How to Prevent Unacceptable Behavior in a Child: 6 Steps
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Misbehaving is part of growing up.

All kids misbehave at times. For parents, it can sometimes feel like an emotional root canal. Your child may be tired, sick, scared or just need attention. Dealing with unacceptable behaviors like tantrums is an unavoidable part of parenting. Sometimes it seems easier to just look the other way, but one of the most important parental jobs is helping your child learn how to make good choices that will last a lifetime. While some behaviors can be handled in a more low-key way, other aggressive or potentially dangerous behaviors require immediate attention.


  1. 1
    Divert and redirect your toddler's attention. Since young children are easily distracted, substituting another activity or toy is easy and allows you to avoid a struggle or tantrum. Often, this is the best method when your child is too young to understand other discipline methods.
  2. 2
    Communicate slowly and clearly so your child understands what you want. Tell your toddler that he is good and you love him, but his actions must change. Give him one specific direction at a time so he doesn't get overwhelmed or confused. For example, “Please stop jumping on the bed” instead of “Be good and behave yourself.” Follow through and make sure he actually stops jumping.
  3. 3
    Use the time-out technique when an unacceptable behavior happens. Stop your child immediately, kneel down to eye-level, tell her that the behavior is not acceptable and give her the warning that she will be put in time out if the behavior continues. If the behavior continues, set a timer and put her in the time out area for 1 to 3 minutes. At the end of time out, put your focus on acknowledging good behavior and avoid talking about the bad behavior.
  4. 4
    Stay calm when correcting an unacceptable behavior. Keep from losing your cool, shouting or using violence because it teaches your child that these actions are acceptable ways of responding to anger or frustration. A small child doesn't have developed language skills and may be acting out frustration, anger, fear or sadness he cannot yet explain in words.
  5. 5
    Ignore, then praise. As long as your child’s behavior is not potentially dangerous to himself or others, you can often eliminate the unwanted behavior by ignoring it. When your child isn't receiving attention, he often loses interest in the behavior over time. As soon as your child stops the unwanted behavior, praise his good behavior.
  6. 6
    Encourage and reward good behavior. Tell your child ahead of time what you want. For example, “If you put all your toys away before dinner, you can have 15 quiet-play minutes before bedtime," or, "If you put all your toys away before dinner, we will read an extra book at bedtime." Providing small rewards encourages behaviors you want and lets your toddler link acceptable behavior with something pleasurable.

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Categories: Education and Communications

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