Behavior Charts: The Basics

Behavior Chart Basics

Behavior charts are helpful tools for encouraging appropriate, responsible, and respectful behaviors in children.  Perhaps the most challenging part of implementing a behavior chart is the actual set up.  Below you will find a list of strategies to make this process go smoothly.

Behavior Chart Basics:

Work WITH your child to create realistic behavior expectations.

  • Sit down with your child and discuss the desired expectation. Word expectations in a positive way.
    • “Pick up toys” as opposed to “don’t make a mess”
    • “Listen to directions after one or fewer warnings” instead of “Don’t argue”
  • Allow the child to choose what types of rewards can be earned. Rewards do not have to include buying anything.
    • Special time with a parent
    • Extra bedtime stories
    • Screen time
  • Be consistent
    • In the example above about listening to directions, if you give more than one warning, the opportunity to earn a point or sticker that time is over.
    • Decide what is acceptable and use that same benchmark in all situations.
  • Create a system that that gives the child opportunities to earn rewards incrementally
    • 2 points for cleaning plate independently, 1 point for cleaning plate after a reminder
    • A target number of points earned throughout the week can earn a larger, “weekend reward”.
  • Give child many opportunities to be successful
    • Encourage him/her to try something a second time if initially done incorrectly.
    • If your chart has multiple behaviors, be sure to include a behavior that your child already demonstrates most of the time.

Sample Behavior Charts:

Desired Behavior:Put toys away when finished playing Reward
Extra bedtime story
Stay up 10 minutes later than regular bedtime
I choose dessert after dinner

Example behavior chart for single behavior

 

Behavior/ Day Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Behavior 1
Behavior 2
Behavior 3

Example Behavior Chart for Multiple Behaviors

Do you have experience with behavior charts?  What are your tips on making them effective?  Please leave your feedback below.

 NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

sibling rivalry

3 Tips to Manage Sibling Rivalry

What’s the best part about having a sibling? The opportunity to tease, annoy, and meltdown under the protection of unconditional love and support. While sibling rivalry can be an expected part of family dynamics, the goal should be to reduce tension and provide more amicable means of communication rather than to eradicate this “normal” part of growth and development.

3 Tips for Handling Sibling Rivalry:

  1. Address tension around jealousy. If your child is envious of her sister’s peer group, new shoes, or3 Tips to Tame Sibling Rivalry involvement in advanced swimming lessons encourage her to separate her feelings of self with feelings about her sister. Allow her to express feeling happy for her sister’s accomplishments and gain rational thinking about why her sister is in advanced swimming and why she is still in tadpoles (age, experience, etc.). Then, have your daughter highlight positives in her life to offset jealousy regarding the “have nots.”
  2. De-escalate negative emotions. When tensions flare, as they will, encourage both children to take a “chill out” or a “break” to reduce arguments. Since siblings have more comfort and familiarity, nasty messages and below-the-belt commentary are not likely to be filtered. Diffuse the argument or tension by sending each child in opposite directions. When both are calm, they can talk and work through whatever the situation is. Don’t just send one child away, send both away so the message is fair, no “you like her better.”
  3. Encourage positive bonding time. Although lifestyles are hectic and schedules are full, ask your daughters to identify activities they would both like to engage in to facilitate fun memory-making and bonding. Instead of your children focusing on what the other siblings has, this will create an equal playing field and provide an opportunity for uniformity.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today.

playdate and sensory needs

Play Date Tips for Children With Sensory Needs

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) recognizes play as one of the most fundamentally important occupations in a child’s life. Through play, children are able to make better sense of their world, learn how to adapt to new and unfamiliar situations, and interact and socialize with their peers appropriately. As adults, it is important to provide children the “just right challenge” when preparing for a playdate, especially when a child has sensory needs which could impact their participation. Check out these 3 strategies for ideas on how to prepare for an upcoming play date.

