Strategies for Improving Your Child’s Behavior

Tantrums… mealtime meltdowns… homework horrors… awful attitude. Are your kids’ behaviors driving you crazy? Mine were starting to, until I got the chance to co-author a book series with a pediatric neuropsychologist who offers parents a peek inside their child’s mind. The following advice is pulled from our new book, Stress-Free Discipline.

First, it can be helpful for parents to understand what’s behind the parenting tactics that you see listed in magazines, parenting books and online. We call these Universal Strategies; they are the basic common denominators of parenting. These are flexible enough to be applied to your specific child, and can be adapted to your schedule and amended to your family’s unique circumstances. Here is a sampling of our Universal Strategies to try:

When behavior turns bad, many parents go straight to a Time-Out, but that tactic won’t work unless your child has plenty of Time-In! You may be surprised at how even the most routine activities can create opportunities for casual, stress-free communication with your child. Time-In gives you much more leverage as a parent, and makes any Time-Outs more meaningful.

Consider any particular problem areas in your child’s behavior, and focus in on shaping those behaviors in a more positive direction. Discipline is all about education, so try to conduct some practice sessions for those things you want to see your child do better. Practice sessions can be a big time commitment, but it is also one of the most helpful behavioral strategies for parents and children.
Start by explaining you noticed she had trouble the last time she tried this activity, and so you want to show her how it’s done and give her some practice time.

Give her your full attention, with no other children around, and practice at a time when you have no scheduled activities or deadlines.
Go through the entire situation step-by-step, and use key points to explain important considerations.
If things get heated or your child slips into the problem behavior, be ready to bail out and try again later.

Be consistent with your rules, but adapt them as your child ages. Fall is a great time to start thinking about it, and testing them out on your child. Come the New Year, you can implement those that you think will work well for your child.

Call a family meeting to discuss rules with your child. Solicit their input as to what responsibilities they feel they could start undertaking – both of personal responsibilities as well as chores around the house.

It’s a lot easier to do a trial run of something during the holiday breaks.

Explain any rule updates to your child in-depth, including the reasons you are making the change. Make sure to tell them if this is a trial run, or a permanent new expectation.

For more Universal Strategies, check out our website Our book, Stress-Free Discipline, along with our second edition of Stress-Free Potty Training, is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

By Sara Au