How we communicate will determine how clearly our message will be received. Consistency in how we teach determines how well our child will learn. Providing rules and guidelines with incentives and consequences teaches our child what to expect and what is expected of them.

How we communicate (yelling vs. speaking softly and touching as we talk) will determine how clearly our message will be received.

Consistency in how we teach determines how well our child will learn. Providing rules and guidelines with incentives and consequences teaches our child what to expect and what is expected of them.

Psychological assessor Johanna Miller of Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health provided the following steps to increasing good behaviors.

Seven steps

1. Provide simple, clear instructions. Many parents talk too much. The more we talk, the less children hear. Give clear, simple instructions and explanations for tasks throughout the day. If a task is complex or lengthy, break it down into steps that are more manageable.

2. Determine family rules. Create a list of family rules and expectations for behavior, and post them in a prominent location. Involving your child in the process will encourage her to have more responsibility for her choices and behaviors.

3. Increase compliance by increasing positive reinforcement of desired behaviors. Catch your child being good. Whenever your child follows a direction or command, no matter how small, praise or recognize the behavior. “I see you made your bed this morning” or “I noticed you hung up your jacket by the door.” Practice compliance by giving your child several simple commands within a short period of time, such as “when your show is over, then it’s time to turn off the TV,” providing recognition when the command is followed.

4. Pay attention to how you give commands. Make sure you really mean it. It sounds obvious, but many frustrated parents give command after command hoping a child will follow one of them. Never ask a child to do something; tell them to do it. Don’t say “try to be home on time.” Say “be home by 5.” Keep commands simple. The more words parents use, the less children hear. Break complex tasks into several steps and praise your child after completing each step before providing the next step. Finally, make sure you have your child’s attention. Stand in front of her, touch her gently, get down to her level, provide the directive, and then have her retell you what she is to do.

5. Create positive rewards. Work with your child to set up a reward system for expected everyday tasks (completing homework without complaints, getting ready for bed), chores (cleaning the bathroom, helping around the house), and behavior goals (listening the first time, sharing, speaking rather than screaming). Use tokens, stickers or points to help your child visually track what she has earned. These can be displayed on a chart (stickers), kept in a clear jar (tokens) or listed in a “bank book” (points). Create a list of rewards with your child to work toward (five tokens equals one hour extra TV, two stickers equals 1⁄2 hour of a video game, 15 points equals a  movie rental). The rewards are in addition to your ongoing praise and, of course, hugs are always free. Adolescents may act as if this is the last thing they desire, but actually everyone loves a hug. Children often tire quickly of rewards, so be sure to change the rewards your child can earn frequently.

6. Choose appropriate consequences for poor behavior. When your child is misbehaving make every effort to maintain calm, controlled demeanor. Keep your voice level and firm, do not scream, threaten or spank, and restate your expectation. If after trying to understand why your child has misbehaved you determine that the offense needs a consequence, make it a natural consequence. ”Since you refused to turn off the TV when I told you to, you have lost the privilege of watching TV for the rest of the day.”

7. Always set a good example for your child.  Children need role models to learn appropriate behavior and the adults in their lives are critically important. Give yourself a break if you realize you are making a conflict worse, not better, because you are so angry. Say, “I’m very angry right now. Go to your room. I will speak to you about this in 10 minutes.” This is a great way to model for your child how to take time out to regain control.

Children learn what they live. Show, do, and say what you want them to know and grow up to be.

Diana Boggia, M.Ed., is a parenting educator in Stark County, Ohio. Send your child-rearing questions to FamilyMatters@cantonrep.com or The Repository, c/o Family Matters, 500 Market Ave. S, Canton, OH 44702.