How to Help Kids Turn Negative Behavior Into Positive Behavior


Children can act out in distracting, destructive or even dangerous ways. Parents have the task of shaping each child’s life. Sometimes, the constant refrain of “Stop it,” or “Don’t do that,” wears on both the child and the parent’s nerves. But there are more ways to help the child change her own behavior than simply nagging. Parents can encourage positive behavior out of the negative actions. This has the advantage of teaching the child self-control, rather than parental control.

Things You'll Need

  • Calendar
  • Stickers
  • Ignore the small stuff. Your child picks her nose in public or your son talks with his mouth open. These minor behaviors can be enough to drive you nuts. Don’t let them. By ignoring the small battles you are ensuring that the child isn’t rewarded with attention for negative behavior.

  • Find something to sincerely compliment. Everyone enjoys praise for a job well done, even children. However, children can hear when you’re faking. Simply saying “good job” isn’t enough. Instead, choose one thing and be honest. For example, if your child whines or tries to ignore his chore of setting the table every night, quit nagging. Instead say something like: “Have I mentioned how nice it is to know that you do such a good job setting the table? I can just focus on cooking and don’t have to worry about a thing. You always have the table ready for dinner.”

  • Use motivation to help a child break or create a habit. Some children, for example, have a hard time getting up and ready for school. Create a chart with the child’s goals clearly marked, such as "getting up on the first call," or "packing a lunch." Every time she comlpetes a task, she gets a sticker on the chart. When the child meets a goal, such as eight stickers for the week, she gets a reward. Don't use food or candy as rewards. Instead, focus on experiences where the child is the center of attention, such as a trip to the park with Mom or a day at the zoo with Dad.

  • Enforce natural consequences whenever possible. Dr. Sears encourages parents to use natural consequences rather than creating a punishment. For example, if the child refuses to eat at dinner, don’t nag or plead. Let the child eat what she wishes. However, remind her that after dinner, the kitchen closes and no more food will be served until breakfast. When the child feels hunger, don’t make an exception and give her a snack. As she experiences the natural consequences of her choice, she learns to make better choices for the future.

Tips & Warnings

  • Try to stop nagging or scolding. After a few moments, children tend to tune it out. Instead, try using positive reinforcement to help the child make new, healthy habits.
  • Always talk to your doctor if the child's behavior puts himself or others at risk of harm.


  • Photo Credit Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images
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