Managing Behavior 101

Effectively managing our children’s behavior as parents can be very challenging.  Although building a family is ever-changing, the basic principles of behavioral learning and behavior change remain the same.  The following principles, when followed accordingly, are effective in managing behavior. 

Be prepared.  Providing your child information about upcoming situations can be helpful.  State rules ahead of time, and give rewards for good behavior.  

Give praise and rewards for any positive behavior.  Praise not only encourages children to continue positive behavior, it also gives them feedback about expected behavior. 

Ignore insignificant behaviors/pick your battles.  Ignoring annoying behaviors can be effective as children don’t receive the attention for them.  Praise the appropriate ways your child gets your attention.  Also, choosing not to engage in a battle over something insignificant, such as picking a different pair of shoes, can be helpful in preserving your energy for bigger issues and keeping things more positive between you and your child. 

Choices/limits.  Choices influence self-control, and help children develop a sense of independence and self-efficacy.  A parent first chooses what the choices are, ensuring that the choice chosen by the child is appropriate.  Limits contribute to a child’s sense of security, as they learn the boundaries of situations, predictability, and how to navigate their environment.

Consequences.  Consequences are an opportunity to teach your child. When giving a consequence, keep it clear, simple, follow through on it, and deliver it matter-of-fact.  Too much explaining or emotions lessen the effect. 

In my work as a psychologist, I encourage parents to think of consequences as a hierarchy to address minor to severe behaviors.  A counting intervention, such as 1, 2, 3, time out is one example to address minor infractions, where 1, 2 are chances to correct behavior and 3 is a time out.  More severe behaviors would go right to 3, time out.  Over time, you should see your child make better choices and need less chances to modify his/her behavior.  

Be consistent.  Consistency is a key element in behavior change.  A clear plan for addressing positive and negative behaviors should be developed and followed.  Make sure your babysitters and other caregivers are informed; children will test you, especially if others are not following the plan.  After a few weeks of sticking to the plan, you should see behavior change.

Special time.  Spending about an hour of one-on-one child-directed time once a week contributes to a positive relationship between you and your child. 

Be realistic.  Combining effective behavior principles with your parenting style and family values will lead to the greatest success and will foster positive feelings in your family. 

Take care of you.  Your job as a parent is extremely important and you need time to re-parentize!  Self-care will help you feel satisfied and effective as a parent, which in turn positively impacts your child.

Sometimes it can be challenging to find the right behavioral approach. Finding a professional with knowledge in child development and behavior management can be helpful. Got any tips of your own? Share them below!


Posted on September 07, 2014 at 8:27 AM