Are you the parent or babysitter of a small child who is the day care demon? Do they play far too rough and drag the cat around the home by its tail? This can be hard to deal with because adults view this behaviour through their own terms of reference and therefore it appears cruel and dislikeable. And it is - but toddlers don’t always automatically know whether a behavior is right or wrong – it’s up to the adults to teach them. ‘Gentleness training’ can have a profound effect on your child and your family.
Help Them To Learn By Example
Children learn a great deal by copying the adults around them. How often have you heard or seen your child copying something you did or said? Have you noticed that it’s often something they’re not supposed to know? That shows how they watch you constantly and follow your lead.
Just take a moment to think how you feel when someone is being hyperactive, shouting and generally creating mayhem? Anxious? Nervous? Unsettled? If you are constantly rushing around and barking orders the chances are that your child will feel all of those things. They will also see it as the ‘normal’ way to behave and will continue to copy you. If you can’t be quiet and gentle, why should your child?
Slow it down. Aim to speak calmly and be gentle yourself – it won’t take long for your child to follow.
Demonstrate What You Want
Show your child how to behave. If the cat is the victim, teach the child how to hold it properly and explain that it has feelings. Let the child help to feed it. If this is successful, give high praise and a treat such as reading the child a favorite story. If the ‘good’ behaviour lapses, simply repeat the lesson and withhold any treats until the behaviour is improved.
If you are expecting a baby, work with your child before the baby is born. Use a doll to teach the child how to touch and hold a baby. It’s easier to do it prior to the birth as you have more time to spend.
Make sure your child gets the whole package – gentleness in voice and actions. Explain to them how suddenly shrieking can terrify an animal or new baby.
Teach them that this new behavior is for everyone – animals, the new baby, members of the family and playmates. Don’t forget to praise them when they get it right and always withhold praise if they relapse. Consistency is key.
Be Patient and Don’t Criticize
This may take some time so pace yourself. Keep remembering that the child is learning a whole new behavior and it won’t happen overnight.
Be careful with the words that you use. Avoid telling a child that they’re doing something ‘wrong’ – that can damage self-esteem. It’s more positive to simply show them again and then praise them highly when they succeed.
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