Bringing Out The Best Behaviour In Kids
By Michael Grose
Bringing out children's better behaviour is easy if you have easy
children. It can be more testing if you have challenging kids or
when you are raising active toddlers and feisty teenagers with
plenty of ‘tude (attitude).
My work over two decades shows that those parents who are most
successful at bringing out their children's best behaviour use a
variety of strategies, rather than one or two.
They also get help when they need it, whether sharing the parenting
with a partner or calling on broader family or friends for support.
Sometimes taking a break is the best strategy to use rather than get
a locked into power struggle with strong-willed kids.
Some strategies are more successful than others however here are
seven simple but significant strategies and ideas to help you bring
out your child's best behaviour:
1. Avoid your impulsive reaction when kids are less than perfect.
Generally, the first parental reaction to children's uncooperative
or poor behaviour can actually encourage more of the same. Sounds
bizarre, but children often keep repeating the behaviours that work
in achieving a result. Whinging, for example, is a brilliant way for
a child to get his or her own way. Like ancient 'water torture' it
effectively makes us lose our cool and give in for some peace and
2. Teach kids manners. Old fashioned good manners such as making eye
contact, addressing people by name and using please and thank you's
are basic social skills that many of our current generation don't
possess. Manners is respect in action and very empowering so don't
leave it up to schools and pre schools to teach. Insist on it
3. Cure parent deafness by acting rather than talking. Often when
kids ignore our requests for cooperation we simply repeat ourselves
or raise the volume of our voice. Forget it. Cure parent-deafness by
acting rather than talking. For instance, put the meal on the table
and let it get cold rather than repeatedly tell kids to come to the
mealtable. Kids learn from our actions as much as from our words.
4. Set consequences like a good cop: Behavioural consequences are
all the rage in schools, pre schools and child care centres. I love
them as a way of shifting responsibility onto kids to behave well.
Consequences have their own set of rules if they are to be
effective. But the key to their success is to set them like a good
cop, as a opposed to a rude cop, so the kids are mad at themselves
rather than at you.
5.Use the language of cooperation to get .... err ... cooperation.
Some parents use the wrong language to get what they want. They you
use the language of coercion (“Do this now!”) to get cooperation,
however all they get is confrontation and conflict. For some
hard-to-shift kids you need to use the right language to win their
cooperation. They are puppy dogs really if you use the right words.
The language of cooperation is about choices, not backing kids into
a corner and focusing on yourself rather than the child.
6. Use behavioural rehearsal with kids: If you want kids to behave
in certain ways then it is useful to get kids to practise in fun,
low or no stress ways. For instance, if you want to bring out your
children's best behaviour when eating out then set up the meal-table
at home like a restaurant and have some fun serving them the meals
and using their 'best going out' manners.
7. Put yourself in timeout - tactical withdrawal: Most parents have
heard of timeout for kids but timeout for parents is effective too.
If that sounds bizarre then consider a child with 'last wordedness'
or a child who keeps nagging or arguing with you to get his or her
own way. You need to tactically withdraw from these kids to save
your sanity or stop yourself from giving in. If you can't move away
from your child then disappear psychologically - that is, imagine
your child is not there and refuse to respond while your child
Michael Grose is an expert in bringing out the best in kids. He is the director of Parentingideas,
the author of seven books for parents and a popular presenters who inspires audiences in Australia,
Singapore and the USA. For the absolute best advice and ideas, free courses and fabulous resources to
help you raise happy kids and resilient teenagers visit