Improving Children’s Behavior

When you hear parenting advice that says, “When a child has such-and-such problem, here’s what you should do”, it implies that the problem will go away.  It sounds as if now you have the answer; all you have to do it follow that advice, and your problems will be solved.  Most parenting books or blogs don’t emphasize the slow nature of changing behavior.  It takes a long time to change!  When is the last time you accomplished your New Year’s resolutions in the first month?  More likely you are working on the same resolutions year after year!  When you try to do the right things as a parent and don’t see rapid improvement, don’t lose heart.  Have confidence in what you are doing and remember, it takes time for children to change and improve their behavior.

Think of your efforts as an investment in good behavior in the future.   And remember that as the child gets older, his behavior will naturally improve.  While you are waiting for that time, be kind; be patient with him.  Look at behavior in large, overall sweeps; don’t inspect each behavior or each day with a microscope.  Don’t get too bent out of shape about infrequent misbehaviors, or too worried about how to handle or fix one specific situation.  You won’t know exactly what to do in every situation, and that’s ok.

Raising children is like painting a landscape of a wheat field.  The individually painted stalks of wheat can be compared to interactions with a child or days spent parenting.  They don’t look like much on their own.  Even a few of them together look scraggly and small.  It takes many, many stalks of wheat to make a beautiful painting.  If a few of the stalks don’t turn out great, that’s all right.  The overall look of the painting is what matters.  It can take a long time to feel like your child’s behavior is improving, to see that big picture, but all your efforts count and help in the overall product.

Remember that a child’s behavior is molded more by positive reinforcement (noticing the good) than by negative reinforcement (reprimanding, punishments).  If there is a specific behavior you want to change in your child, sit down and write out the problem behavior and its opposite.  Then focus on complimenting the opposite! Reinforce the behavior you want.  Another strategy is to make a list of anticipated problems (things you know go wrong daily or often) and write your proactive responses to them.  Then practice them! These and other principles outlined in this blog will help guide you in your parenting.  Your child’s behavior will eventually improve, and you will have a positive relationship with him all along the way.

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