3 Strategies For Play Dates When A Child Has Sensory Challenges:

  1. Load up with heavy work activities before the play date, which are helpful in modulatingSensory Strategies for Playdates arousal, increasing attention, and improving self-regulation. These activities may include jumping on the trampoline, swinging on a swing, laying over an exercise ball, or bouncing on a hippity-hop ball. For children who are sensory seeking, it is especially important to give their body a safe and therapeutic way to release excess energy, especially before they are expected to socialize with peers in organized and cooperative play.
  2. Meet your child where he is by offering a play experience he does not feel stressed about engaging in. For many children with sensory needs, it can be stressful to have to worry about socializing with peers. Providing opportunities that can facilitate parallel play (independent play within proximity to other children), associative play (interacting socially, without adhering to structured rules or game play), or cooperative play (organized activity) may help to bridge the gap between the social demands of the day and their level of comfort.  Activities such as puzzles, water toys, Legos, blocks, and trains can all be used in transitioning between individual play and cooperative play, allowing your child the opportunity to explore without becoming too overwhelmed or overstimulated.
  3. Play dates can be a perfect opportunity to get your child interested in multi-sensory activities. Often, when they see a peer engage in an activity, they are more likely to want to try it themselves. Setting up the environment with various opportunities to engage in sensory play, such as rice bins, baby pools, Lite Brite’s, dried pasta, finger paint, or a make-your-own slime center may also appeal to the sensory seeking kids who love to explore and get their hands messy.

If your child has difficulty participating in structured play, occupational therapy can help. Both play and social participation are two main occupations that foster growth in children. Occupational therapists are trained in providing skilled intervention to encourage a child to explore and engage in play activities that result in successful interactions within the community[1].

Is it Bad Behavior or SPD?


NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Occupational Therapy Practice Framework: Domain and Process 2nd Edition. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, November/December 2008, Vol. 62, 625-683. doi:10.5014/ajot.62.6.625

anger

Tips to Deal With Your Child’s Anger

Are you feeling frustrated by the grocery store meltdowns, refusal for compliance in basic tasks/demands, and the yelling and screaming that permeates the house? When I ask my clients if it is ok to be angry, more times than not they respond with “no.” In fact anger is the most readily available emotion we have as it functions like an umbrella that houses other emotions as well. It might be harder to access feelings such as resentment, jealousy, fear, or sadness without anger, and often times the response is filtered through anger. Since anger is a basic emotion we all experience, I strive to educate my clients that of course it is ok to be angry, BUT it is what we do with our anger that makes all the difference in the world. Read on for tips to help your child deal with anger.

Tips To Help Your Child Deal With Anger:

  1. Size matters. Not all “mads” are created equal and therefore, the reaction to feeling upsetHelp Your Child Handle Anger shouldn’t always look the same. Work with your child to evaluate the size and severity of problems to garner a better, more reasonable reaction. For instance, if the child was disappointed that there was no more chocolate ice cream left, encourage him to asses if this is a big, medium, or small problem. If it is small, there should not be an epic meltdown. Instead, help your child identify a small reaction such as asking for a different flavor of ice cream, identify the positives about alternative dessert options, and establish a different time to get his ice cream (tomorrow night, etc.).
  2. Use your words, not your body. The communication of anger through verbalization allows the child the chance to express their grievance and provide a forum for collaboration and resolution. If a child begins to emotionally dysregulate (i.e. temper tantrum) the problem cannot be solved as this is not seen as a productive medium. Encourage your child to de-escalate through deep breathing, counting, writing out his thoughts, and/or removal from the triggering environment to reduce behavioral reaction and facilitate the setting for calm communication. Give the child time to calm down before working through the issue.
  3. Check your own anger. If your child’s temper is escalating your own mood, take time away to cool off and recalibrate. Removal from the triggering situation will provide both the child and parent time to re-regulate and establish an effective solution to the problem.
  4. Validation is key. Regardless of the nature of the concern, validate the experience of anger but create boundaries about what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior to communicate anger. Creating a de-escalation plan for child and parent can be helpful to reduce the duration and frequency of tantrums.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

sensory strategies angry child

Sensory Strategies to Calm the Angry Child

When children are upset, adults are usually able to tell by their behaviors. Some children scream, others cry, throw things or hit someone or something nearby. Below are some therapeutic solutions that can help to calm an angry child safely and effectively.

