Hesperian Health Guides
Chapter 40: Ways to Improve Learning and Behavior
|“I still feed Raúl myself because when I let him try to eat by himself he throws his food all over the place. The more I punish him the worse he gets.”|
|“Erica begins to cry and scream every time I put her down for a minute. It’s worse when I take her out where there are other people. At the river she has such tantrums that I can’t finish washing the clothes.”|
|“Jorge is always starting fights with other children or doing other bad things—at home and in school. He seems to enjoy making people mad at him!”|
These and other behavior problems can occur in both non-disabled and disabled children. But some disabled children have special difficulty learning acceptable and appropriate behavior. Children who are mentally slow may develop poor behavior because they are confused by the unclear or conflicting messages they get from their parents and others. Children who are physically disabled sometimes act in ‘naughty’ or self-centered ways because they have become dependent on others to do things for them. They lack self confidence, and are afraid of being forgotten. On the other hand, children who are often neglected or ignored when they are quiet and behave well, may learn to behave badly to get attention.
As a rule, if children repeatedly behave badly, it is because they get something satisfying or rewarding from their bad behavior. Therefore, to help children learn acceptable behavior, we need always to CLEARLY LET THEM SEE THAT ‘GOOD’ BEHAVIOR IS MORE SATISFYING THAN ‘BAD’ BEHAVIOR.
In this chapter we explore ways to do this, using a ‘behavioral approach’ which you can divide into 5 steps:
- Carefully observe the circumstances of your child’s unacceptable behavior.
- Try to understand why your child behaves as he does.
- Set a reasonable goal for improvement based on his immediate needs and his developmental level.
- Plan to work toward the goal in small steps, always rewarding ‘good’ behavior and making sure ‘bad’ behavior brings no pleasure, attention, or reward.
- After the child’s behavior has improved, gradually move toward a more natural (less planned) way of relating to him.