Parenting is a test of endurance, especially when your children have behavioral problems. Dealing with their misbehaving can be emotionally exhausting while testing your limits. Fortunately, positive discipline techniques can help improve the quality of life for both you and your children. Instead of pulling out your hair and waving a white flag, use persistence and consistency to help your children behave.
1 Create realistic expectations for your children’s behavior. Your rules and expectations should be age-appropriate. A toddler cannot be expected to sit quietly for longer than a few moments, whereas a teenager is capable of grasping the complex concepts of integrity and honesty. Check with your children’s physician to see if they have an underlying condition causing behavioral disturbances. Mental illness, cognitive or intellectual disabilities or prenatal drug exposure can create predisposition to behavioral problems.
2 Eliminate possible reasons for misbehavior. If your children are hungry, tired, bored or haven’t been receiving enough adult interaction, they may have a more difficult time controlling behavior. When your children are misbehaving, determine whether you can quickly remedy the situation with a snack or nap.
3 Address your children’s worst behavioral problem first. By focusing on just one issue at a time, you can be successful without overwhelming your child. Choose the most difficult or dangerous behaviors to tackle first. Biting, hitting or other physically aggressive behaviors must be eliminated as soon as possible.
4 Communicate clearly to your children what you expect from them and what the positive and negative consequences will be. Explain exactly what the results will be for their compliance or disobedience. For example, “If you clean up your toys, we can play a game. If you don’t, you will spend the afternoon in your room.”
5 Use age-appropriate discipline. Time outs work well for children 18 months to 6 years old. Older children respond to a loss of privileges. Most children benefit from natural or logical consequences when they misbehave. If your children hit with a block, take away the block.
6 Employ positive reinforcement when you notice your children making good choices. Positive behavior merits praise and rewards. A young child may appreciate a sticker for good behavior, and older children and teenagers might respond to extra time playing video games. Predetermine which behaviors you will reward and what the prize will be.
7 Model appropriate behavior. Your children will not make good choices if they see you having your own temper tantrums. Show your children how you can respond to disappointment without becoming angry or aggressive.
8 Be consistent and firm. Apply consequences for negative actions every single time so that your children will learn to adjust their behavior. Use a firm tone of voice so your children understand that the request is serious.
- Stay calm and in control of your own emotions, no matter how upset your children are. Children with social, behavioral or emotional disabilities may benefit from counseling or social skills classes. Ask your children’s pediatrician for a referral.
- Spanking or other forms of physical punishment are associated with an increase in aggressive behavior.
- Call your child’s pediatrician if your child is experiencing frequent severe temper tantrum, he is hurting himself or others or he is often out of control.
- American Academy of Family Physicians: Childhood Discipline: Challenges for Clinicians and Parents
- Brigham Young University: Forever Families: Parenting Young Children with Behavioral Problems
- HealthyChildren.org: Making Discipline Work
- University of Michigan Health System: Behavior Problems
- Virginia Cooperative Extension: Discipline for Young Children – Responding to Misbehavior
- Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images