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 Dawn who asks:
“I have 3 situations that I need help on. My daughter is 2 and some change.
- She insists on turning the lights off and on repeatedly
- She throws her toys
- She tried to run out in the street
What do you recommend?”
Lights and Toys
Because I see so many children with autism, I always have my “A-dar” on. By that, I mean that I screen every child that I see by running down the red flag checklist in my head. Once I realized that Dawn’s little angel did not have any of the red flags, I recognized that the light switch game had actually become just that–a game. Dawn’s little angel learned that when she flipped the lights off and on, that Mommy instantly gave her attention.
Please know that Dawn provides her little angel with loads of attention. However, for a toddler, being able to control Mommy’s behavior is extremely powerful (and quite fun). The same holds true for toy throwing. When little angel throws toys, she is instantly reminded that only balls can be thrown. Again, instant attention from mommy. Look at my “Toddler Power”! I will also recommend that you check out our cartoon from last week. See PJ? He is up to the same old tricks. He wants his Mommy’s attention!
So, for those two behaviors, do your best to refrain from attending to the behaviors.
A) If you can tolerate the disco effect in your living when the lights are going off and on repeatedly, simply sit on the sofa and continue watching TV or reading or cooking (or whatever you may have been doing). If you have migraines and the disco lights send you over the edge, simply walk over to the light switch (without looking at your child) and cover the light switch with your hand. Do not say anything and do not look. If possible, continue the activity you were doing when the disco started (e.g., keep reading your book). As soon as your child begins an appropriate activity, count to 10 and then join her in the activity. You can tell her how happy you are to see her reading, playing, or whatever she is doing that is appropriate.
B) For the toy throwing, create a box and label it timeout. Sit your daughter down and show her the box. Explain to her that if she chooses to throw her toys, each thrown toy will be placed in timeout for the rest of the day. Every time she throws the toy, simply walk over to the toy, pick it up, and place it in timeout. Do not look at your daughter, do not say anything to her, and then return to your previous activity as if nothing happened. Repeat as often as necessary.When she is playing with toys appropriately, take a couple of minutes to sit down and play with her and tell her how you like the way she is taking care of her toys.
If your child asks to have one of the toys from timeout, simply remind her that it is in timeout for the day because she threw it. Tell her she can have it back tomorrow.
Running in to the Street
While this behavior may also be attention-seeking, a two-year-old lacks the understanding of the dangers associated with street crossing and various forms of vehicles. So, separate from an incident, be sure to begin teaching your child about street-crossing rules (e.g., always hold Mommy’s hand, always cross in a cross walk, look for the walk signal, look both ways). There are some great children’s books that can help you with this. Road Safety, Policeman’s Safety Hints, and Be Careful and Stay Safe.
If your daughter runs in to the street, get her as fast as you can without over-reacting. Bring her back to a safe place and remind her of the rules (e.g., always hold Mommy’s hand, always cross in a cross walk, look for the walk signal, look both ways).
When your daughter follows one of the rules, tell her how happy you are to see her use her rules or how smart she is for remembering her street safety.
Thanks for contacting us Dawn. Please let us know how it goes with these behaviors!
If you have questions about behavior, email Missy at askmissy at appliedbehavioralstrategies dot com.