What I Do To Help My Kids Behave

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, July 28, 2021
By Nicole Herdocia-Oria , RMFTI, MS

Our kids’ behavior is the difference between a great day and a “kill me now” day. It can be overwhelming when your kids misbehave more often than not. No parent or child is perfect, but there are ways to help improve your child’s behavior.

Cartoon of a family

The following are seven basic steps to help your kids stop being little $hit$.

1. Spend quality time with the kiddos.
I know this is very hard to do for many of us. But this is at the top of the list for a reason! More often than not, kids act out because they are not getting enough attention. Their actions are attention-seeking behavior. Even if they get negative attention, it is still attention. The best thing you can do to improve their behavior is to spend quality time with them every day if possible. One-on-one time is amazing and will help them feel they are getting the attention craved through emotional connection. Shoot for 10 to 15 minutes a day. Getting up just 10 minutes earlier and having breakfast together, reading a bedtime story, having a game night, and having family dinners are all ways we can try to connect. If we can carve out that little bit of extra time, it can make a world of difference.

“Children spell love… “T-I-M-E.” – Dr. A. Witham

2. Do not underestimate the power of sleep!
When a child is well-rested, the behavior can significantly improve. If we are groggy or exhausted, we can show signs of higher levels of irritability, fatigue, lack of focus, and lack of patience to name a few. The same goes for children. Only their signs are manifested through tantrums, crankiness, moodiness, lack of appetite, and trouble focusing. It’s important to know how much sleep your child needs according to their age. Well-rested kids tend to be well-behaved and function better at school. Moving bedtime 10-15 minutes gradually can help acclimate them without really noticing the bedtime difference.

3. Routine Routine Routine.
Stick to a daily routine as much as possible. If children know what to expect, they are better equipped and prepared for their day. If you can incorporate their help in planning their day, they will feel proactive and autonomous. Having a say in planning their day, will make them more likely to follow the routines and rules you set up together. Do you prefer to get dressed or eat breakfast first?

4. Help them develop a sense of autonomy and control.
Take advantage of any opportunity to give your kids a sense of independence from you. Now they depend on you for almost everything. That can be frustrating. The more we can facilitate their sense of self, independence, and control, the more valued they will feel and the better for their self-esteem. For example, do you want to wear a blue shirt or red?

Both are good options that you’re fine with, but you’re giving them the “choice” and sense of control.
Would you rather eat blueberries or strawberries for a snack?
Do you want to play with blocks or color?

5. Re-direct behavior vs. punishing them
When trying to discipline our kids, there can often be a power struggle. The ultimate goal is to correct behaviors and give them the tools for the more appropriate alternative behavior and learn self-control. When we focus on training vs. punishment we are teaching them better choices. What do you think we could have done instead? How about this? Making suggestions and role-playing scenarios can help them learn how to react with more acceptable behaviors.

6. Consistency is Key
Setting limits and discipline is necessary. Rules, expectations, and consequences should be communicated clearly. To establish what’s expected and acceptable and what is not, it is extremely important to be consistent. If one behavior calls for a specific consequence, it must be carried out and followed through every time. The children will learn and understand limits, rules, and consequences. This will help reduce unwanted behavior. Positively reinforcing good behaviors with praise and/or rewards will help increase desired behavior. “I love how you’re so quiet and patient right now!”, “Great job picking up your toys,” etc…

7. Take any opportunity to say yes!
Our kids are constantly asking for things.  Either things they want or things they want to do. It can be very frustrating for a child to only hear “no” over and over again. They will feel like they are never getting anything they want, and they will act out in frustration either with tantrums or attitude. Whenever possible, say yes! Even if it is re-directed to a “yes but later” it’s so much better than a “no”!

For example,
Little Lucas: “Mom I want a banana muffin please.”
Mom: “That sounds yummy, but it’s bedtime. Let’s have that for breakfast!”
Little Anabel: “I wanna poop on the floor.”
Mom: “That sounds interesting and creative, but if we go in the potty, we get to watch it swirl when we flush it down!”
Little Anabel: “Awesome!”

It can be daunting to mold smaller human beings into upstanding citizens of the world. But, it’s never stupid to seek out answers and ask a million questions. You are not alone! We’re all learning as we go. You got this!

Make every moment count!!
Nikki Herdocia- Oria