7 Ways to Steer Your Child Towards Good Behavior

A little conflict can spark a big meltdown at any time of day. Turn the situation around with these behavioral tips.

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1. Stay Realistic

What To Do: Become familiar with your child's abilities and limitations. Expecting too much or too little from your child can lead to problems.

Parenting in Action: The entire restaurant is staring at you and your two and a half year-old who is throwing crayons and loudly crying. You can get angry and frustrated. Or you can take her for a short walk to give her and others a needed break.

2. Plan Ahead

What To Do: Think and prepare in advance for the worst while expecting the best. Predict what your child may need or do so you can best prevent conflict and distress.

Parenting in Action: Your 3 year-old is screaming for food in the backseat, and you are stuck in rush hour traffic. Fortunately you remembered to pack crackers and juice in a safety cup.

3. Prep Your Child

What To Do: Your child is not a mind reader. Give her one clear, concrete instruction so she knows what you expect.

Parenting in Action: Your daughter is playing at a friend's house, and the playroom looks like a tornado hit. When you tell your daughter its time to go, she ignores you and continues to play. Instead, you can say, "All right, time to get going. Alexa, let’s start by putting the dolls in their box!”

4. Offer Some Choices

What To Do: It takes time for children to learn responsibility, make decisions, and accept consequences. Let your child choose between two options that both lead to success.

Parenting in Action: You sense a struggle when your daughter outright refuses to sit in her car seat. Avoid a battle by saying: "Melissa, the car won’t start until you get buckled in your seat. Do you want to climb in yourself, or do you want Daddy to put you in?”

5. Teach Her Cause and Effect

What To Do: Say a simple "when...then" statement, a direction of what your child needs to do for something desired to happen. Successful "when...then" statements: Are positive. Stated once. Followed through.

Parenting in Action: Your child runs outside barefoot and you say, "No, put on your shoes." She starts to tantrum. A better approach would be to say: "When you put on your shoes, then you may go outside."

6. Catch her Doing Good

What To Do: Reinforce behavior you want to see with specific, positive attention.

Parenting in Action: You know it is only a matter of time before your 4 year-old fidgets, leaves, or throws turkey on the floor. Instead of waiting to scold her, compliment her: "Deena, it makes Mommy so happy to see you eating and sitting nicely like a big girl!"

7. Stay Calm

What To Do: Model self-control by remaining calm when your child acts out.

Parenting in Action: While you are preparing for company you walk into your dining room to discover your 4 year old coloring on the white wall with red markers. Your first instinct is to scream in horror. After you take a breath, you say, "Mary, paper is for coloring. Mommy's walls are not." You whisk her away from the wall and strap her into the high chair.

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