There are so many parenting tips out there, by the Ezzos and other parenting experts, but there are few as important as preventing behavior problems before they happen. Prevention can save so much heartache, for you and your child. In fact, if you do your best with prevention, you won’t need to discipline much. There are several factors that allow us to prevent behavior problems:
- Scheduling your day
- Making healthy meals and healthy sleep a priority
- Limiting freedoms
- Allowing alone-time with roomtime
- Keeping the child near you
- Having a plan for when things go awry
- Limiting child-centered parenting
- Getting “yes, mommy” and eye contact while training in first-time obedience
- Teaching the interrupt rule
- Having the child fold his hands to quiet the wiggles
- Encouraging and praising our children
I could go on. There is one other important technique that enables us to prevent behavior problems: the reflective sit time.
“A reflective sit time can serve three purposes. First, it is a preventative strategy used to control physical or emotional energy. This is when a child needs to stop, sit down, and get control. Reflective sit times can be used as a maintenance strategy to help a child realign his thinking, and gain self-control over current or potential wrong behavior and move toward wise behavior. Third, a reflective sit time can be used as a corrective strategy assisting a parent in bringing a child to a deeper understanding of his actions and to help facilitate true repentance,” (On Becoming Childwise, p. 217).
A reflective sit time simply means you remove the child from the “scene of the crime” and have him sit. This can be used for any offense and on any surface (couch, floor, bed, etc.). The child doesn’t need to be isolated like he does with a timeout, but he shouldn’t be allowed to play while sitting.
Keeping the child near you throughout the day is key to using this strategy effectively. Since prevention is the key, keeping the child near you will help you recognize problems before they happen.
In the Mom’s Notes, Carla Link tells the story of a child who threw all kinds of tantrums. She realized that before the child threw a tantrum, she would whine. The mom hadn’t recognized this, but Carla in her wisdom recognized the whine as the precursor to the tantrum. So she taught the mom to put the child in a reflective sit time at the point of the whine. Her idea was to never let it get to the tantrum stage by having the child gain control over her emotions while sitting. Brilliant!
Think through any chronic behavior problems you have with your child. Whether it’s fighting with siblings, being destructive with toys, hitting or kicking you, challenging your authority with an attitude, or your run-of-the-mill tantrum, see if there’s a consistent tell-tale sign that shows you that the behavior problem is about to hit. Then put him in a reflective sit time. If you’re not entirely sure of the precursor to your chronic problem, allow him to read a book or two while he’s sitting. Then if you find that the sit time isn’t working, take the book away.
The reflective sit time is such a simple tool, but it’s so powerful!