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How to get your child to behave

Melissa Lahti

Dec. 04 2008

Child behavior, it’s such a mysterious thing. It seems like most of the time no matter what we do our children are going to do what they want anyway. As parents we have been through it all. The tantrums in the stores, the screaming when they are told that horrible word “no”. Too few and fortunate parents have children that actually behave when they go out to a public place. How do they do that? How are we supposed to be able to get our children to behave, in public and at home?

The best thing to do for you and your child is to start teaching them when they are young. The younger the better. Have you ever heard the saying “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.”? Well, it’s the same concept. The older your child gets they will be set in their ways and then it’s extremely hard to change their habits. Here are a few tips in getting your child to behave. Hopefully they will help to make your life and theirs better and more peaceful.

When talking to your child and teaching them right from wrong you want to stay positive. You need to constantly praise them and remind them what they are doing right. If you spend all your time focusing on the negative things your child will too. This will cause them to have a bad attitude.

When you want your child to do something you should never yell at them from across the room. Keeping eye contact and touching your child is a key way to get your child to behave. You should always look them in the eyes and place your hand on their shoulder or hold their hands. Looking them straight in the eyes shows them that you are in charge, while touching them lets them know that you still care at the same time.

When your child is doing something they are not supposed to be doing you should not yell at them. Instead, show them the right thing to do. For example, if your child is drawing on the wall, you should get them some paper. Sit down and draw with them for a while and proceed to explain to them how and why it’s important to draw on paper and not on the walls. Remember to stay positive.

Have you ever heard the saying “out of sight, out of mind.”? That is good to remember when your child is doing something they know they are not supposed to and just won’t stop. Take the object that is causing the misbehavior and put it away until a later date, or forever if that is what it takes. Never allow them to continue what they are doing.

When your child is little they don’t yet know right from wrong and therefore have no self control. You need to be that self control for them until they learn it themselves. For example, if your child is climbing on the table you would say to them: “You are not supposed to be climbing on the table. Do you want to get down on your own or do you want me to help you get down?”

Have you ever gone to that family gathering only to have your child literally bouncing off the walls? There is nothing more embarrassing as they are running around screaming and getting into everything. It makes you want to crawl away to some dark corner and pretend you have never seen this child before. As we already know children tend to forget immediately everything you say to them. It’s called selective memory. You must always explain to your child in great detail exactly what it is you expect from them shortly before you reach your destination. I always use the driving time in the car to spell out what I am going to expect when we arrive. You must be very upfront and bold so they know you mean business. One example is “We are going to a party at grandma’s house. There will be no yelling, running or being rude. I want you to be on your best behavior the whole time and use your manners always.” I think it is a good idea to try to use almost the same wording every time you go to different places, that way they start to memorize your little speeches and it becomes a part of the way they think. Then there is no question about what you expect.

Children will do better if they have some sort of transition time. It’s a good idea to always warn the child five minutes ahead of time before starting a new task. A five minute warning gives their brain time to process and prepare for what ever is about to happen, whether it is clean up time or time to go somewhere.

If there are certain things that are causing your child to behave badly simply stay away from them for a while. Like if your child refuses to behave at the grocery store, leave him home with dad every time for about a month or so. Long enough to break the cycle of bad behavior and create a new routine.

If your child has a melt down in public, which they all do at some point in their life, take the child outside or to a quiet place. Sit with them until they calm down and give them your little speech about how you expect them to behave. When all is good again you can return to business as usual.

Try to keep all your daily routines positive. Any negativity or yelling can easily become part of your routine. Making your life and your child’s way too stressful and frustrating.

Children are very easily distracted. One way to help them with that is to constantly give them little one word reminders to keep them on track. For example: “Potty time”, “clean up time”, “pajama time”.

Children are very simple minded. Therefore, it is important to always explain to them in great detail what it is you expect of them. Be very specific and clear.

Children are like little copy machines. They tend to copy everything you say and do, whether it is good or bad. Make sure you always watch what you say and do because you are teaching your child every minute. You can take advantage of this by constantly explaining to them in explicit detail what you are doing and why. For example: when you are brushing your teeth explain to them that you are removing the germs and why that is important. Tell them why you brush up and down and why you spit. Explain to them that you must do this daily and why. They will be so interested they will want to do it too.

Every day is a learning experience. You need to guide your child step by step through the things you want them to do. Then, once you have guided them through it a few times stand back and let them demonstrate to you their brand new skill. They will be so proud.

Now are you ready to practice these tips? Here’s a little scenario for you. You need to go to the grocery store. You go to your child, hold both hands and look them in the eyes. You say: “In five minutes we are going to be leaving to go to the store. While we are there I want you to be on your best behavior. I have made a list of things I am going to buy. We are not buying anything else so while we are there I don’t want you to touch anything or ask me to buy you anything. You were so good last time we went and that is how I want you to act again.” Then, when you arrive at the store and before you get out of the car you simply say: “No touching anything, no asking for anything and use your best behavior.” While you’re going through the store use it as a teaching opportunity. Explain to them what we use tomatoes for, why it’s important to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, why we don’t buy lots of candy and snacks. And then if they are exceptionally good throughout the store it is good to sometimes reward them. You can get them a little candy or something just because they didn’t ask. But make sure you don’t reward them every time because then they are going to start to expect it.

I hope this helps. Good luck and happy child raising.