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By Crystal Ladwig

Three steps to changing your child's behavior

Let's be honest. We all have behaviors that we'd like to change or encourage more of in ourselves as well as in our children (and probably our spouses, too!). For proof that change is tough, just look at the number of New Year's resolutions people drop within the first few weeks.

As parents, we use everything we can to help develop our children's moral character as well as their behaviors. And we need all the help we can get. That's where the Fogg Method comes into play. The Fogg Method outlines three steps that can be used to change a behavior. The trick is to start small. Setting a goal for yourself to lose 30 pounds can be overwhelming, especially if you cheat the first week. But a goal of losing five pounds is much easier to achieve. The same principle applies to changing your children's behaviors.

The Fogg method

Stanford doctor BJ Fogg first developed The Fogg Method. It includes just three simple steps that you can apply to your own goals and also with your children.

  1. Get specific. Set a single, specific goal rather than a large, long-term goal. Shorter goals are much more attainable. Help your children set a specific goal for one week. Then encourage them and reinforce their success. For example, your child might want a second dog in the family, but he has to demonstrate his responsibility first. A specific goal might be for the child to walk and feed the current dog whenever needed to show they're ready for another one.
  2. Keep it simple. You're more likely to follow through with a goal when it is easy. If you or your child are overwhelmed by the thought of doing what it takes to meet the goal, then you're less likely to do it. Talk to your child and set goals together that are specific and that they believe they can easily do. Perhaps caring for the dog full-time is too much to start with, but caring for the dog for a few days seems easier.
  3. Trigger. You can't make something a habit by just deciding to do so. You must be prompted to do it. Some triggers are natural. You get hungry, so you eat. But some behavior changes require artificial triggers. Your child might need a prompt to remind them to feed or walk the dog. This prompt could come from you, but ideally, the child takes responsibility for that. For example, your daughter might set a timer to remind her to feed the dog at a specific time.

What next?

Next, you and your child repeat the process. Let's say your child is setting a goal to get their chores done every day so they can earn money for a new Lego set. Start with setting the goal for just one week, list their chores, and prompt them to do them. The next week, you might eliminate either the prompt or the list. The following week, you'd eliminate the other. By the fourth week, the child should be doing the chores on their own without any prompting or a list from you.

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