Behavior Management for Kids

By Damon Verial
Effective behavior management includes teaching morals and problem-solving methods.
Effective behavior management includes teaching morals and problem-solving methods.

When parents notice negative behaviors in their children, they instantly become problem-solvers. However, not all parents understand the best methods for solving their kids' behavior problems. By understanding how to work with your child instead of against her, you will find behavior management both effective and much less complex than, say, business management.

Setting Limits

The first step to solving behavior problems is preventing them. Setting limits is an important goal for all parents, yet setting the right limits is not always easy. For instance, a young child upon getting upset might break a toy. When you let the child know that such an action is inappropriate, you are setting a limit. However, you must let the child know why the action is inappropriate. In other words, setting good limits means setting limits on the types of actions, not the actions itself. An example of setting a good limit is to say, “Don’t break things when you're angry,” as opposed to “Don’t break toys.”

Define Goals

Most negative behavior arises from negative emotions. Negative emotions are inevitable. Thus, you cannot remove the anger or jealousy from a child, but you can set goals for your child for dealing with such feelings. When you notice your child emotionally upset, intervene immediately and remind him of a goal that will set him on the right track to appropriately deal with his feelings. For example, when a child is frustrated with a homework problem, talk it out with him. Stop him before he throws his textbook or breaks his pencil -- and let him know the problem is solvable with concentration. Remind him that the goal is to solve the homework problem and that breaking his pencil will not help. Have him imagine how good it will feel to reach his goal.

Help with Solutions

Especially for young children, finding a solution to what parents would label a typical childhood problem is not a piece of cake. Parents can help their children solve problems without actually taking over. Elementary school children have not yet developed abstract thinking skills, so a parent's simple suggestion might be a revelation to children in “troubling” situations. For example, if your daughter comes home from school complaining that her teacher always assigns her a work partner who is mean, suggest that your daughter tell the teacher that she wants a different partner. Solutions that are obvious to adults often easily elude children.

Teach Morals in Tandem with Solutions

When you give solution suggestions to your child, explain why those solutions are better than responding with bad behavior. Use the values you already taught your daughter to explain why telling the teacher that a classmate is pulling her hair is a better solution than hitting the hair-pulling classmate. When you give children a moral backing, they are more likely to avoid bad behavior in problematic situations. In “Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child,” author John Gottman, psychologist and educator, suggests using questions such as “Is this solution fair?” and “How will other people feel?” when discussing solutions with your child.

About the Author

Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.