You've been there. Or you dread being there. That moment at grandma's, the grocery store, the doctor's office, the school, worse yet, your friend's house, when your child is EMBARRASSINGLY MISBEHAVING! Yes, in those moments you have a desperate desire to encourage good behavior in your child. Then there are those private moments, all alone, just you and your child (maybe a few other siblings), when their behavior begins to barrel downhill at a rapid rate (and for any reason: you said no to more dessert, their sibling took their toy-or they took their sibling's, or you got on the phone—that works every time) and you suddenly feel on the brink of insanity, like your whole family-world might self-destruct if you can't stop this horrible misbehavior! Yes, in those moments you urgently want to know how to encourage good behavior in your child!
Worse than both these situations is when time and practice has made the child and the behavioral problems grow and now you really are facing the destruction of your child's potential, your peace as a parent, even your family-life! You MUST learn how to encourage good behavior in your child. The trick is keeping this desire, this focus in your mind and heart on a daily basis, even during the 'peaceful, easy moments', to be willing to do the work it takes on a consistent basis to instill good behavior in your child from the time they are ever-so-tiny to the time they are fully grown. The trick is keeping this focus in your own life—being a constant example of self-control and good behavior even as you work every day, every moment, to instill good behavior in your little ones. Just remember how bad you want this. The wonderful thing is that THIS is what parenting is ALL ABOUT—encouraging children to grow into wonderful people; to be good. Raising up good people, good human beings, encouraging your child to consistently behave in a way the blesses them and those around them and brings happiness into everyone's hearts (including your own) is the goal of every good parent.
The Family: A Proclamation to the World states: "The Family is central to the Creator's plan for the eternal destiny of His children." It outlines God's plan for His children to come to earth "to obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny..." It goes on to teach that "Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live." In short, to be good. The Family Proclamation even goes on to pronounce that "as mothers and fathers—we will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations." In other words, the family is the building block of society, the place where good human beings are created and nurtured, and become and WE, as Mothers, Fathers, Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Aunts, Uncles, and FRIENDS are responsible for that becoming.
So here's the question, "How do you encourage good behavior?" And there are so many, many ways! More than I can possibly name here, but I hope this is the beginning of a concrete list that helps YOU as a parent to AVOID or GET THROUGH those terribly torturous moments of misbehavin'!
- Some of these suggestions are based on behavioral science; it works and results in good behavior.
- But I pray as parents we work to do what matters most, create children of inner character, get goodness deep down in their hearts so they will make good choices, behave well, wherever they are, whatever they are facing. I've included ideas for doing that as well.
- All of these ideas have worked well for my husband and I so far; I pray they will work far into the future as my children grow and leave home to make their own life.
Ideas on How to Encourage Good Behavior
- Reward good behavior with time, attention and praise, intermittently.
- Catch your children doing good and recognize it verbally and with a smile.
- Make your expectations clear.*1
- Ask your child, "What do you need to do right now?" (You don't have to nag anymore, they usually know.)*1
- Keep them busy with GOOD activities that expand their mind and soul.
- Help them get the momentum going on good activities, engage yourself with them until they are independently into it and will continue on their own.
- Practice, practice, practice. The best parents I have seen put their children to work, give them opportunities to serve, and practice daily good behaviors.
- Distract them when they are behaving badly. Redirect their activities.
- Pay attention to the Positive! (The behavior parents pay attention to GROWS!*1)
- DO NOT IGNORE your child - this will CERTAINLY result in bad behavior. Show them LOTS of LOVE and ATTENTION everyday! *4
- Ignore bad behavior, simply walk away, or keep your chin up and get happily busy with something else. (Unless the behavior is hurting someone or something.)
- If a child is hurting someone or something, gently, but firmly, stop their bad behavior by looking them directly in the eye and stating "We do NOT _______." (In a serious, but not angry, tone.) Then ask "What do you do when _______" (fill the blank with whatever scenario led to the inappropriate behavior). Ask them 3 times and they will most likely come up with a better way to handle it. Then state your faith in them and their future choices. This simple and direct response helps them know this behavior won't be tolerated and prepare a better plan for the future. *1
- Spend TIME with your child. *8
- LOVE your child! Show them! If they know you love them they will be more inspired to do as you ask.
- Believe in them, in their goodness. Give them the benefit of the doubt.
- Tell them how awesome you think they are! (If you are sincere they will believe it and be more likely to act that way!)
- Notice their good acts, notice the good in them, notice the good. (Did I say that already??)
- Use positive touch frequently! Hugs, squeezes, a pat on the shoulder all tell your child you think they are awesome.
- Use humor to disperse bad feelings or behavior in a difficult moment.
- Teach them what is right and good from the time they are tiny. Teach them that God prospers those who keep His commandments. Do not withhold instruction. *2
- ROLE PLAY making good choices - especially up against peer pressure and what's 'popular'. *7
- Read and tell inspiring stories to them of individuals that have demonstrated great courage, compassion, commitment to core virtues, sacrifice, faith and LOVE. *5
- List together, every now and then, the benefits of good behavior and the consequences of poor actions and choices.
