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How to Encourage Good Behavior

Parents can learn to manage their children's behavior by setting clear expectations and praising children for good behavior. Here are some tips parents can use: 

  • Set rules for behavior. These may be different in different places, like going out to eat, going shopping, or playing at home.
  • Communicate rules and expectations to children. Give reminders before engaging in "trigger" activities. "Remember when we eat at a restaurant we have to stay sitting in our chairs and use inside voices."
  • Make sure the rules are right for the child's age. For example, a two year old cannot be expected to sit still as long as a 7 year old.
  • Remind children of the rules each time you enter the situation. Children do better when they know what to expect.
  • Explain what will happen if they choose not to follow the rule. Younger children have short memories. They may need to be reminded or "warned" a few times.
  • Clearly explain the rules and why they are important.
  • Keep the rules short and easy to follow.
  • Praise children when they follow the rules. Children learn faster with praise than with punishment, so praise often.
  • Use a positive and firm voice to remind children of the rules when they act out. Yelling can make them tune out. ("I hear you using a loud voice. Remember when we are in a restaurant we need to use an inside voice.")
  • Use the same rules every time. This makes it easier for them to learn.
  • Follow through on the rule. This can be hard to do sometimes so make sure the consequences are ones that parents are willing to do. ("You threw sand at the park and now we have to leave. The rule is that when you throw sand we have to leave the park.")