Rules are an important part of everyday life. They make it possible for us to get along with one another. If children do not learn how to behave, they will find it difficult to get on, both with grown-ups and with other children. They will find it hard to learn at school, will misbehave and will probably become unhappy and frustrated.
It is important to make sure that children feel secure, loved and valued, and to notice when they are behaving well. The trick to this is to find strategies that work well for you and your child. Here are some ideas:
If you don’t stick to the rules your child will learn that if they ignore them, you will probably give in.
Let your children know when they have done something well and when you are pleased with them. For example, give them a hug, give them a kiss and tell them how great they are. You need to do this straight away.
It helps if you and your child know the rules for particular situations before they happen. Don’t make them up as you go along (e.g. if bedtime is 7pm, make sure you both stick to it).
Sit down with your child and talk to them about good behaviour. You might be surprised about how much you both agree on.
This can be difficult in the heat of the moment, but it does help. Be calm and clear with your commands, for example ‘please switch off the TV’ or ‘it’s bedtime’.
For example ‘please put your toys away’ tells children exactly what you expect them to do. Simply telling them to ‘be good’ does not. If your child can’t understand you, they can’t obey you. Keep it short and simple.
It’s no good promising a wonderful reward or dreadful punishment if you are not going to see it through. It is much better to offer small rewards rather than punishments. For example, ‘when you have tidied your room, you can have an ice cream’. Don’t expect miracles. If your child has only partly tidied their room, praise them for having started.
When times are difficult, it is easy to forget that you can actually have nice times together. Everybody can end up feeling angry and upset. So you need to plan to have good times together. For example, you could play a game, read or cook with them for 10 minutes every day.
Your own experience of childhood is very important. Even if you want to do things differently from your own experience, you may find yourself doing the same with your own children. Or you find that you are doing the opposite! It is helpful if you can aim to be as clear and consistent as you can be.
If parents disagree about rules and their expectations for their children, the children may get mixed up because they don’t know what they are expected to do.
They may find that if they ask each parent/carer the same question, they get different answers. So whether parents are together or living in different homes, it is important, as far as possible, that everyone who cares for the child agrees on the most important matters and the behaviours they want to encourage their children to do.
Parenting can be hard work, both physically and emotionally. It’s easy to let things slip if you are stressed, depressed, tired, very busy or don’t have any help looking after your children. Without consistent encouragement and expectations, children may get in to bad habits with their behaviour.
Family Lives – Parentline offers help and advice to parents bringing up children and teenagers. Helpline 0808 800 2222.
Patient.co.uk – Website has information and links on various difficulties and conditions.
Positive Parenting – Organisation has a useful website offering training, resources and literature.
Young Minds – A charity that offers information to young people about mental health and emotional well-being.
Contact – For families with disabled children.