Suggestions for Promoting Good Behavior

Give specific rules. Make sure that your child knows what is expected of him/her and the consequence for not obeying the rules. For example, tell your child, “You need to come when I call you. If you do not come, I will _____ (chosen consequence). If you think your child does not understand the command, walk your child threw the command. (i.e., If you tell your child to pick up toys and he/she does not, take your child’s hand and help him/her pick up the toys with a hand over hand action.)

Be consistent each day. You do not want to frequently change the rules. If you give a consequence for not coming when called one day and not another, it may confuse your child and make him/her question why it is sometimes okay to disobey and other times not okay.

Encourage good behavior. Look for opportunities to praise/reward your child when he/she is being good (i.e., When your child comes immediately when you call, say, “Good job coming when I called.”) Do not just say, “Good job.” Specify what the child did to deserve the praise. If you so decide, you may want to reward good behavior occasionally (i.e., When your child comes immediately when you call, say, “Good job coming when I called. Because you did such a great job coming, I will let you have ____ (reward – i.e., getting to watch a movie, getting to have a dessert, getting a toy). Do not always give a reward, or your child may start to demand a reward every time he/she obeys you and feel that he/she is entitled to a reward. You should only tell your child he/she will get a reward after he/she obeys, so it does not become a bribe

Give consequences for negative behavior. Give your child a consequence for not obeying you to deter him from disobeying you in the future. This may be a timeout, taking away something your child likes and is allowed to watch/play with everyday, etc.

No idle threats. Make sure that your consequence is something you can perform. Do not threaten to do something you do not intend to do (i.e., tell your child, “If you do not come, I am going to leave you.”). Your child will go ahead and be disobedient knowing that you will not carry out the idle threat.

Do not bribe your child. If your child does not obey, do not say, “I will give you ____ (ice cream, toys, movie, etc.) if you obey me. Your child may start to hold out for bigger and bigger bribes and choose not to obey you if the bribe is not good enough. There is a difference between bribing and taking away a liked item/activity. If your child is allowed to watch one TV show every day and you take away that privilege for not obeying (i.e., “If you do not come now, I will not let you watch TV tonight.”), that is a consequence. If you give something that your child would not have been given if he/she had not obeyed (i.e., “I will let you watch TV when we get home if you ____), that is a bribe.

Be patient. Don’t give consequences in haste or out of frustration. It may take a lot of time and a lot of hard work, but do not give up. Remember as your child is throwing a tantrum to stay firm and not give in to your child because having a well behaved child in the end is worth all the hard work. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away.