The secrets to improving kids' behaviour
By Michael Grose
Most parents at some stage are driven to distraction
by one or more of their children's annoying habits or behaviours,
whether it is a toddler who continually whines, a school-aged child
who leaves clothes lying around or a teenager who uses a less than
How to affect change is a challenge for many parents. Do you ignore
a child's annoying behaviour or do you pick up on it? A useful
rule of thumb is to pick up on behaviours that are dangerous to the
child himself or significantly infringe on the rights and comfort of
Also ask yourself: Is this behaviour reasonable for the child's
age? For instance, it is reasonable to expect an eight year old not
to disturb you while you are on the phone for twenty minutes but it
is not reasonable to expect the same of a two year old.
It is also useful to take into account the child's current state
of mind and what is going in on their lives that may be related to
some unusual behaviour to occur at home.
The following four principles for changing your child's behaviour
will be effective if you are both patient and persistent.
Principle one: Change your initial response first. This is important
because children's behaviour generally requires a pay-off, which
may be your attention or an attempt to defeat you. The most
important principle about changing children's behaviour is to
change your own behaviour first. So if your child' whines (a child's
version of water torture) to get his own way refrain from answering
back or giving in.
Principle two: Practise with your child the behaviour that you want.
The notion of behaviour rehearsal is fundamental to learning a new
behaviour. Don't just tell kids what you expect, get them to
practise the behaviour you want. In the example of a young whiner -
get him to practise asking for help or a treat in a normal voice.
Principle three: Minimise the behaviour you don't want. That means
when children continue their old behaviour despite your brilliant
suggestions ignore it, sidestep it or implement a consequence but
don't nag or harp on it. Remember it takes time often to change a
behaviour, particularly if it has been happening for a long time.
Principle four: Spotlight the appropriate behaviour. When your
children behave in the desired way show your sincere appreciation.
We often take children for granted or rather we are trained to give
children no attention when they are good, but plenty when they are
less than perfect. The behaviours we focus on expand so we need to
focus our attention on desirable behaviours more than on the
negative behaviours. For our young whiner it is essential to make a
fuss when he uses a normal voice to get what he wants.
Like any process it will only work if you stick to it and follow it
through. And don't be afraid to adapt it to suit your
circumstances. Remember, it is the fact that you have a plan rather
than the nature of the plan that is most powerful in achieving a
change in your children's behaviour.
For practical ideas to make children's irritating behaviours such as
whining, nagging, tantrums and sibling fighting disappear read
Michael Grose's ground-breaking book - One Step Ahead. It is
available at the shop at www.parentingideas.com.au
Michael Grose is a popular parenting educator and parent coach. He is the
director of Parent Coaching Australia, the author of six books for parents and a
popular presenter who speaks to audiences in Australian Singapore and the USA.
For free courses and resources to help you raise happy kids and resilient
teenagers visit www.parentingideas.com.au