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How to have well behaved children

Updated on June 5, 2011

10 Tips to encouraging good behaviour

Having worked in the early childhood sector for nearly 30 years the issue of behaviour guidance is always top of a parents list.

Parents will often come to me and say how do you get them to sit and eat or how do you get them to listen to you or do what you want? Parents have a few things they need to understand. Before I give you my 10 tips for encouraging good behaviour there are two main things you need to understand.

  1. IT IS OK TO SAY NO -Saying no to your child does not mean that you do not love them or that they will feel left out. Giving your children everything they want does not make them good children or for the future, good adults. You are setting your children up to fail as in the big wide world 'NO' will come up in many situations. You need to teach your children to accept failure and that they cannot have everything they want or do anything they want.
  2. YOU ARE NOT THEIR FRIENDS, YOU ARE THE PARENTS, ROLE MODELS, RULE/BOUNDARY OR LIMIT SETTERS - You do not need to know every thing that goes on in your child's life. You do not need to control every minute of their day so that you know where they are and what they are doing. You need to set limits, boundaries or rules and you need to stick to them. This initiates respect on both sides. They have plenty of friends to do the friend stuff with. It is great to have a fantastic open relationship with your children but they have friends and so do you! I firmly believe that parents have their own issues when they think that buying their 16 and 17 year olds alcohol to take to a party is ok. In Australia it is illegal to drink under the age of 18. This means that you are encouraging your children to break and disrespect the law. Is that the right thing to do? Is this good role modelling of acceptable behaviour to set them forward on their journey in society?

Now on to my 10 tips: These are not in order of priority, they are just tips.

  1. Getting down to their level: When speaking to your child get down to there level so you are eye to eye and not standing over them. This conveys respect and allows the children to focus on your face and your tone of voice. Speaking to them at their level also allows you the opportunity to better understand their facial expressions and make clear eye contact.
  2. Children need to understand responsibility and consequences. This does not mean smacking or other violent punishments. This is again about respect. Children need to be taught to take responsibility for their actions when they exhibit inappropriate behaviour or speak inappropriately. It is not ok for them to blame someone else when things go wrong. As a parent you need to explain the issue, why it is not ok and what the consequences, if any, are. You also need to be consistent and follow through. For example if you child is throwing toys, you would ask her to stop or you will put the toys away. If she continues, you put the toys away! Each time this behaviour is exhibited the same consequences happen. In time she will learn to take responsibility and know the consequences of her actions.
  3. Focus on acceptable behaviour: Praise your child when you see them exhibiting the behaviour that you think is acceptable. For example: "You are playing very nicely with the toys, I like the way you have kept them on the floor". Try to pre empt behaviour and get in first. Then you will avoid number 2.
  4. Share your feelings: You should be honest with your child. If the behaviour they are exhibiting is upsetting you, tell them how you feel. By the time children are 3-4 they are capable of understanding empathy. Use 'I' messages. For example: "I get scared when you throw the toys as I think they might break something". Using 'I' message shows your child that you have feelings and that their actions affect you in a negative way.
  5. Rolemodelling: I think that of all the tips this would be one of the most important. Children learn from the world and people around them. They will mimick the behaviour of the important people in their lives. Which is you, the parents. If you don't want your child to exhibit inappropriate behaviour then you need to ensure that you don't exhibit it. Children learn more from what you do  rather than what you say. If you want your child to sit at the table and eat their dinner using their manners, then you need to ensure that you are doing it as well. If you want your child to speak to you in a calm & respectful voice then you need to do the same. If you don't want your child to use inappropriate language then guess what? You need to ensure they do not hear it from you!
  6. Whining: Babies and children are the biggest manipulators in the world. It doesn't take them long to learn that if they make an awful noise that gets them everything they want, they will keep doing it. If you give in to whining you are reinforcing and encouraging this annoying behaviour. No should mean no not maybe. If you don't mean no, then don't say it as this is how children learn to start whining. You need to encourage children to speak properly if they want to be heard. Then again if you don't respond to whining in the first place you won't have a problem.
  7. If you don't want it broken or lost don't let them play with it. How many times have I seen this one happen. Parents let their children play with their mobile phones. Then the child, in particular a baby throws the phone and it breaks as it hits the hard floor. The parent then gets upset and lashes out at the child. Don't let them play with it. If you don't want them to lose your keys or put them in a bodily opening and injure themselves then don't let them play with them. They are not toys! Keep glasses, phones, keys, purses and all other important stuff out of their reach.
  8. To encourge good behaviour let them help: Children love to help around the house and it builds up their self esteem and shows them how important they are. Give them small tasks to do depending on the age of the child. My children loved to help fold the washing, set the table and help make beds. These simple tasks show that you trust them and the more they complete the tasks the more confident they get and the more they will want to do.
  9. Keep instructions simple and to the point: This one explains itself. Be wary of your child's age and development. You need to chose the words they will understand and if necessary only give one task at a time. For example you could say please put your clothes in the washing basket rather than put your clothes in the laundry. In the laundry to them will mean on the floor!
  10. Respect: In any behaviour guidance advice there always needs to be one key element. You need to treat your child with RESPECT. You will not receive it if you do not give it. Respect is earned. If doesn't matter how old your child is, they understand respect. Following all of the above tips show respect.

Parenting is never easy and there are circumstances beyond our control that will have an effect on the way that we parent. However, in my experience you get better results if you follow a few simple rules, starting with Respect.

There are many tips to encouraging good behaviour and the above tips are only the begining. I just want to get you thinking about your behaviour in relation to teaching or rolemodelling to your children.

Give it some thought.


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    • profile image

      segun adedeji 2 years ago

      This a very good site which could help both the parents and children.

    • profile image

      riham 5 years ago

      I like this article. It show. Me how I should deal with my kids and shows me I am wrong and hurt. My kids. Thank you

    • fetty profile image

      fetty 7 years ago from South Jersey

      You have written a clear and concise formula or How to that shows your 30 years of experience. Beautifully done and so needed in today's society. I will be referring people to read your hub. Great job here.