Parenting Lessons: Step Four: Maintaining Good Behavior

In Step Three you charted your child's good behavior. If you still aren't seeing as much improvement as you'd like, don't worry, it will come. Your plan may just need some adjusting, that's all. There are two reasons why you may not be getting results -- either the expectations are too high or the consequences are not motivating enough. If you think the expectations are too difficult, change them. If the children are unwilling to share each other's toys, for example, change your expectation: They must take turns while playing a game. Begin by playing the game with them. Show them how you share and take turns. Once they are successful, let them play a game alone. As they learn to play more cooperatively, try the original expectation again.

The success of any plan also depends on positive feedback and incentives. Children become tired of the same reward. Change incentives as needed to maintain a high level of motivation. You may be tempted to use punishments if your plan shows no improvement, but remember, most children will show less effort, not more if you resort to punishment. The only times that punishments should be occur are when a child deliberately, willfully and intentionally disobeys. If you have a No-hitting rule, for example, and your child hits, then a punishment such as Time-out, may be appropriate. When used correctly, punishment can be used to curtail some types of misbehavior, as long as the correct behavior is taught and reinforced. So, you might follow up the Time-out by telling your child, "No hitting. Use your words to tell how you are feeling." In general, it is better to stick with discipline and change the positive incentives instead.


Remember what I've said before: Don't wait for misbehavior to happen. Catch your kids being good. We tend to focus on misbehavior, especially with teenagers. We come to expect their good behavior, and often overlook their positive efforts. When a child demonstrates good behavior, notice it. Look for it. The more you notice, the more you will find. And the more you recognize, the more good behavior you will get in the future.

Finally, if your children are behaving poorly even though you are using positive feedback and incentives appropriately, they may be acting out to get more attention from you. Did you know that statistics show that the average American parent spends only seven minutes a week with each of their children? Try to do better than average. Telling your children that you love them is not enough, you have to show them that you love them too. Just spending 10 minutes of quality time with each child every day could vastly improve the situation.

Parents who work outside the home have an even greater challenge to find quality together time. Here are some strategies for you to try:

• When you arrive home from work, give the first fifteen minutes to your children.

• Make an appointment with each of your children every day. Even a five to 10 minute period of undivided attention will go a long way.

• Take advantage of nice day or evening and go for a walk and listen to what is happening in their lives.


• Turn off the TV for half an hour and just talk.

Maintaining Good Behavior

Here's a list of reminders, 10 Principles of Practicing Good Behavior that you can post on the refrigerator and practice every day. Keep it out. That way, your children will also see what the correct way to behave in a healthy family climate is and even remind you of it. If you behave, they will -- and the whole family will benefit.

As a parent, you know that raising well-behaved kids is a constant work in progress. It requires courage and patience. But by completing this workshop, you now have the tools to make this childrearing challenge a reality. Keep the good behavior momentum going by continuing to recognize and reward good behavior in your children. If your kids misbehave from time to time, don't get discouraged. Do not let their behavior keep you from enjoying them. Continue to practice the ideas presented in this workshop. Then, go back to laughing and playing with them!

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