The Single Best Way to Help Your Child's Behavior

Kids with learning disabilities often struggle with behavior problems. It’s no wonder. Typically, they’re mishandled, mistreated, and misunderstood. It’s no wonder they kick back at times.

All too often, they launch into poor behaviors that stick. They don’t mean to do this, but at some point, they dig in their heels. They get positive reinforcement for their poor behaviors or they’d rather be known as the bad kid than the dumb kid. They might be lashing out because they’re fatigued or confused.

Still, it’s not in your child’s best interest to allow poor behavior. Schools don’t like it. Other kids don’t like it. Other parents don’t like it. And I’m sure that you don’t like it either.

In my last blog post, I offered up a behavior chart that can help a child’s behavior…but if you want to know the single best way to help, I’m going to whisper it in your ear right now.

(dramatic pause)

“Catch them being good.”

That’s right. Positive praise will get you further with these kids than any other form of behavior modification program you can come up with.

But hold onto your hats. This kind of praise can’t be empty or meaningless to the child…such as “Good job.” “Nice effort.” “Nice work.”

These are meaningless to the learning disabled child…and most children and people in general. Sure, we’re all guilty of saying these meaningless positive phrases, but we have to be aware that they usually fall on deaf ears.

So, what kind of positive words do you say?

The words need to be specific to the behavior you’re trying to strengthen.

This can get tricky, of course. For starters, though, just look for any specific behavior that is worth mentioning. Some people will moan. “But he doesn’t behave at all. He’s a terror all day long.”

Take a breath. Surely, a child does something good at least once in a day. I will tell teachers that even if you have to say, “I like how you’re holding your pencil,” then it’s a start.

Once you start coming up with some specific positive phrases, you can start dialing it in to the behaviors that you want. Kids want to do well. They want specific praise. But they often get locked into the bad behavior cycle as a way of surviving.

As I walked around with our students in our private school Monday, I told them things like, “Look at how nice your handwriting is. I’m proud of you.” “Wow, you really worked hard to keep those letters in the lines.” “You read 57 words in one minute. That’s outstanding.”

Some of these kids came to us with poor behaviors. They kicked back to a system that didn’t know the simple act of giving positive and specific feedback. They tried harder. We didn’t have any behavior problems.

All from a few specific and positive words.