5 Parenting Secrets for Improving Your Child’s Behavior

parent and childBeing a good parent can be difficult. We are never really taught how to raise children effectively, and generally tend to repeat behaviors we have learned from our own parents. If we grew up in a dysfunctional environment, this can lead to our replicating the same mistakes we witnessed and experienced as children when our turn to become parents comes around.

Many parents who come to see me ask how they can learn better parenting skills. They often feel ineffectual when trying to discipline their children, but do not know what they can do differently. The following are some effective tools to use in order to bring about a little more order in your household:

1. Praise Your Children

Any time you catch your child being good, make sure you let him or her know how appreciative you are of his or her good behavior. Everyone responds in positive ways to praise, children included, so this will encourage your child to behave in desirable ways.

2. Use Behavioral Incentives

In order to inspire your kids to do their chores, put a chart or calendar up on the wall listing, day by day, the tasks you want them to complete. This could include things such as taking out the trash or setting the table for dinner, but you can also include behaviors such as doing their homework, brushing their teeth, or being nice to siblings.

When the child performs the desired behaviors, he or she gets to put a sticker on the chart for the day. As your child accumulates a certain number of stickers, he or she can earn special incentives that are known ahead of time. These could be anything from choosing a favorite dinner, going on a special outing, watching a movie that your child has been looking forward to, or anything else he or she would enjoy.

For very young children, it can be helpful to break down the day into shorter periods in order to reward desired behaviors more quickly. You may want to have them be able to earn three stickers a day, for example—for the morning, afternoon, and evening. Even if they are not successful for the entire day, they can at least be rewarded for shorter time periods and will gradually want to earn more and more stickers and rewards.

3. Use Consistent Discipline Techniques

When your children misbehave, they need to understand the specific behaviors you do not want them to do. Let them know what they are doing wrong, then provide a warning. Your explanations should be very clear and simple, so that they understand exactly which were the problem behaviors.

When your children misbehave, they need to understand the specific behaviors you do not want them to do.

If a child continues to misbehave, put him or her in a designated area away from the rest of the family that has been chosen for time-outs. Make sure that the child remains in the designated spot for the entire time-out period. The time-out should not last more than several minutes, but the child should not be allowed to talk or play during this time.

At the end of the time-out period, reiterate to your child the reason that he or she was put in time-out and ask for an apology. Consistency is very important when it comes to teaching children appropriate behavior, so the time-out strategy should be used every time your child misbehaves after having been given an initial, unheeded warning.

4. Communicate with Your Child

If your child is acting uncharacteristically poorly, attempt to find out what may be going on. Children have a tendency to act out when they are being picked on at school or sense tension within the family. Try talking with them to find out if they are upset about something you are unaware of so you can address any potential problems.

5. Maintain a Structured Routine

Children respond well to structure, so try to have meals and bedtime at the same time every day. When kids become overly tired, they may be more prone to acting out, so make sure they are getting enough rest.

Using the techniques above can help to make for a more peaceful home environment. If you are still having problems managing your child’s behavior or your child has recently become more fearful, angry, or aggressive, meeting with a psychotherapist may be helpful in order to explore the underlying reasons for the behaviors and to get your child back on track.

© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Wendy Salazar, MFT, therapist in San Diego, California

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Beth

    October 12th, 2015 at 8:19 AM

    Consistency is the key to good behavior most of the time! I don’t think that any f us expect every kid to behave great all of the time, because most of us adults backslide from time to time too. But if you are consistent about what you expect and the consequences for not following the rules then I suspect that your kids will be much better behaved overall.

  • jacob p.

    October 13th, 2015 at 5:18 AM

    I feel that there are a lot of young parents who want to be friendswith their kid instead of being a parent. Be a parent first and you can be friends later. But the boundaries and the expectations have to be set from a very young age for a kid and parent both to follow through.

  • Allen

    October 14th, 2015 at 11:00 AM

    hmmm are any of the people who complain about their child’s behavior thinking that they are only emulating what they see, probably from them>

  • Brendan

    October 15th, 2015 at 10:24 AM

    All of these things are pretty easy if you have a child who will actually listen to you and with whom you can reason. But what about for those of us who have children who will not listen and for whom reason seems like such a foreign concept? Things can definitely get a little trickier with them. And for us parents too!

  • Kate

    October 16th, 2015 at 11:15 AM

    shhh don’t tell anyone- kids are kids and should be allowed to have a little leeway. they are not just little adults who can be quiet and still all the time.

  • Laura

    October 19th, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    I have never much liked the offering incentives for getting them to do chores. I mean, I guess in some ways I can see it because my incentive for going to work is receiving a paycheck at the end of the week, but what about cleaning the house and all the things that I have to do to keep the house running? There is not an incentive for that necessarily, so I think that the kids need to learn to be a part of that too.

  • parentsupporthub.com

    March 27th, 2017 at 11:03 AM

    You are probably more familiar with behavior modification than you think! The basic principles were created by the famous psychologist B.F. Skinner in the 1950s. He observed that behaviors are more likely to be repeated if they are reinforced with a reward, and other behaviors would stop occurring if punished with a consequence. It’s important to note that reinforcers, also called rewards, must be something that is rewarding to the child. And punishments, also know as a consequences, must be negative, such as a spanking or losing a toy for the rest of the day.
    To help your child repeat desired behaviors:
    -Define the desired behavior.
    -Choose a reward that is appealing to your child.
    -Implement the new rule that if your child performs the desired behavior, they are given the selected reward.

    To help your child stop undesired behaviors:
    -Define the undesired behavior.
    -Choose a consequence that is an appropriate punishment. (This typically involves losing a toy or privilege, or having a time out.)
    -Implement the new rule that if your child performs the undesired behavior, they are given the punishment.

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