Hudson Valley Parent

HVP January 2017

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20 Hudson Valley Parent n January 2017 By ELORA TOCCI E very parent has been there - your child is throwing a temper tantrum or otherwise misbehav- ing, and all you want to do is send her to her room for a time-out. While the temptation can be strong, there are more constructive solutions that will not only calm your child down, but can strengthen your relationship and reduce the likelihood of repeat behavior. Communication cues The first step is to remember that all behavior is a form of commu- nication, says Dr. Nancy Ulrich, a licensed clinical psychologist at the Taconic Counseling Group in Fishkill. "As parents, our job is to try to look at all the factors that could be leading kids to communicate with a tantrum: organic (hunger, exhaus- tion), environmental (overstimu- lated or feeling discomfort), or an interpersonal situation that the child doesn't know how to navigate," she says. Once you have a sense of what your child is trying to communicate, you can determine whether it's a healthy need - like food or sleep - or an unhealthy need, and if it's the latter, decide what natural and logical consequences make sense. If they're misusing a toy, for example, you may decide they must save up allowance money to earn back the right to play with the toy. If they're refusing to eat a vegeta- ble, they may not be allowed to eat dessert until they've finished their broccoli. It's important that conse- quences feel logical rather than like a power struggle, Dr. Ulrich says. "Children want their parents to teach them and guide them," she adds. "They'll feel relieved when the situation becomes less of a power struggle and more of a conversation." Alternate ideas For young children who don't yet understand logical consequences, sending them to their room for a time-out can be frightening, says Dr. Andrea Grunblatt, a licensed psy- chologist at Grunblatt Psychology and Counseling Offices in Kingston. "They won't know how to soothe themselves, and will be left with the anger from the tantrum," she says. A better alternative for some chil- dren is to sit and hold them while you talk about what's upsetting them, she says. Often, physical movement can help kids work out their feelings, so having them jump up and down and stretch out their arms, squeeze a stress ball, or manipulate Play-Doh can help them show the feelings they are struggling to express. "It's really important that parents focus not on the behavior but on what caused the behavior," Dr. Grun- blatt says. "You should be curious rather than reactive, and help your children understand how to tolerate their feelings." Truth and consequences If you decide to implement a time-out, it should be coupled with "time-in," says Dr. Joy Dryer, a psy- chologist/psychoanalyst and presi- dent of the Hudson Valley Psycho- logical Association. "Adults need to pay attention when a child behaves well," she says. Smiles, hugs, pats on the head, and verbal praise all encourage positive behavior. Dr. Dryer also recommends using warning and reward systems with clearly predetermined consequences. "You can warn: 'You can't hit your sister. That's one.' When you get to 'three,' enforce whatever conse- quence you agreed upon earlier," she says. Implementing a reward system for good behavior can be anything from Time-Out alternatives: Creative consequences for kids "It's really important that parents focus not on the behavior but on what caused the behavior." DR. ANDREA GRUNBLATT Psychologist

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