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Ten Ways to Improve Your Child's Behavior

Most of us start out parenting the way we were parented, and expect our children to react as we did. Children with special needs, however, are likely to throw us a curve. If the tried-and-true ways of your mother and father don't cut it with your son and daughter, it's time to make a change. The ten strategies here may go against what you've been led to believe about child-rearing, but exceptional children require exceptional ingenuity.

1. Start with Behavior Analysis

Think of bad behavior as a mystery, a complex whodunnit with clues and motives and red herrings galore. Who's responsible? What did they do? When, where, and why did it happen? Jumping to the same disciplinary conclusions every time your child misbehaves is like arresting the butler any time there's a murder to be solved.

2. Use a Behavior Chart

Think your child won't understand/comply with/care about a behavior chart? If you're thinking about a traditional chore-for-reward system, you may be right. But with a little creativity, you should be able to come up with a chart or similar motivational scheme that will give your child a reason to be more pleasin'.

4. Count to 10

"One-two-three" may be magic for some kids, but children with special needs may require extra time to do all the strategizing and motor planning it takes to move peacefully from one pasttime to the next. Forcing the issue with a quick three-count will most likely end in crabbiness and bad behavior -- and that's just from you.

5. Keep a Big "Bag of Tricks"

A little distraction is often all it takes to head off bad behavior. Having a constant, and constantly updated, supply of items and ideas to divert your child can make the difference between a whiny, fussy, tantrumy time and a fun, funny, contented one.

6. Set Get-able Goals

It's not bad to be ambitious for your child, or to have high hopes. But if you're setting the bar higher on a regular basis than your child can possibly reach, you're creating a constant experience of failure. Breaking big goals into little ones helps you build on success.

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