Sensory Solutions to Help Your Angry Child Calm Down:

  • Provide your child a safe, therapeutic way to release any excessive energy they haveSensory Strategies to Calm the Angry Child from becoming angry. For some children, this may look like hitting their pillow, running, jumping rope, or playing on the swing set. Other children prefer crawling into a safe, but compact space (such as in between a mountain of pillows) or inside of a self-made fort full of cushions, pillows, stuffed animals, and small fidgets. Providing proprioceptive activities, including back rubs, massages, or bear hugs can be helpful tools to use when trying to manage emotional regulation.
  • Teach your child self-calming breathing strategies. When your child is visibly upset or angry, instruct them to breathe in like they are smelling flowers for 5 seconds, and exhale like they are blowing out birthday candles for 5 seconds, for up to one minute at a time. This helps to trigger the parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the body down and reducing stress  (click here for 5 yoga activities to help your child calm down).
  • Be proactive. Use a visual chart to help children remember safe ways to manage their anger. Using language such as, “When I feel upset or angry, I can…” combined with visuals of previously learned strategies (deep breathing, back rubs, fidgets, bear hugs, etc.) can help your child learn how to independently manage anger appropriately.
  • When your child is angry, it is important to avoid immediate punishment. Identify a safe, quiet place for the child to go to so that they can implement self-calming strategies to help better their mood. For younger children, set a visual timer for 5-10 minutes. Let the child know they have until the time runs out to calm their body down, and give them a choice of 2 strategies to help them feel better. For older children, encourage them to set a visual timer to decide on the length of the time-out before they are expected to return to the activity.

Is it Bad Behavior or SPD?

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

 

poop on potty

Help! My Child Won’t Poop on the Potty

You have started the process of potty training, and your child is starting to make progress with urinating in the toilet. Hooray! Now comes bowel training, which tends to be more challenging. Some children will begin to poop in the toilet after the first occurrence, while other children may take longer. It is very common for bowel training to take longer since it is something that does not happen as much as urination, and some children may associate pain or discomfort with the toilet.  Some common issues that arise during bowel training include the following: child not wanting to sit on the toilet, child only pooping in his diaper or pull-up, and holding in bowel movements. Below are some strategies that can be used to make this process easier.

Tips to Get Your Child to Poop on the Potty:

    • Try to figure out exactly why your child will not poop in the toilet. There are a number ofHelp! My Child Won't Poop on the Potty reasons why a child won’t poop in the potty such as being scared of the toilet, not liking the sound of the flushing, etc.
      • If you child does have some type of fear of the toilet, begin having them touch the toilet, then eventually sit on the toilet with his clothes on and the lid down, then eventually sit on the toilet with the lid up. You can do these activities 3-4 times a day for a few minutes at a time to start, then eventually increase the time spent near or on the toilet. Be sure to reinforce and praise your child after each positive experience with the toilet.
      • Provide a potty seat and/or a stool for him to place his feet on to help your child feel secure on the toilet. Some children have fears of falling in or falling off the toilet, so providing these items will allow your child to feel more stable on the toilet.
    • If you have a boy and he is standing to urinate, begin having him sit while he urinates, so he can get comfortable sitting on the toilet.
    • Begin tracking the time of day when your child has bowel movements, and look for trends. If you notice your child always has bowel movements around bedtime, then you can start having him sit on the toilet at that time of day.
    • If your child will only poop in a diaper or pull-up, you can allow him to wear these initially, but require him to to stay in the bathroom while he poops.
      • Once he is successful with this, you can then have them sit on the toilet with the pull-up on, then eventually phase the pull-up out.
    • Create a reward system. Have a sticker chart or some other type of visual reward system, so your child has motivation to poop in the toilet. Allow your child to help choose his reward.
      • In the beginning, reward your child the first few times he successfully poops in the potty. Then after 5-6 successful times, make the reward dependent on her pooping in the potty 3 days in a row, then a week in a row, etc.
    • Provide natural consequences for accidents (i.e., have your child assist with the clean-up). Never yell or punish your child if he has an accident.
    • Let you child read a book, hold his favorite toy, or listen to music while sitting on the toilet. If he is tense or upset, he will not be able to have a bowel movement.
      • If you suspect your child may have constipation or any other type of bowel issue, contact your pediatrician. Also contact your pediatrician if you suspect your child is holding in his bowel movements.
    • Once your child eventually poops in the toilet, make a huge deal about it and reward him with his favorite foods, toys, activities, etc. so he is more likely to go again in the future.
    • Remember to be patient, as some children take a little longer to start pooping in the toilet, but sooner or later they will be fully potty trained.


