Parenting Resources

Teaching Your Child Good Behavior

Every parent wants children who are well behaved and polite, but teaching them these important lessons can be a challenge.  Children are impulsive and emotional, and often fail to consider the ramifications of their actions or think before they speak.  While some of this will simply improve with time and maturity, there are some things you can do from a young age to encourage good behavior in your child.

“I want parents to understand that although they’re not necessarily responsible for whatever behavior problems their child might have, there is much they can do to develop the behavior they do want.” 

Dr. Alan Kazdin, head of the Yale Parenting Center explains.  There are a few tried and true methods for encouraging the good behavior, and lessening incidents of poor behavior will follow right along.

A simple but effective method is to be sure to catch your child when they are behaving well and praise or reward them for it.  Too often, the focus falls on bad behavior, because that is when parents feel the need to step in.  “Positive reinforcement is not only good to motivate defiant children and encourage good behavior, but it also helps them see their own positive behaviors,” says Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein, licensed psychologist and family therapist.  Children who recognize good behavior are more likely to repeat it in order to receive the positive attention from a parent.  Poor behavior is often attention-seeking; when the attention is given for good behavior instead, it becomes unnecessary.

Another one of the simplest methods of teaching good behavior is to remember to model it.  Parents often think that their children should differentiate between appropriate behavior for adults and behaviors that are ok for them to emulate.  The problem is, they don’t see that difference, and the “do as I say, not as I do” attitude simply doesn’t teach much of anything.  Model the behavior you want to see in your children, and you will be rewarded with better behavior.

Simple steps to better behaved children:

  • Start teaching good behavior from an early age before bad habits can form

  • Recognize and reward good behavior when it occurs naturally

  • Be a model of good behavior for your child

There will always be challenges in your child’s behavior, but setting good standards from the start can make a parent’s job easier.  When you provide a good model of the right behavior and use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior in your child, you are setting the stage for a lifetime of better behavior.