more about when these behaviors happen. You mentioned being in the shower. Can you tell me some other times these behaviors happen? Also, tell me how you react when your children engage in these behaviors. What do you say? How do you handle it?”
Jillian and J.D. wrote back almost immediately. They noted:
“The behaviors happen:
- When Jillian is on the phone
- When Jillian is cooking
- When Jillian has a neighbor over
- When Jillian is doing laundry
They also noted that when one of the kids whines to get something:
- The child does not get what he wants
- The child must ask using a “big boy” voice
Jillian and J.D. noted that when the children tantrum:
- The child is first told “no!” so that they can learn not to do the behavior
- After Jillian tells them no, she walks away unless someone is hitting
- The child is put in 2 minute timeout for serious offenses (e.g., hitting brother)
- When the child is calm, his needs are addressed
Now I have something I can work with! The first pattern that I noticed is that the behaviors seem to happen when mommy is busy (on the phone, cooking, laundry, etc). This means that the children have learned how to successfully divert mommy’s attention away from other important activities. I am certain that, as a mommy, you give your children ample high quality time (e.g., playing together, reading books together, etc). However, your children want even more of your time.
Thus, before you begin one of your busy activities:
- Spend time playing with them
- Tell them that you are going to be busy for 15 minutes (or however much time you need–I recommend no longer than 30 minutes)
- Set the timer so they can have a clear signal when the activity is over
- When the activity is over, tell them they can have mommy time and praise them for letting you do your house work so that…..(e.g., we all can eat, or have clean clothes)
- If a child interrupts you during the work time, point to the timer but do not give any attention
- If a child tantrums, wines, or screams during the work time, do not “rush” in to save him
Once you have the antecedents taken care of, then you will need to change some of the ways that you respond to their behaviors.
- Refrain from stating “no!” after a behavior that has been reprimanded in the past. The children know they are not supposed to hit, scream, etc.
- Refrain from giving the child what he wants immediately after timeout
- When the child comes out of timeout, be sure to review what he did wrong and what he could do “next time”
- Remind your child that he cannot have X, Y, or Z because he _______ but that he can have it later
- If a child whines, remind him to use his big boy voice but do not give him what he wants right away. Set the timer for 2 minutes and when the timer goes off, he can ask using his big boy voice
I know this sounds like a lot and once you practice it a few times, you will get the hang of it. And not matter how much work it is, when those behaviors stops, it will be well-worth it. Please let us know how it goes!
If you have a question about behavior, email Missy at askmissy at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com.