Encouraging good behaviour in your child
Imagine your child playing outside with her peers. There might be a group of friends in the cubby giggling and sharing secrets, and another child contentedly alone. Someone is shouting and waving a stick around; someone else is singing. They’re all different.
The keys to helping your child learn to manage their behaviour are understanding your child's temperament, and using simple, positive strategies that encourage good behaviour.
Talk to your GP or child and family health nurse if you’re finding it hard to manage your child’s behaviour or if it seems very different from other children’s.
Good behaviour: what works, what doesn't
Giving your child positive attention for good behaviour almost always works better than punishing them for bad behaviour.
Encouraging good behaviour
You’ll see less bad behaviour from your child if you help them behave well:
- Give clear instructions so your child knows what you expect. Aim for rules that guide your chlid's behaviour in a positive way. ‘Please shut the gate’ is better than ‘Don’t leave the gate open’.
- Make your child’s space an environment for good behaviour, with plenty of safe, stimulating playthings. Reduce the chance of problems by keeping breakables or that things might hurt out of reach.
- Catch your child being good, and reinforce good behaviour with positive feedback that describes what you’re seeing. For example, hug your child and say, ‘I really like the way you’re keeping all the blocks on the table’ rather than waiting for the blocks to come crashing to the floor then shouting, ‘Hey! Stop that’.
- Try a reward chart, with stickers or stars that build up to a prize. This can be a powerful tool for changing a child’s behaviour.
- Make your child feel important by giving them some simple chores. Let him or her practise and get better, and praise their efforts so they’ll want to continue!
It’s sensible to avoid situations that lead to challenging behaviour. For example, if your child always acts up at the supermarket, it’s less stressful all around to organise someone to care for them while you shop.
If you can’t avoid a challenging situation, try to minimise the risks. Can you schedule an appointment at the best time for your child? Perhaps first thing in the day when they are fresh, or after a meal so they're not hungry and cranky. Have something ready to keep your child busy, like a favourite toy or book, and praise any good behaviour as soon as you can.
Sometimes the best way to manage bad behaviour is to ignore it. Other times you can let your child experience the natural consequences of her own behaviour. For example, if your child refuses to put on a coat, he or she feels cold.
And then there are times when you have to impose a negative consequence – for example, if children are fighting over a toy, the toy goes away for 10 minutes.
is a negative consequence. It involves taking your child away from interesting activities and not giving attention for a little while. This gives them the opportunity to think about what happened and what he or she might do differently next time.
Discipline that’s firm but fair will help you show your child what behaviour you expect. Remember that young children need help to learn. If you plan to use a negative consequence, it’s good to warn your child first so they has time to change her behaviour.
What doesn’t work: smacking
Smacking isn’t good for children’s wellbeing and doesn’t help them learn to follow rules.
Smacking has three big drawbacks. First, it can give children the message that hitting is OK. Second, there’s a risk that smacking might hurt children. Third, physical punishment like smacking can lead to longer-term problems in children’s health and development.
To read part one of the series, click here.
This article was published courtesy of the Raising Children Network.