An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Sometimes, when you’re thinking through the causes of misbehavior, you realize that your child was somehow set up for failure, and that preventative measures could have been taken to avoid the misbehavior. In that case, a consequence might not be appropriate, but the misbehavior could be a signal to you that systems need to be put in place to help your child succeed the next time.
Pay attention to patterns. Does your child have trouble behaving when she’s tired, hungry, dehydrated, overstimulated and so on. If so, how can you set her up for success?
A Word About Dehydration
On a quick side note, so many kids suffer from dehydration. Consider having two distinct water breaks in the day when your child sits down to drink water. The rule of thumb is half your child’s body weight in ounces of water per day. If he is sweating or doing physical activity, he’ll need more. An 80 pound child needs 40 ounces of water a day if he’s no sweating. That would mean four 10-ounce glasses! People tell us all the time that their kids drink plenty of water without any prompting, but we’ve found that’s usually not the case. Most kids won’t opt to drink four 10-ounce glasses in a day.
If your child is thirsty, she is already dehydrated, and dehydration can cause kids to misbehave.
Transitioning from one activity to another or place to another can be challenging for some kids, especially toddlers and pre-schoolers. If your child often behaves badly during transitions, put measures in place to prepare your child for the transition.
An egg timer is a great thing! Pack one in your bag, and let your preschooler know you are setting it for five minutes. When the timer beeps, it’s time to go. Also create a transition routine. When my oldest son was small, transitions were very difficult for him (typical of autistic kids). I sang a goodbye song whenever they were leaving a place, and it helped him accept the transition.
Other Preventative Tips
Timers are also a great way to prevent arguments during turn-taking. When it comes to splitting something,Jody came up with a great tool for preventing arguments. One child divides the thing, and the other child chooses her half first.
Routines also help prevent misbehavior. Have consistent routines for meal times, bath and bedtime.
If you know your child has sensory integration difficulty, you may need to avoid large, crowded places. When you can’t avoid them, bring tools to help your child escape the stimulation (i.e. an ipad in restaurant, ear plugs, etc).
Poor grades could mean a student needs more help, or there’s an issue seeing the board or hearing the instructions. Your child may need extra help or have to be moved to a better location in the classroom. These are preventative measures.
Be careful about rushing your children needlessly. Your child shouldn’t suffer because of your bad time management habits. A pre-schooler who just learned to tie her shoes could melt down when she is rushed out the door and not allowed to practice her new skill.
Jody and I often say, “Your lack of preparation does not constitute an emergency on my part.” The same should hold true for our kids. Our lack of preparation should not constitute an emergency on our kids’ part.
Another important preventative measure is prepping our kids before we arrive someplace. Talk about what is expected of them. Explain to them what the environment will be like, who will be there, what foods they will be expected to eat, what forms of entertainment may or not be available, what they are allowed or not allowed to do, how long you’ll be there, etc. Role playing in the car on the way to a playdate is a great way to prevent arguments and empower your kids with tools in case things go wrong.
Our kids should also be memorizing scripture on a regular basis — at least a verse a week. Remember, God’s word is alive and powerful and can discern our thoughts. Getting the Word in their hearts is a long-term preventative measure for future misbehavior.