How to Help Children Control Their Negative Behaviors: 5 Steps
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Praising good behavior teaches children to control their own bad behavior.

Most moms try to set a good example for their children, but there comes a moment in every mother’s life when she looks down at her precious little treasure and thinks, “I never taught her to do that!” It could be nose-picking, swearing or even hitting. The truth is, children come into this world with their own creative little minds, but not everything that occurs to them is appropriate or positive. On the bright side, getting rid of negative behavior isn’t impossible. A few strategies can help you get rid of negative behavior in your child by teaching her how to control herself.


  1. 1
    Watch your child while working and playing. Self discipline starts long before the child misbehaves. You child wants your attention and approval.
  2. 2
    Praise your child when he does something positive. Use both words and gestures. Try to match the intensity of the praise with the action. For example, if your son has just shared his crayons, say “Good job” and give him a thumbs up. If he has helped a friend who is hurt, tell him “I’m really proud of you” and give him a hug.
  3. 3
    Remind the child immediately when you see negative behavior. Young children move from one thought to another quickly. If you wait, chances are your child will forget her actions. Instead, stop what you are doing and let her know her behavior is inappropriate.
  4. 4
    Use natural consequences to reinforce your words. For example, if your child is picking his nose while playing, stop him and take him to the bathroom to wash his hands. Tell him, “I’m sorry you have to stop playing, but we have to wash hands to keep yucky germs off your toys.”
  5. 5
    Create a positive reinforcement chart. Make a simple grid marked off for the days of the week. Let your child add a sticker for each day she doesn’t engage in the negative behavior. Set goals with your child. Three days without the misbehavior may earn a trip to the park, while a week may earn some larger treat.


  • You can use praise of one child to affect the behavior of another, whether they are siblings or a visiting friend. Simply praise the child who is acting appropriately. Take, for example, two children at the table where one child is sulking over green beans while the other is eating. Without giving any attention to the sulky child, simply say, "I like how Michael is eating a good dinner."


  • Be careful when offering rewards for good behavior. Choose simple rewards and use them sparingly. The goal is for the child to learn self control, and that should be the ultimate reward. At no time should any child feel that she deserves rewards for simply following the rules.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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