Like most parents I get frustrated with behaviors that seem like they should be easy enough for our children to master and yet, they keep repeating them.
It’s aggravating and truly tiring to talk to your child about the same behavior over and over.
So how do we, as parents, help our children learn a new behavior?
There are some tried and true techniques that have proven effective. They do take time and perseverance on the parent’s part but the reward is worth it.
Let’s start by picking a behavior many of us deal with everyday. Interruption when others are speaking (also called impulsive speech) is a behavior many younger children and teens with ADHD struggle with daily.
I am going to walk you through some simple steps to reducing impulsive speech interruption by your child. These same methods can be used for other troublesome behaviors as well such as hitting and speaking rudely.
I will use “Susie” as my example of Impulsive speech/interruption behaviors.
Step 1: Let’s start by writing the behavior in positive terms or what you actually want to see your child doing.
- Susie will wait patiently for her turn to speak by noticing when others have finished speaking.
- Susie will calmly take her turn to speak.
- Susie will learn how to read others body language and facial expressions to learn when others have finished speaking.
- Susie will place her hand on the parent’s arm to let them know she has something to say and then she will wait for the parent to recognize her hand by touching her hand with theirs. (Arm touch technique-explained later)
STEP 2: Create one simple sentence to create a goal.
Example: Susie will wait her turn to speak.
Step 3; Have a discussion with Susie (not during an episode of interrupting (but calmly later) about what someone who as finished speaking looks like. For example, Mommy closes her mouth and makes eye contact with Susie. Susie can even be taught to ask if she may have a turn to speak.
Step 4: Create a behavior chart with the child’s help. This chart should only have ten spaces for stickers/stamps/etc. Each space will be filled when the parent catches the child waiting patiently for their turn to speak.
These stickers/stamps are tokens for a reward such as an outing to a movie with the family. The child should help pick the reward based upon their age and ability to pick an acceptable reward. Parents can help the child brainstorm reward possibilities.
Great link to behavior and chore charts:
Step 5: Verbally reward the child with positive praise EVERY SINGLE time the do the positive behavior and ignore all negative behaviors unless someone is getting hurt.
This must be consistently done by the parents for the change to occur and stick.
Never miss an opportunity to reward positive behavior changes with the physical reward of the sticker and the verbal reward of positive, complimentary words. Children want to be noticed behaving as much as they want the reward.
Step 6: Children need adequate food, rest, and down time to perform their best, just like adults. Be sure your child goes to bed on time, eats healthy food choices and has regular meal times. Also, children need time to just be children with no responsibilities or structure to their play.
Step 7: If the child interrupts, remind them gently that they will get an opportunity to speak in a moment, go back to your conversation and when you complete your conversation, remember to compliment them for waiting patiently and fixing the behavior. Everyone deserves a chance to fix a problem on his or her own.
Younger children will need more reminding and children and teens with ADHD may need extra patience on the part of the parent.
The Arm-Touch technique.
How to: Explain to your child that if they need to speak when you, your spouse or any other adult is talking that they can come to you and touch your arm gently. You may even have to ask them to use only one finger. You will then acknowledge them by touching their finger and smiling. You will complete your conversation, excuse yourself to the other adult and ask your child what they need. No matter the importance to you, your child has something they need to share. Take a moment and hear them out.
If the child has an actual emergency, they can say 911 and they know you will immediately give them attention to help with the emergency.
Reminder: You deserve a reward too! Parenting is hard and Mommies and Daddies often forget to do something positive for themselves after a successful parenting moment. Hire a sister and have a date night. Go out with friends. Have a spa day. Take time for yourself so you are rejuvenated and have patience for the next parenting adventure.