Often times we find ourselves threatening our children or criticizing them for their behaviors, in hope that they will self-correct. Criticizing and threatening children DOES NOT stop them from misbehaving. But what it does do, is stop them from loving themselves. It will often make the behavior even worse. This, is turn, can create more problems down the road like poor self-esteem and depression.

It is easy to get stuck in this cycle when you are at your breaking point, and you have no other tools in your pocket to implement. We all do this because we are human. Sometimes we yell, nag, threaten, and scream. We make empty threats, “Christmas is cancelled!” Yet, the best part about being human is we can change! I know, you are asking HOW!? What is the answer to getting your children to behave?

It Starts with You

Firstly, it starts with YOU! Are YOU ready to change? Are YOU ready to put forth the work? Secondly, it starts with understanding that behavioral changes come from within the child. Change in behavior in children occurs because something internally motivates them to do it, and they decide (for themselves) that it is good for them.

The pain you cause by cancelling Christmas may initially motivate your child to behave. Yet, this threat actually fractures the bond between parent and child. Therefore, the result of improved behavior is only temporary. It is very short lived. So what do we do?

The next step is getting children to go from defiant to cooperative. However, this requires some understanding of basic development and knowing what stage of development your child is in. You need to utilize methods that work with them. This understanding will help to create change from within the child, not from external world.

Simple Steps to decrease Behaviors

Here are some simple steps to implement to begin this internal change!

  • Build respect without yelling or nagging
  • Lead with confidence and strength by managing misbehavior using modeling behaviors
  • Stop yelling, nagging or fighting – Just walk away until ready to address in a calm manner
  • Gain positive energy to give to your child and to the other loved ones in your life (model this behavior)
  • Learn how to respond to the defiant behavior with a calm response
  • Look beyond the behavior and see what message the behavior is communicating
  • Help to label emotions correctly to gain awareness that emotions are real and they are OK to feel
  • Label and help communicate effective language like, “This isn’t working! Could you help me?”
  • Help your child improve their social emotional learning

Children learn a lot by watching. So, try your best to model the behaviors and choices for your children. Encourage effort and take the pressure off. Do your best to implement some of the above strategies and see if your child starts to make that internal shift. Then, if they do not, feel free to reach out to your pediatrician or reach out to an occupational therapist.  Another great resource is Dr. Becky, a clinical psychologist and mom of 3, who has tons of tips and tricks for parents.