How Do You Deal With Misbehaving Children?

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All too often, the first step a parent takes when children misbehave is to punish the child. Punishment, however, rarely teaches children what behavior they should be following. Instead, establishing simple consequences for misbehavior without hurting the children’s feelings or shaming them is more likely to prompt good behavior in the future.

  1. Prepare a list of consequences

    Before children misbehave, create a list of privileges you can remove in the event of misbehavior. These could be favorite toys or screen time for younger children or the use of a cellphone or car for older children.

  2. Discuss the consequences with your children

    Hold a family meeting to discuss what behavior is expected and what is not tolerated. Explain the consequences for misbehaving. For younger children, it is best if the consequences are directly related to the behavior. For instance, if children are playing with outdoor toys inside, they might lose access to those toys for 24 hours. The practice of matching a consequence to an action works with older children as well; a young driver might lose driving privileges for coming home after curfew.

  3. Stay calm when misbehavior occurs

    Do not get angry when your children misbehave. Point out the misbehavior. If you choose to give one warning, make that warning clear and unmistakable. Upon the second instance of the misbehavior, put the consequence into effect. Disengage emotionally and treat the consequence as matter-of-factly as possible. Do not make threats if you are not prepared to follow through.