Family Ministry Minute: Changing Behaviors

How many times in one day do you have to give the same correction? Let's face it, there are days where we say the same phrase nearly a hundred times... "are you being honest?", "lower your voice", "say please", "change the tone of your voice", "put the toys away". You can almost say it without looking to see what the children are doing!

When trying to change a behavior consistency is VERY important, but consistency will not matter if the child doesn't know HOW to fix the problem. Break the desired outcome into steps that are reasonable and understood by the child. For example, if your child has gotten in a habit of whining or using a tone of voice that is not their real voice it will do very little good to say "change your tone". They have no way of understanding what you mean! Often we give instruction in "grown up lingo" or expect the child to go from messing up to perfect in a heartbeat. 

Teach your child to ask God to help them, show them how to break it down into steps that they can have victory over, demonstrate how to thank God as they make progress, and help learn how to get back on track when they mess up. 

1. Start by telling them very simply what behavior you are wanting to work on and why. In our example you might say, "the voice you are using is not the one that God gave you for asking questions. We are going to work together to find the right way to ask for things that you need. okay?" It's important not to tackle too many behaviors at once- let them focus on one correction at a time.

2. Next, demonstrate what you are hearing or seeing (exaggerate, act it out, make it even silly). Ask them if that is how they hear you asking for things. Let them practice doing it right and then making fun of doing it wrong. Now as you encounter this behavior you can remind them of these things because they actually have a point of reference to remember back to.




3. Pray with your child and show them how to ask God to help them change.

4. Apply the lesson over and over in many different contexts. Offer gentle correction for quite a while. The conversations can always grow into the concept of always being our very best for God-

5. Be patient, changing a behavior is hard (we struggle with this when we want to eat healthier or start a workout program). So give your child many chances and compliment even the smallest progress! Pray with them and give thanks to God for His help. 

6.  Consequences; Once you have done these things for a period of time and have seen change in the behavior it is wise to keep consequences that they understand will happen if they revert back to the old ways. At this point you can even tell them - "Whining is something we have already learned about - now when you speak that way .... is the consequence."

Remember the goal is not to do the right thing once - it's to do the right thing for a it will take practice, encouragement, repetition, mistakes and come backs to make it an owned character trait.