Changing Bad Behavior

Calm, Clear Commands

If you tell your children to do something and they don’t do it, try this: Change your child’s behavior by using a calm, clear command. For example: Let’s say you told your child to turn off the TV and she ignored you. Follow these steps and command your child, “Turn off the TV now.”

How To Make Your Commands Work

  1. Get close to your child and look at her.
  2. Get down on her level and touch her gently.
  3. Be calm, and tell her what to do.
  4. Be clear.
  5. Praise your child as soon as she does what you told her to do. For example: Five-year-old Ben is on top of the kitchen counter. Mother goes over to Ben, touches his arm and says quietly, “Ben, get off the counter now.” When Ben gets down, Mother says, “I like the way you listened and got off the counter.” She gives Ben a hug.

When to Ignore

When you don’t like what your child is doing but it is not causing harm, just ignore it! (For example: whining, making silly noises) You can respond by not responding. Children often stop bad behavior when you ignore them, since they are just looking for attention.

How to ignore

  1. Look away from your child.
  2. Move away from your child.
  3. Do not show any reaction.
  4. Ignore your child completely.
  5. Stay calm.
  6. Make sure that other people in the room ignore the behavior.

Note: Parents should not ignore a child if he is causing physical harm.


Use time-out to stop bad behavior and to help your child gain inner control. Do not use it as a punishment. Use it to help your child calm down.

Time-out works best for big behavior problems, like hitting or out-of-control screaming. Try using time-out when all else fails.

Using time-out

  1. Calmly tell your child what he is doing wrong and how you want him to behave.
  2. Put him in a quiet place for time-out. Facing the corner and bedrooms are not recommended. Use a special place like a chair in the hall or the last step of a staircase.
  3. Keep your child in time-out for one minute per each year of your child’s age. It should last between 3-10 minutes. You can use a timer to keep track of the time.
  4. Tell your child: “Time-out begins when you are quiet. You need to stay in a quiet place where you can calm down.”
  5. Take your child to the time-out spot, stay calm and do not argue with him. Just let him know that he needs to gain control of his behavior. (It’s OK to sit with your child if that will help him calm down.)
  6. When time-out is over, praise your child for gaining control.
  7. Don’t lecture your child. Let him go back to what he was doing.

Sticker Charts

Sticker charts reward children for good behavior. Tell children how the chart will work, and tell them how they have to behave to get their stickers. When they earn a certain number of stickers, give them a special reward that you have chosen together. Sticker charts can help your kids learn to make their beds, clean up, do homework, etc.

Using sticker charts:

  1. Tell your child what he has to do to get a sticker. For example: He must make his bed each morning.
  2. Make a chart with your child. Let him help make the chart and pick stickers (or you can just draw stars.)
  3. Let your child help decide what reward he will get after he gets enough stickers on the chart.
  4. Put a star or sticker on the chart each time he does what he is supposed to do.
  5. Praise him as soon as possible.
  6. Start by making it easy for him to get stickers.
  7. Then add to the number of stickers it takes for your child to earn the reward.
  8. Do not use a sticker chart for more than four weeks at a time.