How to teach your child to tolerate waiting when they ask for something appropriately.

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Our past three posts have dealt with understanding why children engage in challenging behaviors, learning how to react to these challenging behaviors, and teaching your child alternative ways of getting the same thing that she/he wants when engaging in the challenging behavior.  If all of these steps are followed, most parents will now have the following question, “so how do I stop my child from asking for cookies all the time?” or “How do I stop my child from saying ‘excuse me mommy’ every time I talk with my husband?”  This is a great situation to be in!  You have managed to replace the challenging behaviors with a more appropriate way of handling the behaviors.  Now it is important to teach your child tolerance to waiting and being denied what they want.

The key is to decrease the appropriate requesting behavior just enough to where they are not getting too much of what they want, but not decreasing it so much to where the challenging behavior increases again.  If you all of a sudden start saying “no” to your child all the time because it is “annoying” or you feel she/he’s eating too many cookies, the challenging behavior will return; she/he will find a way to get those cookies.  So what can you do?

Gradually increase the wait time so she learns to engage in other things instead of always receiving immediate gratification.  When your child asks for a cookie nicely, say “okay, but first go put your shoes away.”  This is building compliance to your instructions while delaying the gratification.  Gradually increase the time or the number of activities that she/he completes between when she/he appropriately asks and when you give her what she/he wants.  This applies to when she/he wants things, wants your attention, wants to escape an activity, or even wants to engage in behaviors that feel good and asks to do it.

Your next question may be, “so what about those times when I just can’t give her what she or he wants?”  This is a wonderful question!  These are times when you really need to praise the appropriate communication, show them visually why you can’t give them what they want (they are all gone, you don’t have them, you are on a business phone call, etc.), and offer another preferred item so the appropriate requesting is paired with a positive outcome.

We hope that the sequence of posts related to challenging behaviors has helped you understand why they occur and given you strategies to problem solve and figure out how to handle them and what to teach your child instead.  Please contact us or your behavioral provider if you have any further detailed questions about your own child!

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