- Make sure they get enough rest.
- Don't let them get too hungry. (This was a recipe for quick disaster with my first set of twins when they were tiny! With all children you will notice grumpiness increase with hunger.Of course natural whole foods help them and their bodies be healthier and happier also.)
- Let their days follow a predictable pattern as much as possible. (A gentle, flexible rhythm verses a harsh schedule is more conducive to happiness.)
- Keep yourself in control and internally happy and healthy. (Children bounce off their parent's negative emotions!) *9
- Sing! Songs can entertain, change a mood, teach a principle, inspire, be remembered in the heart! Great music is a GREAT TOOL for instilling goodness in children!
- Make the home environment conducive to peace. (Turn down the noise, clean up, dejunk, decorate with peaceful cheer, make it a warm, welcoming, wonderful place.)
- Have 'family dinner' every night possible. Talk to each other, be civil and kind, cheerful and fun.
- Hold Family Home Evenings once a week. *12
- Teach your children to pray. *13
- Have the tradition of family prayer in your home each day. *14
- Be true to your spouse. Honor them, take care of them, be kind to them, LOVE them. Children ALWAYS do better when Mom and Dad LOVE each other! *3
- Teach them that they are accountable for what they do. It is THEIR life and they are FREE to choose! Teach this as young as possible.
- PRAY for your child!
- Believe they can change, start new, begin again. Give them the chance you want them to give you.
- Treat your child the way you want to be treated and teach them to do the same for others.
- Teach them that "it is more blessed to give than receive" by your own daily actions and preparing opportunities for them to practice giving. *15
- Teach them to "Look to God and Live". They can turn to Him for help and guidance all their lives long. *11
And never forget, "successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities" *10. All these things encourage good behavior. This is a long list and perhaps it is best to pick just one thing off of it to work on today. When you've mastered these there are still more ways to strengthen good behavior! If you are a little overwhelmed, read my blogpost, "How to Be Perfect Parents" and remember it isn't about doing things perfectly but about perfectly loving our imperfect families in an imperfect world. I wish you all the SUCCESS in the world when it comes to raising good, well-behaved, even WONDERFUL, people!
CaMarie is a mother of 10 children (who are ages almost 2-20). She's found her joy and fulfillment (and greatest challenges) in life by being wife and mother! She is married to a handsome husband who serves as surgeon and stake president but is very best, she says, at being husband and father. She has a degree from Utah State University in Family and Human Development and has a passion for strengthening her own family and others! She has taught preschool and piano, seminary and Sunday school. She enjoys horses, the outdoors, reading, and any activity that involves her husband and children! She keeps her brain in order and her spirits refreshed by writing now and then. She keeps a blog entitled "All Boys but 9". (And you should check it out...she walks the walk!)
Be sure to check out Cranial Hiccups for today's post celebrating family!
*1 Positive Parenting by Glenn Latham *2 It is already in them to WANT to do what is good, this will just remind them and enforce it. Peace comes from being taught goodness. Isaiah 54:13 (KJV) "And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord; and great shall be the peace of thy children." *3 From The Family: A Proclamation to the World "Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity." I have observed time and time again that children do best when they come from a secure home of mother and father committed to one another and their children. *4 Proverbs 29:15 "but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame." Be careful all you parents of the information age - ipads, smartphones, facebook, etc... can consume more precious time than you realize. Letting TV or movies babysit your children will have hurtful consequences in the end. Use these devices for teaching and tools, not for taking away time from the most important thing in your life, your family. *5 The Bible stories are gripping, guiding, inspiring and remain with them as they make choices. My sister and I always loved the Value Tales and feel they made a great difference for us at a young age. Our children attended Crossroads academy, a school in which Core Virtues were taught through inspired reading material and practiced throughout each day. *6 *6 Core Virtues by Mary Beth Klee "How does the “action” flow from the literature-
based program? “It’s a natural extension,” Jean Behnke comments. “The stories in our morning gatherings give the children real heroes, and inspire a love of the virtues. Kids have plenty of opportunities to practice those virtues in their daily interactions on the playground and in the classroom, but the desire to do more is always there.” *7 We have our children role play scenarios in which they demonstrate making good choices in difficult situations. This is one of their favorite family home evening activities. I have also found that when I role-play how to share, how to ask politely, how to say thank you, how to give, how to be kind, it is very effective, with all ages but most helpful with toddlers. *8 I've found my children listen to me and behave sooo much better after I've invested time and constructive energy with them. I've observed this distinct difference in children attending preschool also: children with an at-home mother most often listen to directions and behave better.) *9 First hand experience with that! *10 The Family: A Proclamation to the World. *11 Numbers 21:7-9, John 3:14-16, Helaman 8:13-15 *12 LDS.ORG (Family Home Evening) *13 A child who prays has a connection to a higher source that can lift them from their circumstances whatever they may be. LDS.ORG (How to Pray) *14 We have a traditional song we sing to gather. The children try to come before the song is over! *15 Acts 20: 35