As parents, we all expect the best out of our kids. Good grades. Curiosity. A healthy sense of self esteem. And most of all, good behavior. But we all know no matter how much we hope, good behavior isn’t always easy to come by. From your toddler’s temper tantrums to just plain defiant behavior, our kids can be as stubborn as the day is long. And part of our role as parents is to come up with behavior management strategies. Strategies that will encourage our kids to act productively while also teaching them the consequences of their behavior.

Which isn’t always easy to do. Behavior management strategies depend as much on your child’s temperament as they do your own level of comfort.

It isn’t that your child is trying to be bad. They’re asserting their independence. They’re testing boundaries. These are positive things. It’s just that their effects can not only test your patience, they can prove detrimental to your child’s development if they’re not addressed as soon as possible. Studies have shown that without a strategy in place for behavior management, a child’s future relationship with other children will have negative consequences.

If you’ve ever wondered how to discipline your child without disciplining them, here are some behavior management strategies to look at.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement shouldn’t be confused with a reward system. In fact, that’s setting your child up for unrealistic expectations for the future. Rather, think of it as a strategic tool. One where by giving them immediate praise for doing their chores or finishing their homework encourages them to the point where they don’t even need encouragement anymore. It simply becomes second nature.

It’s human nature to want praise, and no one understands this quite like a kid. But too much praise will eventually seem shallow. Your kids will see through it. And when they do, they’ll make it a point to earn your praise—not merely expect it.

Model Behavior

Children learn by example. If you’ve ever watched your kids play Mommy and Daddy, you’ll know they’re essentially recreating scenes from their everyday life. Their home life is their world. It’s what they know. It’s what informs them. More importantly, it’s what informs their behavior.

Children are natural mimics. And while role playing is incredibly important to a child’s development, it’s even more important that parents set the right example for them. And that starts with your own behavior. When you’re quick to show compliments, praise or open up your feelings (especially with your spouse or partner) around your children, they’re going to follow your example. It might seem like an awkward management strategy for Daddy to point out what a good job Mommy is doing passing the potatoes around during dinner, but it helps show them the value of sharing. And your kids will ultimately want to share in the praise as well.

Behavior and Attention

One of the main reasons for constant bad behavior is a cry for attention. And more often than not, it works. Good behavior may draw your occasional praise, but not your sustained attention. On the other hand, bad behavior? Your kid knows they can push your buttons. They know they can get some kind of effect from you—even if it’s negative.

It’s difficult to manage bad behavior. And it’s even more difficult to ignore it. But by diverting your attention away when your child refuses to share and instead showing attention when they’re quietly reading, your child learns to associate attention with good behavior. Please take caution around extreme cases of negative behavior, however. And when in doubt, contact a behavioral specialist.

Communicate!

Bad behavior can also be the result of children testing their boundaries. But how are they going to test them if they don’t even know what they are in the first place?

Constant communication doesn’t just mean talking. It means listening to what your child is trying to tell you. Keep an open dialogue with your kids at all times. Learning how to reason with your child doesn’t just help them develop a sense of consequences for their actions. It also helps them reflect on their behavior and subsequently manage it better. And it works just as well for positive behavior as it does for negative actions. The next time your kids share their toys or make their beds without being told, ask them how that makes them feel. Once they learn to associate positive feelings with positive actions, it can really create an effect in their behavior!

Keep It Light

There’s no doubt about it—good cheer is infectious! And the more you keep the atmosphere around your home positive and brimming with optimism, the more your kids will pick up on it. And the more they’ll want to spread it around. And humor is one of the best (and easiest) places to start.

Tell jokes. Make silly faces. Laugh. Whatever you can think of to keep your home cheerful, positive and light hearted, do it. Laughter may be the best medicine. But medicine can also be preventative. And prevention goes a long way in strengthening positive behavior.

Repeat As Needed

Your kids aren’t always going to learn the value of positive behavior right away. And neither will you. Mastering behavior management strategies take both time and patience. Learning the consequences for actions is a question of logic. And logic takes time for a child to develop.

Be consistent when setting groundlines and rules. Your child needs constant reinforcement. Remember, they’re just becoming accustomed to routine. But over time, positive behavior will become second nature for your kid. And somewhere down the road, you probably won’t even remember a time when your child acted up!

Need more tips on how to manage your child’s behavior? At Handprints Childcare, we’re always happy to help. For more information, visit us at handprintschildcare.com or call (214) 484-1018 to schedule a tour.