Potty Training 101: The Easy How-To Guide For Parents Download our free, 15-Page eBook

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

impact of untreated mental illness

When Mental Illness Goes Untreated

Homelessness, incarceration, violence, suicide.  These terms bring dark and upsetting images to mind for most everyone.  You may be asking, what do these phenomena have in common?  The answer is that the chances of experiencing one or more of these adversities is increased when individuals with mental illness do not receive proper treatment.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness defines mental illness as “aThe Impact of Untreated Mental Illness condition that impacts a person’s thinking, feeling or mood may affect and his or her ability to relate to others and function on a daily basis. Each person will have different experiences, even people with the same diagnosis.”

With so much variability, it seems nearly impossible to provide a truly comprehensive answer to the question: What happens when mental illness goes untreated?  However, in recent years there has been a growing amount of research studies analyzing the impact of mental health on both individuals as well as society as a whole.  The impact that mental illness can have on individuals changes throughout the lifespan.  Young children with separation anxiety, for example, likely experience significant challenges related to the transition from spending their days at home with Mom to spending their days at school.  This can take a toll on both the upset child as well as her or her parents.  An older child with depression, however, may struggle to stay focused in class, have difficulties forming and maintaining friendships, and even fall behind academically.

Although we, as mental health professionals, still have a great deal more to learn about mental illness and treatment, one fact we know to be true is that earlier detection and treatment leads to improved outcomes.  When untreated, mental health conditions can worsen and the impact on daily life (work, relationships, physical health) can grow significantly.  Often people with mental illness develop methods of coping that can have negative consequences.  The sooner individuals can gain understanding and learn to manage their mental health effectively, the smaller the impact that the mental illness will have on their lives.  After all, borrowing another quote from the NAMI website, “without mental health, we cannot be fully healthy.”     

Anxiety Disorders

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

healthy sense of self

How to Help Your Daughter Cultivate a Healthy Sense of Self

In a media-obsessed society, a variety of toxic messages are presented that dictate how girls should look, think, and act to be considered beautiful. Bombarded with unrealistic images of perfection, a child’s view of self-worth can become easily jaded. Coupled with images posted on social media, TV, and other advertisements, are the underlying messages that children are exposed to from their parents. If a mother is dissatisfied with her body, her maladaptive relationship with food and patterns of negative self-talk become normalized. Follow these guidelines to help your daughter cultivate a healthy sense of self.

Here are some helpful strategies to help your daughter debunk negative perceptions of self:

  1. Redefine “healthy”: Discuss healthy expectations for weight and physicality. Being healthyHelp Your Daughter Cultivate a Healthy Sense of Self doesn’t mean skipping meals, wearing tiny clothing sizes, or dieting. Healthy means eating balanced meals encompassing all food groups, eating when hungry, not eating when not hungry, and living an active lifestyle. Consult with your pediatrician to help outline appropriate guidelines for weight and body mass index.
  2. Highlight non-physical attributes to define self: Help your child focus on her strengths and other positive aspects to garner self-value. Instead of fixating on physical appearance, have your child identify several unique qualities that make her special. Encourage your child when she looks at herself in the mirror to recite at least 5 qualities that she is proud of to help facilitate positive self-talk and connect the physical appearance with intrinsic traits.
  3. Balance images of success: It would be nearly impossible and certainly unrealistic to turn off your child’s exposure to the images presented in the media for perfection. But, balancing out this representation can be beneficial when crafting a positive self-image. Provide your child with other famous figures that embody other powerful traits. Learning about other successful individuals based on humility, intelligence, philanthropy, etc. can help your child feel proud of her own accomplishments and enhance her self-image.
  4. Be a role model. Be aware of how you interact with food, comment about weight, and if you unknowingly expresses self-criticizing statements. Your child is watching. Practice self-appreciating commentary, balanced meals and reduce emphasis on outward appearance in favor of nurturing underlying core qualities (reading, journaling, hiking/outdoors activities, painting, etc.).

Start early with helping your daughter define a healthy sense of self through implementing these tactics. It’s never too early to teach positive self-talk and perception of self. All bodies come in different shapes and sizes and because of this, it is valuable to highlight more meaningful intrinsic qualities. Check out Amanda’s Big Dream by Judith Matz, LCSW as a great resource to help cultivate a healthy body-image.

