All kids have their moments, but knowing that you can count on your kid to behave can make your life much easier. Catch your child behaving well and reinforce their good behavior. Help them gain social skills by using good manners and not complaining or whining. Use consistent discipline and find opportunities to teach, not punish.
Using Positive Reinforcement
- Praise their good behavior. When you catch your child acting well-behaved, let them know! This can help them realize that good behavior is noticed and celebrated. It also shows them what behaviors are acceptable and appreciated.
- For example, say, “You shared your toy with your sibling. That is quite thoughtful and kind of you, good job!”
- Give your child rewards for good behavior. When you catch your child behaving well, give them a reward such as more screen time or a trip to the playground. To reinforce good behavior throughout the week, try using a behavior chart. You can assign a point system and let them choose a small reward once they reach the points.
- Some behaviors might include speaking calmly (not yelling), sharing, cleaning up, taking turns, and doing chores.
- Interact and play with your child often. You can spend quality time with your child while helping them develop behavior skills. Help them modify their behavior if they are acting aggressively, selfishly, or unsafely by expressing these things in play. You can teach your child rules and limits while having fun with them.
- For example, help your child understand sharing by acting out scenarios with dolls or figurines.
- Throw a make-believe tea party with your child and show them how to interact with friends and guests.
Building Interaction Skills
- Help them understand empathy. A well-behaved child will consider the feelings of others. Help your child build their empathy skills by talking to them in emotion-rich language and teaching them to respect others.
- For example, ask your child, “How do you think other kids feel when you hit them? What would it be like if someone hit you?”
- Talk to your child in a manner that is appropriate for their age. Use examples that they will understand.
- Practice using good manners. Teach your child the value of saying “please” and “thank you” along with other manners. Practice saying them with your child when they make requests or receive something. Establish good habits so that good manners become second nature to your child.
- Watch your own manners! Children pick up behaviors from their caretakers, so be extra sure to use good manners around your children.
- Encourage patience when waiting. Don’t feel like you have to do everything your child wants right when they want it. This will help them develop patience and how to manage feeling impatient. Let your child know they will have to wait and be patient.
- You can say to your child, “I know you’re hungry — I’m hungry, too! Dinner is almost ready, so let’s wait patiently together and think about how yummy it’s going to be!”
- Set a good example with your own behavior and interactions. Your child watches everything you do! Each interaction you have with the outside world is an opportunity to set a great example for your child. Be positive and polite when interacting with others in public and in private.
- When you’re in a waiting room or standing in line, smile, appear relaxed, and wait patiently for your turn. Try to avoid fidgeting, frowning, and being visibly impatient.
- If a friend or family member is running late, don’t snap at them in front of your child.
Creating Effective Discipline
- Stay calm. Before disciplining your child, make sure that you feel calm first. Don’t approach your child or try to solve problems when you feel angry or upset. Take some time to cool down on your own by taking some deep breaths or leaving the room for a short time.
- By approaching your child calmly, you show them that conflicts can be solved without being heated or hurtful.
- Show your child the difference between stopping them from doing something immediately (because it’s dangerous, disruptive, disrespectful, etc.) and disciplining them (which can wait until you’ve calmed down).
- Guide your child through difficult emotions. Even a well-behaved child will have occasional meltdowns or tantrums, especially if they are young. If your child feels angry or upset, help them navigate these difficult emotions by listening to them and understanding them. Help them with any misunderstandings by explaining things in a way they understand.
- For example, if your child is yelling, say, “I can tell you’re upset. Can you tell me what’s going on in your normal voice?”
- If your child refuses to talk during a meltdown, take them out the situation temporarily until they calm down. Don’t try talking to them until they are calmer.
- Engage them in problem-solving. When your child is struggling with something (like when you say no to a snack), help them problem-solve a new solution. Encourage them to think of alternatives and ask nicely for a new request.
- For example, if your child is upset that they can’t go outside, ask, “What other activity can you do instead? I’m sure you can find something else that’s fun.” If the child is very young, redirect them yourself by giving them something new to do.
- Teach instead of punish. Use every opportunity to teach your child instead of punishing them. Punishments only show your child that what they did was wrong; teaching your child will help them know how to respond in the future. Guide your child in a different approach to the problem.
- For example, if your child is running around in a restaurant, bring them back to the table and practice sitting together. Show them different ways to sit so that they do not feel uncomfortable.
- If the child won’t stop the bad behavior, remove them temporarily from the situation until they are willing to act better. You might wait for them to calm down or use this opportunity to calmly explain good behavior.
- Discipline consistently. A well-behaved child will know their boundaries. Communicate the boundaries of your child’s behavior to them and make sure they know that consequences will be enforced if they cross the line. Be consistent in discipline with your child and with any siblings so that they know you are fair.
- Don’t let your child get away with things sometimes and give them a consequence other times.
- Have clear consequences. Outline specific consequences for specific behaviors. Choose a consequence that matches the misbehavior so that it is fair and not overly harsh. Ensure that consequences are age appropriate. Young children might get a short timeout while older children might have privileges revoked.
- For example, a toddler would simply need to be quiet and remain in timeout until you end it. With a pre-school age child, you could put toys and privileges in timeout, too. School-age children might have their TV or computer time temporarily taken away.