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Improving your child’s behaviour

Children grow and develop rapidly, so having a plan is helpful, but having multiple plans is even better! Not
everything goes to plan 100% of the time and sometimes a child will throw a tantrum.
Tantrums are maladaptive behaviours (basically this means actions that we don’t want).

The most effective way to influence behaviour is rewards and not punishments.
We don’t want to give in to tantrums or we are rewarding and encouraging that kind of behaviour.

One recommended technique is to play a game called “practising tantrums”. What you do is practice tantrums with your child at home. You both get to jump up and down, scream and yell, roll on the floor, etc. and then you congratulate your child for how well they did.

The next time you are at the shop and there is a tantrum you congratulate them on throwing a good tantrum and tell
them “I didn’t even know we were practising”. Such techniques are great but, often are prone to only working a few times.       

Another expert recommends praising children for calming down, while new research states too much praise creates narcissism. Praising for calming down, also has the potential to encourage tantrums for children that aren’t getting enough praise in other areas of their life.

When my children were young we practised saying “Ok” to things they were told “no” to. The reward was that sometimes
they would get what they were after and I would explain it to them since you said “Ok” to my no I’m going to get you a special treat, but you are not always going to be getting this.

As parents, being on the same page is important for a stable environment within the home. The last thing you want to be doing is telling a child off for something the other parent has permitted them to do.
These kinds of actions will create instability in the parent/child relationship and create friction within the parents’ relationship with each other. If this is happening to you, start by having a private conversation with your partner. It
may also be a sign that you need help and I would encourage you to think about starting some counselling.  

Setting rules with your children, not against your children

Discipline is to punish or correct someone for “breaking a rule”. Discipline is about punishing for control, either by
taking something away or, applying something unpleasant to discourage the behaviour.

I would like you to think about the fact that parents often have a strong focus on punishments and can often forget that rewards act as positive reinforcement (encouragement for behaviours) and are a stronger influence on behaviour than punishments. Rewarding for control is more effective than punishing for control.

Generally recommended, is a small number of simple rules for a younger child because their understanding of the situation isn’t as good as an older child’s brain.

If rules aren’t always enforced then you get to the extinction phase. This is when the child becomes frustrated because
they know that sometimes the tantrum works and they don’t understand why it is not working this time, but in a struggling effort to make it work again they are trying to pull off the biggest tantrum they can manage.

As children get older allowing them to have a say in setting rules means they feel more responsible for upholding the rules.

This doesn’t mean your children will never break the rules. As your child gets older things will become less black and
white. For example, if your teenager has a set time to be home, when should they break that rule? One time (there are others) they could break that rule would be, when getting home on time involves putting themselves in danger.

Helping your children learn

I want my children to be happy and healthy. Children (at least my children) don’t always want to do things to
meet my goals. They don’t eat as well as I would like, but forcing them to eat better is likely to make them less happy. As a dad, I can role model being happy and healthy. I can also invite them to join me for fun activities – cheap things that we can do together, parks and skating are fun things we like to do together. I will talk to them and ask them for their opinion on what would make a fun day or, a nice dinner. I also offer them a chance to help with the cooking.
For some reason when they make it themselves it tastes better! Cooking is a great time to connect with the kids and ask them about their day and what they have been doing at school, etc. A study conducted in the US found that on average parents spend 10 minutes per day talking to their children. Having a meal together with the TV turned off is a great way to teach social skills and spend more time having conversations with your children. 

Children learn in the following ways:    

  • Imitation – Things they learn from watching you.
  • Cause and Effect Play – Like pushing a button on something and seeing what happens.
  • Repetition – Children will often repeat actions to see if the response is always the same.

Focus on encouraging growth and development.

A lot of physical exercise is recommended for school-age children. The recommendation is that they are physically active
at least every 2 hours. This brings into question how well schools do to help give our kids get physical fitness opportunities.

Making sport fun for our children helps and here are my tips for doing this;

    1. ·     Realise that it takes time for them to learn. Start rewarding them after sport, not just the times when they play great, but every time.
    2. ·      Let them make the decisions around what they would like to play.
    3. ·      You don’t keep score and if you are let them win a few for encouragement.

When our kids leave home they will be in control of their own lives and there won’t be anyone there to put limits on them. So they might as well start practising self-control in a safe environment, like the home.  I would encourage them to have a good balance in their life by making plans with them, taking them out and doing things they enjoy. They don’t have to be expensive things.TV, the Internet, and video games affect children in both good and bad ways. There is a study about Bobo who was a blow-up doll. Researchers role modelled to a group of children treating the doll well vs. another group of children who saw researchers being rough with the doll.
Guess what happened?  Children imitated the behaviour of the researchers, i.e. when they saw rough that is how they played with the doll.

On the positive side, other research found that people who play video games are better drivers as they can locate and track objects better, and overall have better motor skills. Video games can improve leadership, teamwork skills, and be a creative way for parents to spend time with their children.

As with most things, moderation is the healthiest option.

As a parent, if you are going to be negotiating restrictions around video games and chances are you will be, I
would encourage you to consider what the alternative activities might be?  Board games, movie nights, outdoor adventures are all good places to start.      


An overview of parenting in the areas of behaviour and development. Positive reinforcement by giving your child compliments and rewards will outperform punishments in the long term. Be consistent with your
approach and seek the support of your partner.

One rule I like to live by and you can share with your children is this:

“You can ring me 24/7, I will come and pick you up and I will never ask you why”