Disruptive behaviors are a fact of life for most children, and are especially prevalent with children with ADHD and Autism. Learning to control those behaviors is an on-going and often frustrating process for them, their parents, teachers and care-givers. Here are some pointers to assist in correcting disruptive behaviors in yoga class and at home.
- Communicate Expectations: Children need to know what is expected of them. Talk to them. Tell them what appropriate behavior looks like, sounds like, feels like. Repeat often. This will make them more mindful of their actions. I did this every time we went to the grocery store or ate at a restaurant with my little ones. The same is true for yoga class. Be sure your students know what is expected of them and when. Remember to make time for fun, noise & play.
- Teach Respect: The yoga concepts of ahimsa (non-violence), brahmacarya (conservation) and tapas (self-discipline) all relate to respecting self and others. Teach respect through conversations and stories. Congratulate children when they show respect. Remind them when they forget. Show respect in your own life, especially when dealing with a disruptive individual. As tempting as it is, this is not the time to lose your cool. Practise Take 5 together as needed.
- Reward Appropriate Behavior: Build in rewards. Often disruptive children only receive attention for their inappropriate behaviors. Instead catch them being good. Praise often specifically mentioning what they are doing well. Choose a child who is behaving appropriately to be the teacher’s assistant for a pose/activity. Trade off yoga ‘work’ with a yoga ‘reward’; if they can focus on the class poses/meditation then they get to play a yoga game /sing a song. I often reward my children for good behavior with a trip to the Pet Store after running errands.
- Follow Through: Children thrive when they know what to expect. Establish consequences and always follow through, even when it is inconvenient or embarrassing. This may mean taking a child to the side and reminding them of expectations. Sometimes a calming hand, a whispered comment or providing responsibilities will engage the child and turn a negative into a positive. Some classes provide a quiet corner when children can go if they need some alone time or a breathing break. If negative behavior persists ask the child to remove themselves temporarily. Briefly talk things over away from prying eyes and ears and then return to normal activities, leaving the incident behind.
- Practice Patience: Remember that each child is growing and learning. They will outgrow and learn to manage disruptive behaviors with time and consistency. Work on one behavior modification at a time. Stick with it and keep expectations realistic (5 minutes of good behavior for many is a triumph). Set children up for success, then celebrate those successes lavishly.