No mom wants to spend all her waking hours reminding and reprimanding her kids, not only for her sanity but also because model behavior has been linked to several skills that are key to a child's future. These include self-control, emotion regulation and even problem solving, according to the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
“When you give children the tools they need to figure things out on their own, they will behave better. They'll be better equipped to take care of themselves and won't come screaming to you or act out every time they encounter a challenge,” Dr. Robert Brooks, co-author of Raising a Self-Disciplined Child, told Parents.
To help you raise a child less prone to misbehavior, here are some expert tips:
1. Start early. The first thing to remember about raising a well-behaved child is that you have to start early. It means setting expectations for your child’s behavior as soon as he’s able to follow your orders. “When you make your expectations clear from the time your children are toddlers, they internalize those expectations and begin to expect the same thing from themselves,” said Dr. Sharon K. Hall, author of Raising Kids in the 21st Century.
According to experts, children have the natural inclination to please their parents, meaning they will behave in the way you want them to. So, be clear about it now whatever it is you want him to do (behave at the table, for example) or not to do (play with his ball inside the house). It creates an excellent foundation for good behavior as he grows older.
2. Take charge. Remember, toddlers are new to the world. They have yet to figure out the rules and distinctions between good and bad behavior. “Toddlers need limits, and they look to us to be the authority and to let them know when to stop,” says child psychologist and author Dr. Tovah P. Klein in her book How Toddler's Thrive. When you take charge, you show your child that there are well-defined boundaries. She learns to self-regulate and respects limits, says Hal Runkel, family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting.
Being the authoritative figure also entails not being afraid to enforce the limits even if it causes your child to be upset with you. You should expect to be respected. Setting hard-and-fast rules, like telling your child not to climb on furniture, in gentle and even humorous ways will not get your point across and can even be interpreted as a game by your child. Find a balance.
3. Avoid the drama. It can sometimes feel like you have to repeat something a thousand times and argue your child about it a thousand times more to get him to follow. But, the best method, however, is to put your best mom voice on and say it once. Nagging doesn't help. Don’t engage in any argument or debate when your child fights back. “Every time you engage in this kind of back-and-forth exchange, you give him the opportunity to get stronger and better at it,” Dr. Richard Bromfield, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of How to Unspoil Your Child Fast, told Parents Magazine.
4. Teach your child patience. If you have a toddler, you may already be well-aware that they’re not the most patient individuals. They can be easily frustrated, annoyed and irritated when things don’t go their way right away. It is expected at this age and can be a major tantrum-trigger, says child development psychologist Penelope Leach in an article for BabyCentre. It doesn’t mean, however, that you should let it be this way forever.
“You want your kids to develop a tolerance for the feeling of impatience, which is often unpleasant, so they won't misbehave or act impulsively when faced with that feeling in the future,” says Michael Osit, author of Generation Text: Raising Well-Adjusted Kids in the Age of Instant Everything. Think of your child waiting for her turn to play at school. Great ways to practice patience include activities like block building, problem-solving and seed planting. Whenever you make your tot wait, praise her for doing a great job being patient too.
5. Keep calm. Research shows that impatient parents are more likely to have toddlers who get upset easily, as reported by The Atlantic. Gathering data from more than 350 families, researchers found that parents who overreacted to their children’s mistakes and behavior raised kids who tended to misbehave and act out a lot.
“Parents' ability to regulate themselves and to remain firm, confident, and not overreact is a key way they can help their children to modify their behavior,” said lead researcher Shannon Lipscomb from Oregon State University. “You set the example as a parent in your own emotions and reactions.” As they say, monkey see, monkey do.