Raising Responsible Kids

Girls holding handsEvery child needs limits and consequences no matter how well behaved they are at home and school. You also need to ask yourself if your expectations are realistic and clear to the child. Consistency in setting and enforcing limits is probably the most important factor in minimizing unacceptable behavior by your child. When your child knows that they will be held accountable, they are less likely to act out. When you do need to enforce limits the following strategies can be useful.

Diversion: Redirecting the attention of your child to a more desirable activity is usually quite effective for infants and toddlers. For example, if a toddler is handling a precious item, substitute another object that is equally attractive to them.

Logical and natural consequences: Sometimes all you need to do when a child misbehaves is let the situation run its course and natural consequences will follow. For example, if an older child refuses to put their dirty clothes in the hamper, they may run out of clean clothes to wear. On other occasions you may need to impose logical consequences, which are directly related to the misbehavior. For example, if your child is late getting to bed you may decide to have them go to bed earlier the next night.

Timeout: Asking your child to go to their room or to a place away from the unacceptable behavior can be effective in calming the situation. For young children, the timeout should be short in duration and should include a clear explanation of how you want them to behave in the future.

If your child loses control and expresses emotions inappropriately, try to remain calm and ignore the behavior until the child has calmed down. Then depending on the age of the child encourage them to communicate their feelings appropriately and/or teach them how to solve the problem to reduce their distress. It is important that you model how to express emotions appropriately. Don't try to discipline if you are angry or upset yourself. If you get stuck in determining how to deal with your child's misbehavior don't be afraid to ask for professional help.

This article was written with ideas contributed by the Canadian Society for Information Children SFU.