Proactive parenting for appropriate behavior

By Rachel Ballin


My husband and I seem to get complimented on the appropriate and positive behavior our children display when in public quite often. This makes me beam with pride as their mother, but don’t get me wrong, they’re not perfect.

I’ll out myself; occasionally that screaming child you hear in Walmart is mine.

But for the most part, I can’t lie; our children are really well behaved. However, this is not by some rare, fluke in our solar system. Their behavior has come from lots of preparation, proactive parenting and encouragement for their appropriate behavior.

If you would like to see a positive change in your child’s behavior, here are some great techniques and examples of simple things that can really have a large impact. The best part is these techniques can be tied into your everyday lives, which expands the opportunity for teachable moments with your child in virtually any setting.

Start by setting positive examples to establish what appropriate behavior for your child should be. Children learn from what they see around them every day. They’re always watching, learning and reenacting what we do. They see you opening the door for a stranger or saying a simple please and/or thank you in conversation. These are examples we should be setting for our children daily. I know it seems little, but small acts of kindness throughout your day will show your child their value. As a bonus you will also be brightening the day of others.

Next, establish ground rules with your child about what kind of behavior you expect from them. I do have one major rule that applies regardless of the setting. Our son knows, “good day or bad, I always expect to be treated with respect, because I am his mother and I deserve it.” After this, I divide my expectations into three main areas, when he is at home, at school or out in the community. Feel free to adjust these areas, for your family’s needs. Then all it takes is a little proactive parenting. Take the time to sit down and talk to your child about what your expectations are in each setting. At home, our son knows his behavior can be a little more relaxed. He’s allowed to run and play and is provided with lots of fun educational activities. However, he is still expected to do his daily chores and to treat every family member with respect, including our animals. At school, he knows to be respectful to his teachers, to always use his listening ears and to keep his hands to himself. As a five year old boy, keeping his hands to himself is sometimes the biggest challenge, but with reminders he normally does a pretty good job. When we are out and about, whether it be running errands quick, a trip to the park or going out to eat, he knows to have his listening ears turned up and his manners turned on. By establishing these appropriate behaviors for each setting ahead of time, I am able to spend more time enjoying just being with my children and creating memories, instead of being stressed over them acting inappropriately.

Lastly, try providing encouragement to your child when they are doing things appropriately. If they have really done a great job listening while being on an outing, be sure to tell them. Try to find moments throughout the day when they are really using their manners and compliment them right back. The smile and boost on their face will be well worth the added time in your schedule. I cannot stress enough how much being positive, in this way, will safe you stress and struggle later on. Children would rather hear when they are doing something right, then being scolded for doing something wrong. In the reverse, the next time your wee one is doing something not so appropriate, try to take a deep breathe first and calmly react to the situation. I understand it is generally second nature to raise our voices when our children are acting inappropriately. Sometimes, it’s just a subconscious reaction to a situation, but I strongly encourage you to try this technique. Just try taking a moment before you react, certainly within reason, when safety is concerned. This technique will be a healthy change for you, your stress level and also a positive change for your child’s development and behavior.

Bottom line: Children want rules! They thrive with structure from their parents. They are capable of acting appropriately in any situation, if they know what appropriate behavior is. A little ground work will make your family dynamics and interacts so much more positive and relaxed in the long run. Give these techniques a try with your children and watch as their behavior and demeanor changes. I’m not suggesting it will happen overnight, but with some proactive parenting, encouragement and repetition, your child will blossom into a well-mannered, appropriate little person.

If you’d like to continue this conversation please feel free to comment below or e-mail me at For more information, daily ideas and to see what my family is up to, you can also find my page “Baby Talk – with Rachel” on Facebook. Please keep the feedback coming, I love interacting with you all and sharing my point of view with helpful information.

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