Children are not a blank slate, but they are not born programmed to follow modern rules, either. Parents need to guide and teach their children from the very beginning, years before they go to school. The question for parents is: how can I do that? Here are a few tips on how to shape and manage your young child’s behaviour.

Use the strategies professional teachers use

There are many strategies for managing the classroom. These strategies are used to maintain control of large groups of children, so they’ll certainly work if you have several kids. But what do teachers do? Teachers model ideal behaviour, because kids learn by watching and mimicking, and they’ll recognise hypocrisy. Give consequences for bad choices. You should have clear rules as well as clearly defined consequences, so that kids are not surprised when they’re told to go to the corner or denied screen time. Having written rules and consequences creates a fair system because everyone is treated the same. You can give the kids some say in what consequences are reasonable and what rules might be done away with, but parents are in charge.

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Recognise when your behaviour feeds their bad behaviour

In order to manage a child’s behaviour, it’s important to give kids adequate attention. They’re more likely to act up if they’re not getting enough attention. Don’t make the mistake of inadvertently rewarding their bad behavior. The classic mistake is laughing when a young child says a curse word, so they do it more thinking that parents consider it a good thing. On the other hand, we often fail to appreciate good behavior. If kids are only called out when they do something wrong, they have little reason to make better choices. The solution is to give them attention and praise when they make good choices.

Don’t make positive attention dependent on good behaviour

This can be a hard piece of advice for parents, but it’s key for managing a child’s behaviour. Take the time to play with your kids throughout the day. Just five minutes of devoted attention several times a day can strengthen your relationship and reduce their desire to act out to get any attention from you. This could be pushing them on the swing or joining them when they’re playing pretend. It could be reading a book to them when they’re down or reading an extra book at bedtime. Note that kids over six will benefit from being read to even though they can theoretically read. You could expand their minds by reading the comics or business section to them. Or read to them from the books you’re reading. Children equal time and attention with affection. And investing in quality time like this every day will strengthen your relationship. The end result is a child that is more eager for your approval and less likely to require punishment to do what you want.

Teach children about emotions

Help children to name their emotions, whether they are sad mum is leaving for work or angry that a friend took their toy. Teach them to say how they feel rather than acting out. Then you can talk about how they can act to resolve the situation, whether it is hugging you before leaving or telling someone to give them their toy back.

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