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Preventing undesired behaviors

Failure to meet basic needs leads to feelings of anxiety.
Failure to meet basic needs leads to feelings of anxiety.
Photo by Betterworks.com via Flickr

Most discussions about discipline focus on what to do after misbehavior occurs. While that is a great thing to do, prevention can be just as valuable. If you can take steps to prevent undesired behaviors from occurring in the first place, parenting will be much less stressful. Keep in mind that following these strategies will not guarantee a perfectly behaved child 100% of the time. Children are people and people are imperfect. Parents must not hold their kids to a higher standard than even adults can meet.

Humans have a hierarchy of needs, and if the most basic needs are not being met, it is hard to focus on anything else. What are these basic needs?

According to Maslow's Hierarchy, they are as follows:
1.Physiological needs such as food, water, and sleep
2.Security
3.Love and belongingness
4.Esteem.

When these four levels of needs are met, people don't feel anything special, but when they are not being met, individuals become anxious.

The problem with anxiety is that it can be all-consuming, and individuals will try various ways to reach a place of homeostasis. Unfortunately, children who have not yet developed appropriate strategies to deal with their anxiety often act out in ways that are not desirable.

In order to prevent a large amount of troublesome behavior, parents must anticipate their children's needs, motives, and actions. Do you follow a schedule or routine? Did you set it or did your child? You may notice that while you weren't trying to set a routine, your child always gets hungry at certain times. Perhaps a nap is always necessary at the same time or they get tired at a certain point in the night. Paying attention to these cues can help.

It sounds obvious, but feed your child when he is hungry. Put your child to bed when she is tired. When possible try not to plan events or outings that interfere with meeting these needs in a timely manner. Because when a person is hungry or tired or thirsty, behavior management and self control are low on their list of priorities. That is true of people of all ages. Think about the last time that you were really hungry and didn't get a chance to eat right away. If you are like most people, you might have been feeling quite irritated at things that would usually be only minor annoyances. You might have been snapping at friends, coworkers, or family. Maybe you lost motivation to do what you needed to do.

Strategies:
1.Anticipate and meet your children's needs.
2.Use calm moments when everything is going well to teach them how to use their words to express their needs and feelings.
3.Remember that behavior is an expression of what is going on inside, and try to remain calm when your child is not. If you escalate, they will too.
4.Teach your child calming techniques, such as breathing exercises or looking at something peaceful like a calm down jar. Then if they begin to feel worked up, they can calm themselves before acting out.
5.Love yourself even when you mess up. Love your children even when they mess up too.

Do you have a discipline question about a specific behavioral issue? Send it to me at AshleyMKWrites@Gmail.com, and I may feature it in an upcoming article.

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