• Erin Dickson

4 Steps to Awesome Behavior in Children


Use this free workbook as a start to Create AWESOME Behavior in Children!

The other night was rough. My boys were giving me a run for my money and I couldn’t help but feel like I was caught in the middle of a Tom & Jerry episode. After an exhausting day of skiing for my oldest, I had to rush him to his allergist appointment in which he had to “sit still” for 20 minutes while the very patient doctor had to place some incredibly itchy and irritating allergens just under his skin. Following this procedure, upon the allergist’s return to the office, he then begins his “let’s see how much I can push her buttons” game. I don’t know if he was trying to push mine or the doctor’s, but let’s just say I’m sure she had a big ol’ drink waiting for her when she got home.

Going home did not improve matters much. On crutches, preparing meals and chasing children, does not make for a relaxing night. My mood was sinking fast and I knew there was no room for reflection or a change of attitude.

Yes, I chose that. That choice lead to nothing good. A lot of the anger and stress I was feeling came from guilt. Why was I only finding the negative in my oldest son? I know he has numerous positive qualities, what do I need to do to bring them out and put a damper on the not so positive ones? The constant discipline cannot be good for his sense of self, but how do I stop when his behavior is OUT OF CONTROL?

Use this free workbook as a start to Create AWESOME Behavior in Children!

I was told once when my children were young, that they chose me as their mother. Of course this was the same psychic who told me I was going to have to "STAND ON A CHAIR" to discipline my oldest, so how could she be wrong?

Sometimes, I need to remind myself of that to give them what they need. So the next day I decided to think about what is it that they need? What underlies the teasing, the impulsive acts, the tantrums? The obvious answer is attention, but I needed something more specific.

GRATITUDE always seemed so cliché to me. I remember sitting at the dinner table, spreading food around my plate so it appeared that I ate more than I had. My mom would say things like "You know, there are starving children in Ethiopia" which only lead to sarcastic and thoughtless remarks from me.

Only on Thanksgiving did I ever hear about GIVING THANKS and then I had to think of all the things I was thankful for. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me and truly didn’t REGISTER. Yes, we can easily think of things we are thankful for – but are we truly thanking the Universe, God, Spirit, whatever greater power it is that we believe in? Are we truly appreciating these things and imagining what our lives would be without them? Perhaps if you’re no stranger to gratitude, then you are. If you’re like me, then you really didn’t GET it.

It wasn’t until I had crutches that I truly gave thanks for my ability to walk. It wasn’t until I watched my formerly active father crippled with Parkinson’s disease, that I truly gave thanks for the days that he was healthy. It wasn’t until he died, that I was truly grateful for his off-color jokes. It wasn’t until I had children, that I was truly grateful for the fleeting moments of free time in my life. It wasn’t until one of them was sick, that I was truly grateful for their health.

Why does it take such DIRE circumstances for us to notice and recognize how BEAUTIFUL OUR LIVES ARE? No matter what kind of pain I am experiencing, I KNOW that someone is always experiencing more. No matter how spirited my children are, I know that I’m so incredibly BLESSED that I have them.

So…the answer to the discipline question was SO much simpler than I had expected. I had some notepads that I had collected over the years as gifts from students that I thought I might never use. I grabbed two of them and assigned each one to each one of the boys. I told them that for each kind act I witnessed, they would receive a “+” and for each unkind act, a “-“. If at the end of the day they had more pluses than minuses, they would earn time on their electronics. If the opposite were true, their electronics would be removed until they were earned back. At the end of the week, if every day the pluses outweighed the minuses, they would be allowed to choose a small gift out of a designated basket.

The days to come were quite EYE-OPENING. I noticed that as I started to appreciate the very simple, small acts of kindness they engaged in, they began performing them more. Now, okay, that seems obvious, I suppose we all sort of KNOW that. But until I was absolutely consistent in my measurement of it…I wasn’t seeing it. It’s so VERY difficult to see and appreciate the very small things sometimes.

Two weeks have passed and our home is a bit more peaceful. Not only that, but happier. I’ve started a morning ritual of writing those things that I’m grateful for. I realized there’s a lot more than I knew. Once I started doing this, I noticed less of the icky stuff. This morning when things started to get “icky” I decided to appreciate my last few minutes with my little one before he was off to his Dad’s house. I turned it around because I chose to be grateful for those moments and decided it wasn’t THAT big of a deal that he was not ready when I asked him to be. We had some smiles on the way there, and we were not actually late at all. If we were...oh well. Small changes BIG results.

Use this free workbook as a start to Create AWESOME Behavior in Children!

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