Once children get older, it’s possible to discuss with them some of the more abstract notions underpinning ideas like “good” and “bad”.
Practical Ways to Encourage Good Behaviour
However, for younger children, the only option is to lead by example, reason and hopefully much more rarely, command. So, here are some practical ways to encourage good behaviour in your children.
- Lead by example
If you’re trying to encourage them to, say, tidy their toys at the end of playtimes, then you’ll need to let them see you do the same with your items.
- Recognise good behaviours
Try to spend more time praising them when they’ve done something well, as opposed to telling them off when they’ve been bad.
If you don’t do this, they may learn that they’ll get more of your time by being bad than good.
- Make sure you listen
Children sometimes behave badly because they’re just not being listened to by their parents or care providers.
Yes, it can be stressful at times but try to make plenty of time to listen to your child’s stories, worries and games etc.
- Take them with you
In some Western countries, modern practices often leave children behind at home when parents head off to social events.
Although this is sometimes unavoidable, try to include your children as much as possible. It allows them to witness people behaving well in a wider context.
- Make differences clear
Try to make sure your children understand, in advance, what will be considered good or bad behaviour. Children will often complain “..but I didn’t know..” when told off.
It might just be an excuse – but be sure they don’t have a point!
- Don’t unintentionally glorify bad behaviour
Telling a child that aggression is bad while laughing and seemingly admiring ‘goody’ TV violence is a very confusing message for children.
At a certain age, they’ll learn to understand the difference between real-life and make-believe but at earlier ages that can be problematic. So, be cautious with what they’re watching on TV and how you react.
- Keep your promises
Breaking promises to your children will not only hurt them but also encourage them to believe that keeping their good behaviour promises isn’t really important.
- Opt for simplicity
Giving children a list of good behaviour requirements that is too complex for them to understand, is just a transgression waiting to happen.
- Make sure your rules are consistent
Children can become confused if good behaviours today suddenly become ‘bad’ overnight. Of course, things do change as children age but try to be consistent where possible and make sure you explain the rationale behind any changes.
- Minimise “because I said so” explanations
The ideal is for children to understand why their behaviour is good or bad. Yes, you must have the ultimate authority but try to avoid drifting into diktat and make some effort to explain the ‘why’ if they’re old enough to understand.
- Be unambiguous
Children can be masters of finding loopholes in parental logic in order to explain their bad behaviour.
Be clear and avoid ‘grey area’ negotiations. If you’ve said it’s bad then make sure you don’t water that down or cave in and excuse it subsequently (unless your children really have found a fundamental flaw in your reasoning, in which case you might have to graciously give in!).