Does your child complain a lot? Here's an idea how to change that behavior:

IT SEEMS MY 7-YEAR OLD DAUGHTER COMPLAINS A LOT JUST FOR THE SAKE OF COMPLAINING. HOW CAN WE STOP IT?

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DR. RUTHERFORD: Let's talk about some positive behavior modification strategies that this parent can put to use immediately to change this behavior.

The first step is to help the child become aware of what she’s doing. She’s so used to complaining that she probably doesn't even realize that she's doing it anymore.

From now on, whenever she complains, stop, look her in the face, and in a quiet way ask, “Do you hear yourself?”

She’ll probably respond, “What?”

Remind her gently, “You’re complaining again. Do you hear yourself?” The point of this exercise is to engage her and help her to observe her own behavior. One has to recognize one's behavior before change is possible.

That’s the first step: to help her see and recognize her own behavior. The second strategy is to start behavior modification incentives. Remember that positive incentives work better than negative consequences, so we want to set this up to reward a positive change in behavior rather than to punish the undesired behavior.

Consider setting up a system like a sticker chart that tracks behavior on a daily basis. Every day that she doesn't complain she gets a special sticker to put on her chart and maybe an extra story at bedtime or other treat. When she accumulates  one week of stickers (seven stickers), she should receive an additional larger reward.

Be sure to lay out the ground rules with her in advance, keeping in mind that complaining is a habit for her and it takes constant reminders and much practice to break a habit, even for adults. Experts say that it takes a minimum of 90 days to break a habit, so don't expect...

Read the rest of Dr. Rutherford's advice at Conversations With My Mother.com

Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford publish Conversations With My Mother.com, an online resource for offering practical parenting tips and psychological insight into raising kids. Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist with a busy family practice for more than 30 years. She has degrees from Duke University, New York University, and the University of Denver. 

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