Read here for more tips on what to do if your child has a negative body image.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

 

calm down with yoga

5 Yoga Activities to Help Your Child Calm Down

As a yoga instructor, parent and teacher, I have seen the benefits of yoga for kids time and time again. Yoga is a fantastic way to help all children relax, work out the wiggles and find a sense of calm.  It can be an even more beneficial tool for children with ADHD or other attention or hyperactivity disorders. Read on for 5 at-home, yoga-based activities you can do with your child that will serve as a foundational tool set for self-soothing and positive thinking as your child gets older.

5 Yoga Activities to Help Your Child Calm Down:

  1. Belly Breath-Have your child lie on his back. His palms should be turned up and his feet gently5 Yoga Activities to Help Your Child Calm Down relaxed. Have him close his eyes. Place a small stone on his belly and tell him to see if he can move the stone up and down with his breath. This move inspires immediate relaxation as the breath deepens and teaches the child to use the full lung capacity while breathing. This triggers a relaxation response at any time.
  2. Rocket Ship Breath-Have your child sit cross-legged with his palms pressed together at his heart center (as in the photo).  His hands are his ‘rocketship’. Have him take a big inhale and send his ‘rocketship’ up to the sky. Oh his exhale, have him part his hands and circle his arms back to the ground. Repeat 3-5 times.
  3. Down Dog House-First, have your child practice down dog pose. This is a basic, traditional yoga pose where the body is in the shape of an inverted ‘V’. In down dog, hands and feet stay on the ground while hips lift into the sky. Next, move into down dog pose yourself and have your child crawl in the space created underneath your body. This cozy space created by a loved one is fun, silly and creates a cozy, relaxed space for your child to enjoy.
  4. Cloud Thinking-When your child is bothered by something, have him practice cloud thinking. Have him sit cross-legged, and then have him articulate his troubling thought. Have him imagine that he is putting his troubling thought on a cloud. Then have him blow away the thought by taking big inhales and then exhaling through his mouth to blow the thought away. Once he has blown the thought away with several breaths, have him watch the cloud and negative thought dissipate in space. Let him know his mind is clear now and that he can send his negative thoughts away on the cloud whenever he needs to.
  5. Reframe It-When your child is upset and recounting a frustrating event, have him re-tell the story. Have him explain the ending of the story in a positive way with a focus on what he learned and what can be done better or differently the next time. Let him know that he can always turn a negative into a positive and reframe his thinking.

Click here for more calm down strategies for young children.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Help! My Child Hates Camp

Help! My Child Hates Camp

What’s there not to love about swimming, popsicles, and outdoor activities? A lot. For some. Camp represents freedom from school and an opportunity for long stretches of recreational activity, however for some kids, endless amounts of time outside and engaging in sports-like activities are far from ideal. Some kids do not enjoy camp. If you have a camper writing home about how much he loathes the camp experience, try these tips to encourage some fun.

Tips to Help Your Child Who Hates Camp:

  1. Have your child identify the positives about camp. Although there may be aspects that your childHelp! My Child Hates Camp does not prefer about camp, catch him making these statements so he doesn’t maximize a few small parts and minimize the parts that aren’t so bad or that he does like. If the child likes art, air conditioning, and cook outs, help him identify times within his day or week that reflect those preferred tasks. This will help balance out his perspective.
  2. Identify preferred summer-time tasks. If the child loves to bike ride, go on trips to the zoo, or make s’mores, factor those activities into the summer schedule outside of camp time. Help the child recognize that camp isn’t preventing him from engaging in what he wants but that his needs can still be accommodated. Encourage your child to calmly communicate his needs and work together to problem solve ways to get his needs met, although it might not be in the moment desired.
  3. Incentivize participation. If your child does not like being outside or engaging in physical activity/team sports, set up a system to encourage compliance.
  4. Talk to your child. Before registering for a camp, find out what activities your child is interested in doing and what he would not like. If your child is more into the arts, consider a program for theater, crafts, and dance. If your child prefers physical activity, opt for a sports camp. Touching base about preferences can facilitate open communication of needs and an opportunity to avoid potential problems.

Click here to read our camp survival guide for parents and kids.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!