Adjust Your Program to Changing Circumstances
Fit Your Program to Special Occasions
So far I have discussed adjusting your program to meet changing needs. Some other reasons for making modifications in your program warrant separate discussion.
Changes in family routines due to special occasions such as holidays sometimes require program changes. The key is to plan for and make the changes ahead of time to avoid later trying to make adjustments in the face of disappointed children unable to follow their programs; as always, it is important to avoid inadvertently reinforcing fussing.
On the way to visit grandparents for Thanksgiving, your children in the back seat begin fussing with each other, the conflict growing as the miles pass. You tell them both to stay quiet. This momentarily silences the children, but the din picks up again , with some whining about the long trip and complaints that “she is on my side!” Eventually you react angrily, the children pout, and the trip, meant to be such fun, turns bleak and dark. You might be tempted to try a “fix” by announcing that if the children behave themselves, they can earn a certain number of credits. However, by that point, with irritation in the air, it is likely that the real impact would be to reinforce the earlier conflict rather than the hoped for calm. In the process you might taint the program as a whole.
Planning ahead can avoid such hassles and set the stage for a pleasant family outing. Anticipate coming changes in your routine that may be challenges to the children and to you during the atypical circumstances. That will allow you to use your program to avoid problems and reward responsible behavior fitting the situation. For example, to avoid the above conflict-ridden trip, during the family review a day or two before the planned trip, you might say:
Children, Thursday is Thanksgiving and your school day items won’t apply when we drive to Grandma’s for dinner. We know the long drive can be boring and tiring. To help you with the trip, just for tomorrow and for Sunday when we come back, we are going to have a special part in the program. Miranda, for every half-hour you stay calm and pleasant in the car, you will get five credits. And Marky, for each fifteen minutes you stay calm and pleasant, you’ll get a token. We know you both can do really well. We are going to have such a good time!
With a plan and a special chart to track success, your role would be to praise the children for each success. You also would have to improvise a time and place for the daily review while away from home. And, if you so choose, you might modify other aspects of the home program for the days while at Grandma’s if you anticipate any other challenges for your children’ behavior.
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There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million.
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