The festive holidays are just around the corner and families will have a busy social calendar in the next few weeks. Having people visiting your home or going to visit friends and relatives can be extremely exciting for children, and in turn can lead to a variety of problem behaviours such as showing off for attention or having tantrums. Children can often learn that problem behaviour is overlooked when others are around and can use it as an opportunity to misbehave, sometimes turning what should be a fun visit in to a stressful time for parents.
Prepare your child in advance for having visitors. Tell your child who is coming and what you would like them to do whilst they are visiting. It is often useful to plan some activities to keep children entertained, or take some activities with you, because bored children are more likely to misbehave. Where possible, try to plan visitors or visits at times that don’t disrupt your child’s usual routine – tired and hungry children are less likely to be happy guests or hosts.
Setting two or three simple rules can help remind your child what is expected of them whilst you have visitors or are out. For example, say ‘excuse me’ if you need to speak to mum or dad and wait until we have finished speaking, share your toys, play nicely with others. Discuss the rules with your child, along with rewards and consequences, and remind them of the rules again before visits or visitors. Agree on a small reward with your child if they follow the rules and behave well.
Give your child lots of praise each time you see them behaving well so that they are getting your attention for the good behaviour rather than having to misbehave to get attention from adults. Check in on them every ten minutes or so to make sure they are playing well and engage them in a different activity if they are starting to get bored.
If your child starts to misbehave, get close and gain their attention by using their name, tell them what you want them to stop doing and what you would like to see them doing instead. Follow up with a consequence if they do not do as you have asked. Consequences could include removing the activity for a period of time, having some time out (if away from home this could be in a quiet space or standing next to mum/dad for a period of time), or simply not receiving the reward at the end.
Once the visit is over review what went well with your child to reinforce the behaviour you would like to see next time. If there was a problem following one of the rules remind your child of the rule and set a goal for next time you have visitors.
Community Family Care, based at Staunton, helps families, children and young people in need of additional support. It seeks to improve parents’ confidence, help with routines to get children to school, or more complex support dealing with challenging behaviours at home.
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