Lectures and punishment might be a traditional way to teach a child about manners, respect and responsibility, but this isn't the most effective way to instill good behaviors. Whether your child has a behavior problem or you want to him to be on the right path, incorporate engaging and creative activities so that he gets the message.
Pick up storybooks to help your youngster understand the difference between good and bad behavior. Books like Anna Dewdney's, "Llama Llama Mad at Mama," demonstrate the importance of cooperation, and Elizabeth Verdick and Marjorie Lisovskis' "How to Take the Grrr Out of Anger," helps children with ways to recognize anger and resolve conflicts in healthy ways. The "Help Me Be Good" series by Joy Berry touches on a variety of behavior lessons. As you read, speak to your child about how the characters demonstrate good behavior, and what would have happened if they had acted differently. After several days, find out how much your child has learned, via a creative activity: make a behavior-themed storybook together. Help your child choose a conflict for the story, and then help her use her imagination to solve the problem.
Sometimes, a young child's behavioral issues result from too little physical activity. Cranky and disagreeable behavior is common when a child is tired but not tired enough to sleep. During the day, add exercise to help release her pent-up energy so that she is tired enough to take a nap or sleep at night. Incorporate structured and unstructured activity to encourage good behavior. Structured physical activity like swimming classes, dance or soccer encourages a child to develop social skills because she is interacting with other children; structured physical activity also helps develop attentive listening skills. Unstructured play is an opportunity for a child to stretch her imagination, to explore and express herself, and to learn early decision-making skills.
Help your child learn good behavior via "Let's pretend games" and dress up. You can have an imaginary tea party with her favorite teddy bears, where everybody learns all about good manners. You can even demonstrate good manners if you have a pretend temper tantrum in your imaginary grocery store, letting your child take on the parent role. You and your little girl can become two princesses planning a royal ball, while focusing on qualities like respect and consideration. Ask your child what she would do to make her teddy bear happy; how to console him when he is sad; and how to use “Please" and “Thank you." The more often your child explores good behavior this way, the more likely she will internalize the good behavior.
Good Deed Activities
Help your child learn about friendship, kindness and social responsibility with a variety of gifts from the heart. He can create a get-well card for a friend or family member with the flu, make something special, such as an up-cycled birdhouse or painted-rock paperweight for a birthday present, or make a little song to brighten Dad's day. Good deed activities can also be something your child does, instead of something he makes; he can offer to take over a sibling's chore for the day if big sister is feeling under the weather, let a younger sibling borrow a special toy or help raise money for a local animal shelter.
- Children's Books Guide: Behavior Issues
- Therapeutic Exercises for Children: Guided Self-Discovery Using Cognitive-Behavioral Techniques; Robert D. Friedberg, et al.
- Ages and Stages: A Parent's Guide to Normal Childhood Development; Charles E. Schaefer, et al.
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