Many parents ask us how to tackle their child’s behaviours. “My child started playing with his saliva; how can I stop that?” or “She’s pinching a lot more than before, what can I do?”

Before we can decide on a game plan to rectify behaviours, we first need to work out why a child is behaving the way they are. All behaviours serve a purpose and we need to pinpoint this before we do anything else.

Keeping track:

The first thing we usually ask parents to do is to start keeping track of their child’s behaviours. This can be in the form of a diary or we could use something called an “ABC data sheet” (A: Antecedent, B: Behaviour, C: Consequence). Keeping track is useful because:

  • It allows you to check whether your perception of your child’s behaviour is actually true;
  • It helps you to see patterns in your child’s behaviour;
  • It helps you check your own reactions to your child and how consistent you are in the way you deal with their behaviour;
  • You can start to see possible causes or high-risk situations by seeing where the behaviour usually happens and with whom.
A good behaviour diary will include three important elements:
  1. What happened before the behaviour occurred? (antecedent). It is important to note down the people involved, when and where it happened and everything that was happening at that exact time (e.g. did mum approach with an instruction to clean up toys, or was your child playing by themselves, or were they asked to get dressed by grandma whilst in the middle of a videogame).
  2. The behaviour: describe it in as much detail as you can – elaborate on the intensity and the frequency.
  3. What happened after the behaviour? (consequence). You will need to note down what others did or said to the child and how the child reacted (e.g. did mum give up on asking for the toys to be cleaned up or did grandma turn off the videogame and ignore the crying?).

Try to record the behaviour for at least a week and see if any patterns emerge. Only when you have a clear idea of why your child is behaving the way they are, can you decide on a strategy that fits!