On the Horizon – 08/06/13

Welcome to "On the Horizon"

Issue 227: Promoting Safe and Appropriate Behavior in Public-Part 2: Parenting Strategies That Work

On the Horizon is an award winning weekly ezine for parents of children with developmental disabilities who want simple, effective strategies to reduce stress, support their child’s development, and improve quality of life for the whole family.

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  • A Note from Dr. Beurkens
  • Feature Article: Promoting Safe and Appropriate Behavior in Public-Part 2: Parenting Strategies That Work
  • Ask the Horizons Team
  • Upcoming Events
  • Recommended Resources

Hi Everyone!

Can you believe August is here already? The summer seems to fly by, but we are determined to make the most of the time the kids still have off before returning to school. Our garden is really kicking into gear now and we are picking lots of veggies each day. I’m proud to say we successfully fended off an infestation of some kind of green worm that was eating the broccoli and kale, and the plants are bouncing back. We learn new things each year we garden!

My feature article this week is a continuation of last issue’s article on safe and appropriate behavior in public. Using leashes with kids is a controversial topic, with strong opinions on both sides of the issue. I hope today’s article gives you some specific strategies for working on this issue if it is one you need to tackle with your child or student. The Q&A below is about strategies for reducing mouth noises that are bothering others.

As always, if you have a question you’d like us to answer feel free to email us at info@horizonsdrc.com. You just might see your question and our answer show up in a future issue!

Make it a great week!

Looking to the horizon,

Promoting Safe and Appropriate Behavior in Public-Part 2: Parenting Strategies That Work

By Nicole Beurkens, PhD

newsletter-familyThe previous article explored the developmental problems that can occur when children in public are placed on leashes as a substitute for developing safe and appropriate behavior. While there may be a number of seemingly legitimate reasons for parents to use these devices with both typically developing children and those with special needs, leashes should not be considered appropriate long-term solutions. As an alternative, here are some strategies parents can use to help their children develop awareness and appropriate emotional and behavioral regulation in public environments:

  1. Stay calm – This is a cardinal rule for parents in all situations with children, and it definitely applies here. The more upset and emotional the parent gets when a child is not listening or behaving in public, the more the child will act out and become emotionally and behaviorally dysregulated. Parents need to take a deep breath, keep an even-toned voice, and stay in control of their own emotions and behaviors. If the parent is overly fearful about something dangerous happening to the child, that fear must be addressed prior to taking the child out in public. For parents who experience significant anxiety in these situations, it will be best to have another adult with you until you feel less anxious. Children can sense anxiety and stress in parents, and this causes them to become more emotional as well. Staying calm, cool, and collected regardless of what the child is doing will be essential for making progress.

Click here to read the rest of this article…


I have a question about my son’s annoying behavior of making noises with his mouth. He does this often, even though we have repeatedly told him that these sounds bother the rest of us in the family. Sometimes he makes them when he’s bored, sometimes while he’s doing an activity, and other times he seems to be doing them on purpose to annoy us. We have tried taking things away when he does it, making him apologize, and charging him a quarter each time, but nothing seems to work very well. Do you have any suggestions for us?

-Gretchen in Wyoming, MI


Hi Gretchen,

As a mom to 3 boys myself, I can definitely relate to being bothered at time by the weird noises they make! It sounds like these noises are happening across a variety of circumstances and that he is aware of them at least some of the time. Here are some things to consider:

  1. If you think making the sound helps him focus or process when he’s working on an activity, try offering him something else quieter to do with his mouth. Some kids do well with chewing gum, sucking on a candy or straw, chewing on a piece of rubber tubing, etc. That might help him stay quiet, while still giving him the oral input that supports his focus and task completion.
  2. If he knows he’s not supposed to do it, but seems unaware that it is happening, you may want to spend a few days tallying how often it happens in order to bring his attention to it. You can tell him that you and he will be keeping track of how many times he makes these noises, and then have a sheet to tally on. Each time he does it you can make a statement about him doing it and make a tally mark on the sheet. The comment you make should not be negative; it should simply be a neutral statement that he is making a sound with his mouth. Sometimes bringing a child’s attention to what they are doing on a repeated basis can help them become aware of their actions so that they can stop them.
  3. Once you have a baseline for how often this is happening you can set a goal with your son to reduce the amount. If he is making sounds 5 times an hour, for example, you can set a goal for him to make sounds only 3 times during that time period. This continues to bring his awareness to his behavior, while giving him something to work towards. You could attach a small reward to him meeting the goal if you think that would be helpful.
  4. If you believe he is doing the noises on purpose to bother others, you may want to focus on providing a reward for not making noises. This approach often works better than taking things away when kids do something inappropriate. For example, you could tell him that if he can go for 30 minutes without making mouth noises then he can have 10 minutes of extra time outside before bed. Of course you can tweak the times and rewards based on whatever is appropriate for him. This way you are helping him focus on the behavior you want him to do – stopping himself before he makes the noises.

I hope these ideas help! Email us to let us know how it works out.
Dr. Beurkens

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