Clearly define it! Be specific. Don’t just say, “She’s acting up.” Break it down and tell me more. How is she acting up? Crying, sulking, yelling, slamming doors, arguing? This lets you (and her) know exactly what behavior you want to change.
WHY: You also have to analyze why your child is acting unfavorably and customize the consequence.
Example 1: When volunteering in a first grade classroom I observed a substitute teacher playing a game with the kids. One of the kids was sitting on her desk and wouldn’t co-operate when the teacher asked her to sit in her chair. The reply was, “I can’t. My binder is on my chair.” The teacher finally tried the ‘ignore her’ route. In the meantime, since the kid realized she didn’t have to obey the teacher, she started lying across the desk, wiggling around and making noise. So I wandered over, removed the binder from the chair and said, “bottom on the chair.” The kid tried to ignore me, but I pulled the chair out, put my hand on her legs to cue her to move them off the desk and firmly but calmly held my ground. I repeated, “bottom on the chair.” After ten seconds, she complied.
Mind you, this was not a kid I knew. I was simply volunteering at my kid’s school on this particular day, so I wasn’t in my speech therapist costume. I didn’t have a lick of authority with this child other than what I walked into the room with as ‘someone’s mommy.’ But she still listened. Why? Because her motivation was simply “I’m going to do what I want; apparently this teacher doesn’t care!” So when I demonstrated that I DID care and insisted she sit, she did it. End of story.
Example 2: I was in a therapy session with a first grade group of four. One kid in particular kept popping all over the place, forcing me to cue him over and over, “Bottom on the chair, feet on the floor.” When I asked a question like, “Name four fruits for me, John,” he’d smirk and pipe back, “Uumm. . . strawberries and. . . pizza!” The first go round I said, “John, look at me. I’m not smiling. That’s not funny.” Then I shifted my focus to the next kid. The reason I did that was because I thought his motivation was attention. I was right. He stopped trying to be funny. However, when it was his turn to answer a question again, he was quiet. So I had to reassess why. I had already nixed the attention, so I moved on to another guess: comprehension. In order to ferret it out, I backed up my question and gave him cues to figure out the answer. He got it right and smiled sincerely.
So overall, this kid was acting up because he didn’t actually know four fruits and had no idea how the heck to answer my question. He covered it up by acting out and trying to be funny, but his motivation was also for attention. The other kids got positive attention with ‘nice answer’ or ‘gimmie five!’ John only knew how to get negative attention. He didn’t know how to say, “I’m not sure” or “I need help.”
Figure out your ‘WHY’ my friend. Then approach the behavior from different angles to tackle that motivation.