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Parenting Skills and Your Child's Behavior: The Child's Game

The Child’s Game helps the parent to learn several basic skills that will enhance their ability to manage and direct their child’s behavior.

1. Describing. This means that the parent learns to simply describe to the child what the child is doing. Describing is attention – it tells the child that the parent is paying attention and is interested in what the child is doing.

2. Reflecting. Reflecting means repeating (either exactly or in your own words) what the child says. Like describing, reflecting is a powerful form of attention. It tells the child that the parent is listening and is interested in what the child is saying.

3. Labeled praise. This means telling the child exactly what it is that he or she has done that you like – what the child can do again to please you. For example, instead of just saying, "Good", you would say, "I like the way you picked the toy up off the floor."

4. Ignoring misbehavior. Ignoring means not paying attention in any way to something you do not want the child to do. For a child, almost any kind of attention (even scolding or criticizing) is a reward. So, a parent must learn to ignore completely. (There are, of course, exceptions to this, such as when the child is about to hurt himself or somebody else or destroy something valuable.)

5. Don’t ask questions. Questions often imply criticism and are sometimesIndirect instructions to the child, so they are not part of CDI. Besides, most questions are really descriptions (for example, "So, you’re building a house?") and should be said as statements, not questions.

6. Don’t give instructions or commands. That comes later in PDI. In CDI, the purpose is to learn to use only rewards and ignoring to control the child’s behavior.

7. Don’t criticize or physically punish the child. Criticism is a very ineffective form of punishment and is rarely a good thing to use. Physical punishment in a mild form is used in PDI, but not in CDI. Again, the purpose of CDI is to learn to control the child’s behavior by relying as much as possible on rewards only.

These are fairly simply skills and simple rules, but they are often hard for parents to use. Using them feels unnatural at first, but with practice they come to feel more comfortable. Adults are accustomed to asking children questions and telling children what to do, so changing that habit takes some practice. Remember, there are 4 basic rules for good parenting: 1) Rules, 2) Limits, 3) Consequences, and 4) Consistency. Consistency is by far the most important; without consistency any parenting or behavior management plan is likely to fail. Remember that you have to target only the behaviors you really want to change. You have limited time and energy so you have to pick and choose what is truly important to you.

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