Sticking out tongue

Whether you’re dealing with the onset of the terrible twos or you’ve got older children that like to play the merry pranksters, act out for attention (good or bad), or wreak havoc wherever they go, you may be at your wits end when it comes to dealing with the bad behaviors exhibited by your progeny. Luckily, children are eminently trainable, especially when they’re young. But you have to be willing to go through a rough patch if you want to come out the other side with biddable kids. And the hardest part for many parents is tweaking their own behaviors, namely when it comes to consistency. You can’t punish one kid for something and let another get away with a similar infraction. And you definitely can’t levy a punishment and then take it back. The stronger and more consistent you are, the more likely your kids are to learn the boundaries and toe the line. But if you’re just starting out on your journey to well-behaved children, here are a few tips to get you started.

  1. Talk softly and get to their level. You don’t have to yell or spank your kids to let them know you’re serious. Often, an understated rebuke works even better. But first you have to get their attention. If you want your kids to connect to what you’re saying, you need to get to their level and look them in the eye. When they’re focused on you there’s a much greater chance that you can break through the tantrum and speak to them. From there, try talking in a soft but firm tone. They may quiet in response to hear what you’re saying.
  2. Offer a choice. When you act like a dictator kids are bound to rebel. Although there are certainly times where you’ll simply tell your children what to do for the sake of expediency, a better tactic when you have the time is to offer your kids a choice. For example, they can either settle down and do their homework or they won’t get to watch TV after dinner. They can stop their roughhousing or their weekend slumber party is cancelled. Delivering an ultimatum is no fun, but it can help you to solidify your own authority while empowering your kids to make decisions and live with the consequences or rewards, an excellent lesson that will serve them well later in life.
  3. Count to ten. This tactic has been used by many parents, often with excellent results. You’ll no doubt have times when you get all the way to ten and you have to follow through with the promised punishment. But once kids realize you’re serious, this “cool down” technique will make such incidents fewer and further between.
  4. Let them go. It takes a lot of energy to have a tantrum, and while some kids certainly have the strong constitution to carry on for a while, most children will either get bored or exhaust themselves if you feign disinterest in their bad behavior. And once they’ve calmed down you can have a fruitful conversation.
  5. Distract them. There will be times when your children are genuinely intent on misbehaving for one reason or another. Perhaps they are testing the boundaries as kids are wont to do. Or maybe they are expressing their displeasure at a perceived slight (like your refusal to buy them candy). But in some cases they’re simply overtired or they’re seeking attention. Regardless of the reason for a tantrum or meltdown, however, you might not want to let them carry on in the middle of a department store or a company picnic. So one good way to get children to behave is to give them the attention they seek in an unexpected way. Instead of punishing kids or marching them to a time out, try distracting them with funny faces, famous quotes, amusing songs, or a game that helps them to shift gears mentally and emotionally.

Photo credit: healthyfamilymatters.com

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