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Instill Positive Behavior in Children

Updated on March 3, 2020
denise.w.anderson profile image

Wife of a school administrator, mother of seven children, and grandmother of a growing posterity, Denise understands all aspects of family.

Children are naturally curious. Give them opportunities to explore nature.
Children are naturally curious. Give them opportunities to explore nature. | Source

Characteristics of Children and How to Turn Them into Positive Behavior

Children, ages 3-7 years old, love to learn. Now is the time to help them develop a well rounded knowledge of the world. Because they do not know the difference between real and imaginary, The Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter Bunny are very real to them. Everything we tell them is real. Their faith is simple and powerful, and they readily trust adults. Now is the time to acquaint them with the life of Jesus Christ, scriptural stories, and moral lessons.

Children have a natural curiosity and ask many questions. They want to know how the world works and why things are the way they are. When they ask questions, answer with a question. Following are examples:

  • Question: Why do the clouds move? Answer: Why do you think they move?.
  • Question: Where do babies come from? Answer: Where do you think they come from?
  • Question: Why does that man have a beard? Answer: Why do you think that man has a beard?
  • Question: Why do cats purr? Answer: Why do you think cats purr?
  • Question: Why does the sun go down? Answer: Why do you think the sun goes down?

Doing activities with our children strengthens our relationship with them.
Doing activities with our children strengthens our relationship with them. | Source

Teach Life Skills that Lead to a Success

Teach life skills through example, verbal direction, and discussion. Opportunities will happen daily. With every problem encountered, there is a life skill to be taught. Below are some examples:

  • Problem: making a mess. Skill to teach: cleaning up afterwards.
  • Problem: hunger. Skill to teach: fixing simple snacks.
  • Problem: schoolwork. Skill to teach: asking questions to get help.
  • Problem: bullying. Skill to teach: respecting other people's feelings.
  • Problem: fear of the dark. Skill to teach: praying for safety and protection.
  • Problem: wanting to buy something. Skill to teach: earning money.
  • Problem: anger. Skill to teach: how to be kind to others.
  • Problem: jealosy of others things. Skill to teach: sharing.
  • Problem: telling a lie. Skill to teach: honesty.

These teaching moments are not singular in nature. Teach them as often as needed. They will continue to occur until the child learns the principle and teaches it to others. In fact, the child will often remind the adult of the principle when their behavior is in question.

Once children are taught, give them the opportunity to be independent.
Once children are taught, give them the opportunity to be independent. | Source

Teach Choices and Consequences

Teach children choices and consequences. Children want and need autonomy, or the power of personal choice. By the time they are past the toddler stage, children should have had experience choosing colors (Which shirt do you want to wear, the blue one or the red one?), shapes (Would you like a kite that is a triangle or a rectangle?), clothing styles (Do you want to wear short pants or long pants today?), and flavors of foods (Chocolate or vanilla?).

Whenever choices are given to children, be sure that the alternatives offered are acceptable. For example, clothing choices for having pictures taken may be between the dress with the satin tie or the dress with the red ruffle, if dresses are to be worn for pictures. Short pants are not an option, therefore, they are not given as part of the choice. The situation becomes win-win for all involved. The adult is able to set boundaries on the behavior of the child, and the child has the experience of making a decision and living with the consequence. The following methods assist in teaching choices:

Time Out

The child is removed from a highly desirable environment to one that is less desirable for a certain amount of time. The best use of time out is for disobedience. The child does not do what they are told, therefore, they are in time out.


The child receives verbal acknowledgement for doing the right thing, such as "You set the plates on the table!" The adult simply gives a verbal snapshot of what the child did that was correct. There is no judgement, simply enthusiasm.


Children need to receive messages that strengthen their sense of well-being in the form of hugs, "I love you," "I like it when you smile" or "you are special because you are you." These help the child to know that they are of worth, no matter what they do.

The child that puts forth an effort over a period of time needs to be paid for that effort. It can be points that may be spent for free time activities such as friends or computer, money for spending at the store, or tokens to trade in for craft supplies. It does not matter what the system is, it just needs to be agreed upon by both the child and the adult, and used consistently.

Children are very remarkable, and they will accomplish many remarkable things as we help them to learn, develop skills, and teach them to make wise choices. Our ability to keep our actions positive will bring a bountiful harvest of positive actions from them.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Denise W Anderson


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