In this month’s issue of Metro Parent Lansing’s Clinical Director, Lisa Bingham M.Ed., BCBA, LBA, provides families with helpful tips to turn negatives into positives when interacting with their child on the spectrum. Lisa provides three different strategies that are easy to incorporate into the daily routine: 1) Limiting the use of negative terms when their child isn’t doing what is expected of them (e.g., “Don’t run to the car,” “Stop eating with your mouth open,” etc.); 2) explaining to the child in positive terms what they would like them to do instead; and 3) becoming a “giver” instead of a “taker” in the eyes of your child.
In the interview Lisa explained, “It’s easy to respond with a ‘don’t do that’ or ‘you can’t use that’ when a child acts out, but those statements make it hard for kids to know what they should be doing instead.” This makes it difficult for them to make the changes the parents want to see. Turning negative statements into positive ones can require a slight shift in what a parent is looking for when interacting with their child. At times we can all take good behavior for granted and focus on what we want to see changed. Lisa suggests, “Rather than telling a child not to run, the parent could say, ‘I would like you to walk with me to the car.’” This provides clear direction for the child and lets them know what’s expected before they have a chance to run. In addition to telling a child what you would like to see, Lisa also emphasizes the importance of catching good behaviors in the moment, reminding your child how much you appreciate them.
Lisa’s final recommendation is for parents to make themselves the source of good things. It can be easy to allow your child to have free access to their favorite toys or activities, but then parents are stuck always being the one that takes items away when play time is over. To illustrate this predicament, Lisa uses the example of a child who enjoys watching TV before leaving in the morning. By simply keeping the remote unavailable until after the child is ready, the parent doesn’t have to be the one taking away the TV so their child will get ready, and can instead provide the remote as a reward for completing their morning routine. In this way, the parent becomes the “giver” rather than the “taker.”
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