tackle one behavior at a time

Do the dishes, pick up the house, make breakfast, send the kids off to school, go to work, take a child to soccer practice, make dinner, call Grandma, read a book to the kids, put the kids in bed, wash dishes, try to relax, fall into bed. Repeat.

That doesn’t cover half of it right? Neither did I list all of the behaviors we deal with when we have a child with attachment issues. Our children don’t even have to have attachment issues to exhibit negative behaviors, kids just do.

So, what can we do when our lives are so busy with all the normal day to day activities, yet we are trying to help our child overcome negative behaviors? I believe the answer is to work on one behavior at a time. This is the most beneficial and productive way to meet each behavior and work on changing it.

When Payton was four we were still working on potty training. I was frustrated to no end and ready to be done, and she was still waiting until the last minute to go to the bathroom, or not even trying at all, and would wet her pants. I mean the drenching, puddle on the floor (not the leaky little bit, oops I didn’t make it in time). This Potty Training Gone Wrong was taking up most of our instruction time. (There is only so much time in the day: rocking your kids, playing with them, personal care for your children and yourself, house keeping, errands, play dates, feeding your family, and instruction time between it all.)

At the same time we were also working on her attitude when we asked her to go to the bathroom. Her response was usually yelling “No,” and telling us she didn’t have to. Less than two minutes after escapades of yelling, saying she didn’t need to go, there was a lake and a race to get to the bathroom.

During this very long phase of potty training, my mom and dad visited us. Afterwards, my mom emailed me, saying that we should do something about Payton talking back to us (in any given situation where things didn’t go her way).

In reality, we can only work on so many behaviors at a time. What would life be like if we came down on lying, potty issues, school work, screaming/rages, listening skills, general disobedience, and the numerous other obstacles we face every day? We’d never get anything done, our child would live in a constant state of stress, and more importantly, no bonding would be taking place.

Bonding always has to take precedence over everything else. Why? Because if we don’t have a bond with our child, their behaviors won’t be changed permanently or even for an extended period of time. If we do see a positive turn in behavior before bonding takes place it may be that the child is doing it out of fear, or they are doing it to manipulate a situation or person.

I strongly suggest not working on too many behavioral issues at once. First, it overwhelms mom and dad when there are too many things to focus on. Ask yourself how much time you want to devote to correction and not to bonding. Second, it puts too much pressure on the child when you expect them to change their entire life in one shot. They become overwhelmed and frightened, which sends them back to their flight, fight, or freeze mode.

I suggest choosing the biggest problem you’re facing and focus on it. And always remember that your main focus is bonding, because without bonding, you won’t have permanent behavior change.

Are there several behaviors you are trying to correct? Do you think it would help to tackle one at a time?

*Is your child dealing with sleep issues? Are you in and out of their room several times before you crash in bed? Does the Super Nanny solution not work for your child? Do you get bombarded with questions every evening? Be sure to check back later this week, as I will be writing about sleep and how to get your child to rest peacefully. Here’s the link for that post: why good nights are illusive (sleep issues #1)