Can you tell I’ve got a thing about abbreviations? I’ve also got a thing for puns, but I don’t show that side of me until people show me their weirdness first. Or if Christmas comes along and you make my gift list.
But I digress. Today I want to share a toolbox strategy for helping a child work through big feelings or stop a behavior. I call it the Cha-Cha-Cha. And no, flamenco dresses are not required for it to work (although I don’t judge).
I would like to add this this strategy is intended to start after you have corrected the behavior. Whether this means after a timeout, or just saying “not okay!” , and/or apologizing is up to you.
The first step in this strategy is Chance. When a child has done something wrong or something that needs to be addressed, give them a chance to express their feelings or explain themselves. If they are nonverbal, they still need to express these feelings. There’s a good chance they did something naughty as a way to express frustration or sadness or some other form of wanting attention. Work through these feelings in a positive, progressing manner. See (LINK to come) for both verbal and nonverbal ways of working through big feelings.
In the heat of the moment, it is easy to skip this step, for both adult and child. But both of you need to be calm and rational before progress can be made.
The next step is Choice. Choices are awesome. Everybody loves choices. But I want you to think of eating at the Cheesecake Factory versus eating at In N Out. At the Cheesecake Factory, you can eat just about anything you want. However, unless you have a favorite, it also means you have to scroll through several pages of vastly different dishes until one speaks to you. At In N Out, there are less choices, but man, ordering those onions on my Double Double makes me stand a little taller.
My point? Too many choices are overwhelming, and having a choice between two or three options makes independent decision-making that much easier. It’s the same with children. If you give them two simple options of what they can do, as opposed to saying, “Just do something else!”, you are more likely to foster independence. Every choice your child can make without your direct support is a victory.
The other important thing about a choice is that you as the adult must be okay with the child choosing either option. Don’t say, “You can keep squashing your brother or go read your new book.” Extreme example, but you catch my drift. Remember, the point is not that your child makes the RIGHT choice, but that your child makes A choice.
The final step is Cheer. Children love praise, but not hollow or distracted praise. You want your praise to be specific to the current situation, as in, “I am happy you stopped throwing your toys.” Then, lots of hugs, cuddles, high-fives, whatever you do in your family. Go (HERE) to read my post on ways to say good job without actually saying good job.
I would like to throw in that it is also important to not make the situation up for discussion in the future. I don’t think Chicka Chicka is the only child that will bring something up days or even weeks later. I try to shut that down as fast as possible by acknowledging what she said, but also adding, “We fixed that problem. We don’t need to talk about it.” It’s better to focus on working through problems and letting the feelings go.
I hope that this has been helpful. As I’ve said before, this is not the end-all, be-all to solving problems with a child. It is a strategy that you can pull out of your toolbox and adapt/modify as needed to fit your child and the current situation.