Professor Amanda Kirby, CEO of Do-IT Solutions., Campaigner for Neurodiversity, Medic, Knowledge Translator, researcher

How to Encourage positive interactions with your children at home

Consider environmental triggers:

  • Are there certain times or situations when you see some specific behaviours e.g. doing certain tasks, after a disrupted sleep, when feeling tired or hungry?
  • Sometimes seeing the triggers can be a route to reducing the cause. Some children find for example writing, reading or doing sums harder and when asked to do so will do avoidance behaviours.
  • Understanding the reason why can then lead to help and support rather than seeing this as a negative behaviour.
  • Does allowing your child to move around when working help them?
  • Are you asking them to focus for too long on a task and they are becoming restless? Try to break tasks into small chunks so that it is achievable. You will see far greater engagement too.
  • Is it worse for your child when there is a lot of background noise? Does certain music or no sound help your child to focus.
  • Is there a sibling getting more positive attention? Can you dedicate one to one time (even a short period of time) with your child so they have complete focus being given to them and not competing for attention.

Start by being positive and seeing that you can make real change:

  • You are a good and caring parent and want to do your best for your child.
  • Accept that parenting is really hard, and we don’t have a guidebook or any training or have a recognised qualification!
  • Small changes in the way you work with your child can have a big impact to encourage positive interactions with your children at home.
  • If you are feeling well and are less anxious, your child will sense and see this too.
  • You need to ensure you ‘charge your own batteries’ and get the support you need. Use your family and friends to help, even if it is only as a sounding board.

Clear and consistent rules make a difference to us all:

  • Mutual respect is important between all family members.
  • Knowing what is expected and when makes a difference, especially where you can predict change is going to happen.
  • Be clear what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and when ‘a line has been crossed’ and what is the consequence of this.
  • Rules should be agreed first by adults, so you are consistent, and you are in agreement, and it is relevant for your setting.
  • Rules must be relevant in different ways to different people in the house.
  • Try not to have too many rules.
  • Keep rules simple and check for understanding.
  • Be consistent in applying the rules.
  • Display rules in words (and pictures if required).
  • Review your rules regularly.


Grow your child’s confidence:

  • In times of change children can lose confidence. Uncertainty can drive anxiety.
  • Children can show their feelings in different ways including being angry and disruptive or withdraw and disengage with the family.
  • Value your children’s words and feelings and find a space and time to hear them.
  • Look at for your child’s positive behaviours and achievements and giving your child praise and encouragement. Sometimes we forget to notice when children are not being disruptive.
  • Finding things families can do together is a great way for parents to show how much they care, to praise and build their child’s confidence.
  • Value your child’s skills and let them know you do.

Effective communication is at the heart of engaging your child:

  • Too many words and too complex instructions said too loud can stop your child hearing and understanding you.
  • Ensure if you want to say something to your child:

Start off being calm yourself.

Remain polite.

Gain your child’s attention.

Ensure your child can see your face.

Reduce the external instructions.

  • To ensure your child’s understanding you should:

Speak slowly.

Use simple short sentences.

Check you have been understood and ask your child what they think has been said.


Using rewards carefully help parents encourage better behaviour in your children:

  • Rewards can be both short and longer term and dependent on your child’s motivation and interest.
  • Rewards need to be achievable.
  • Ensure rewards are age appropriate.
  • Be consistent and have a similar approach with all children.
  • Be clear – make sure your child understand why they are specifically being rewarded.
  • Don’t delay giving the reward so your child sees the association.
  • Make sure you can keep your promises.
  • Having a record visually of what has been achieved can be self- motivating for your child and allow others to provide positive.


If your child is displaying behaviours try to remain in control:

  • You are human and you can get it wrong and have a bad day- be kind to yourself.
  • Consistency, calm, kindness with authority will help your child to know you are in control.
  • Avoid a battle when you are tired.
  • Don’t raise your voice if you are angry.
  • If you feel out of control count to ten or be prepared to walk away till you are back in control.
  • If this is a continuing problem for you then seek help with anger management.


Better to give than take away (sanction):

  • Only take away toys, activities, screen time, playdates as a last resort.
  • Appropriate, and time bound and fair. Banning the TV forever is not much good!
  • Sanctions should be practical, fair, time-bound and relevant.
  • Be clear and don’t negotiate.
  • Keep your promises and be consistent.

Start by picking a few of the tips above to start to encourage positive interactions with your children at home.

Next week we will be launching our new NEURODIVERSITY CHILDREN’S PROFILER (FOR PARENTS). The screener is for ages 7 to 16 years and will give you your child’s own spiky profile, as well as tips and resources to help them to maximise their strengths and minimise their challenges both at home and at school.

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