Encouraging Positive Behaviour
Managing behaviour is often challenging for many parents. I am convinced that the vast majority of parents have experienced at least one embarrassing moment where their child has had a meltdown in a public place and you wish the ground would open up and swallow you both.
Knowing how to deal with such situations is important for you a parent as well as being a valuable learning opportunity for your child. Staying calm and remaining in control (outwardly!) is also very important. You certainly don’t want to convey to your child that they are capable of determining your actions and responses.
We observe programmes such as Jo Frost’s Super Nanny and watch with empathy or disgust as we make comparisons to our own parenting and comment with “my child would never get away with that” or “my child would never dream of behaving that way in the first place.”
I have 10 practical tips that I’ve used over the years to bring out the very best in my children. I am confident they will do the same for your children too.
- Reward and praise the behaviour you want to encourage
Whenever your child shows examples of good and exemplary behaviour, lavish them with praise and attention. Your child needs to understand from a very early age that good behaviour gets your attention far more so than negative behaviour. Studies show that positive reinforcement is always more effective than negative reinforcement.
- Model the behaviour you desire
It may seem like common sense but modeling the behaviour you desire is a beneficial and effective way to teach your children what you expect from them. It is counterproductive to teach your child to stop shouting by shouting “STOP SHOUTING!” or to try and teach your toddler to be gentle and not to hit by aggressively saying to them “NO HITTING” whilst hitting their hand. Remember your child is watching and taking in everything you do, so model appropriate behaviour at all times, especially the behaviour you desire to see in your child.
- Be consistent
Children learn very quickly what boundaries they can cross and whether or not you will follow through with the consequences or promises you make. Consistency is PARaMoUnT. Your child will learn to respect and trust you if you are consistent. If you say no television for the rest of the day, stick to it. Do not compromise because you are out at a friend’s house and her child is watching the television. Your child needs to know that what you say is relevant and stands, no matter where you are. Similarly, if you promise your child an ice-cream for good behaviour in the supermarket then follow through with that promise. Consistency will teach your child the value of honesty and the importance of committing to the promises they make themselves.
- Use positive language
When reprimanding or reminding your child to do as you’ve instructed, use positive language. Rather than, “stop running”, say “please walk” or instead of “no hitting” say “use gentle hands”. Keep instructions short and concise. Focusing on what you want your child to do as opposed to what you don’t want them to do.
- You are not a broken record
Do not allow yourself to reiterate instructions and become frustrated. Give clear instructions once. If your child doesn’t adhere to your instruction then give a warning (if you don’t sit at the table now, you will not go to the park after lunch), followed by a countdown. For example; I’m going to count down from 5 and I want you to sit down at the table and start eating your lunch.
- 5, you need to put the toys down,
- 4, you should be walking towards the table,
- 3, you should be sitting in your chair,
- 2, I’m still waiting and if you don’t listen you will not be going to the park after lunch.
- 1, well done, excellent listening.
If your child hasn’t listened to your instructions in that time then follow through with the consequence and be consistent.
- Give your child ownership of their decisions
Giving your child a choice helps them to take responsibility and ownership for their decisions. It gives them a sense of importance. For example, whilst holding out your hands you can present your child with options. (Option 1, right hand) “You can choose to go to the table now or, (option 2, left hand) you can choose not to go to the park and play on the swings later. Which one do you want to do? The choice is yours.
- Encourage your child to reflect on their behaviour
When children think about their behaviour and examine their actions with your support, they are less likely to repeat that same behaviour. Enabling them to know and understand that they always have a choice in how they respond or react is empowering and helps them to have better self-control. Reflection sheets for both good and bad behaviour is an excellent way for children to be successful in their reflections. Feel free to download a copy of my personal reflection sheets that I use with my own children.
- Ask your child to say what they are sorry for, not just apologise and move on.
Whenever your child is apologising for unwarranted behaviour, always prompt and encourage them to say what they are sorry for. For example, your child lies about eating some grapes off the table without permission.
- “Sorry mummy”
- “What are you sorry for?”
- For taking the grapes without asking.
Having your child state what they are apologising for means that have taken ownership of their wrongdoing. A quality that many adults today struggle with.
- Give your child some time if they need it and don’t always address the situation in the heat of the moment (especially hormonal teens).
Sometimes dealing with a child in the heat of the moment will only lead to further anger and heightened emotions. There are times as a parent that you need to make the decision to step back and allow the situation to diffuse. When your child is fuelled with raging emotions whatever you say will not penetrate and have little or no impact. It is better to wait until you are calm and your child is calm and then rationally address the problem. This is particularly effective when dealing with teenagers. If you can cast your mind back to adolescence you might just remember feeling emotional and irrational and finding it very difficult to control and make sense of your emotions.
- Be honest about the impact your child’s behaviour has on you and others.
Communicating how your child’s behaviour has made you feel or getting the affected person to communicate this is essential. It will help your child to understand the theory behind Newton’s third law “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. Your child will begin to understand that the behaviour they choose to display will impact others whether positive or negative. It will help them to evaluate consequences prior to exhibiting behaviour.
All of the suggestions above are practices I have used and continue to use with my own children. Having studied sociology and psychology at A-Level has influenced my parenting in addition to studying a BA Honours in Primary Education. I hope these tips will prove to be effective and useful in your parenting. I wouldn’t be surprised if you are already implementing most, if not all of the above practices either subconsciously or consciously.
Please feel free to contact me and share what practices you use to encourage positive behaviour in your own children. Or if you have any questions relating to these tips then please do get in touch. Sharing and contributing as a community really helps to enhance parenting and support one another.
Reflection sheets are a fabulous way to encourage your child to take responsibility for their actions. It is equally important to encourage positive behaviour and allow children to think about what has inspired or encouraged them to take positive action. Too often we find ourselves focusing on the negative behaviour; so having a balance and celebrating achievement is essential to your child’s personal growth.
Download negative behaviour reflection sheet
Download positive behaviour reflection sheet
Baby Milk storage dispenser.
One of the most convenient and practical baby items that I own!
This storage container makes life so much easier especially when on the go. It holds 260ml/9oz of milk, 9 scoops in each compartment and has three compartments. You twist it around and lift the cap to empty each separate compartment. It really does make the sometimes laborious task of making bottles so much easier. It is portable, easy to clean, and I highly recommend this product.