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Behaviour Problems


Special Thanks to The Parent Support Service for supplying the following information:

Behaviour Problems

How to Increase Positive Interactions through Praise & Play:

1. Increase Praise

The Principle

- If you want more of a particular type of behaviour, praise it! - Praising children is a much more effective means of encouraging good than criticising or telling off

General Advice

- Watch out for anything positive your child does, whether this is things you ask him to do or things she or he does spontaneously, and comment positively on this behaviour

  • “Thank you for switching off the television when I asked”
  • “You’ve got your packaged lunch – well remembered!”

- Several times a day, for no reason give your child a warm cuddle & tell him or her how gorgeous they are.

The Nitty Gritty

Be Specific

- Avoid vague praise eg “Good boy”. This can sound insincere
- Be specific, commenting on the specific positive behaviour you just observed:


i) Describe what you see or feel
• You let your brother use your gameboy
• You picked up all your dirty clothes and put them in the laundry basket

ii) Sum up the positive behaviour with a word
• That was very generous of you
• That was very helpful

Show Enthusiasm

- Praise should be given with an upbeat voice and with genuine enthusiasm

- Praising in front of another adult can be very effective eg telling a friend or partner about your how good your child was in their absence

  • “I was so pleased with Jimmy this morning, he got up straight away when I asked him”

Make Praise Unequivocal & Not Combined with Put-Downs

- Praise should be clear and indisputable without reminders of past weaknesses. It can be easy to contradict praise by being sarcastic or combining it with a negative comment...

  • “Finally! You’ve actually made your bed for once”
  • “I’m glad you’re clearing up after yourself, but why cant you do that everyday?”

- Don’t praise by making favourable comparisons with siblings

  • “You’re a good boy, you go to bed when you’re asked, unlike your brother!”

2. Increase Play


- Once a negative cycle of difficult behaviour has set in with your child, it can be easy for the troublesome times to start to overshadow pleasurable time spent together. Play increases enjoyable interactions with your child and helps to re-establish fun, providing a way out of negative patterns of relating.

- Play helps children build warm relationships with family members, helping to strengthen the important parent-child bond or “attachment”. Play also creates positive feelings for your child, important for increasing their feelings of self-worth and competence.

- Play is not only associated with strengthening the parent-child bond, and increasing positive feelings, it also helps to develop a child’s ability to express feelings, thoughts & needs. It is therefore associated with fewer behaviour problems.

General Advice

- Even if it’s hard to make much time for playing, incorporate play and playfulness into as many everyday activities as possible.

- Give attention to play. It can be easy for parents to seize the opportunity to get on with all those pressing chores when their child is playing quietly. The problem with this is that the child can feel ignored when they are playing independently. If a child only receives attention when they are being noisy or pestering, a cycle of misbehaving to attract attention can develop.

- If you pay attention to play, your child will have less need to devise inappropriate ways to force you to respond

i) Follow Your Child’s Lead

Sit down on the floor with your child. Ask them what they want to play. Follow their ideas and imagination and go along with their rules. Imitate their actions & do what they ask you to, no matter if it involves losing your dignity and pretending to be a puppy / fairy / super hero!

ii) Avoid Power Struggles

Encourage your child’s sense of competence & independence by giving him or her opportunities for control & power within play eg choosing want they want to play, setting the rules for a game, giving you directions. Try not to see your child as being ‘bossy’. A child has few chances for autonomy and control in their everyday interactions with adults. They will thrive on the opportunity to play with a bit of control.

i) Praise & Encourage

Avoid falling into trap of correcting (eg ‘No, that doesn’t go there’; ‘No, horses move on the ground, not in the air’). This can make children cautious of exploring their ideas.

Boost your child’s confidence by praising positive skills such as concentration, problem-solving & co-operation during play: “I can see you’re really concentrating on putting those pieces together”; “that’s a good idea using that paper plate as a wheel, you’re very resourceful”; “that was kind of you to share those bricks with your brother”

ii) Encourage Make-Believe, Fantasy Role-playing

Make-believe play is really valuable; it helps children to develop thinking and social skills. In fantasy play, a child experience the feelings of someone else. This can help them to understand & be sensitive to the feelings of other people.

iii) Be An Appreciative Audience

Avoid teaching, criticising or interfering. Show interest in your child’s play simply by observing, describing & providing a supportive running commentary about what he is doing.

Imagine you are a tv commentator: “ohw and now the pony is in the dolls house, mmn it’s having some tea and now it’s climbed onto the roof and is flying through the air!”; “ah you are using all the green blocks to make a lawn and now your fixing the red ones together to build a tall wall”

If your child becomes disruptive or violent, withdraw attention & calmly let him or her know that you will engage again once he behaviours nicely.

Most importantly, have fun and enjoy spending positive time with your child. Remember play can be a great way for adults to unwind and de-stress.