10 Great Ways to Get Children to Behave



Let them know we’re in charge

Here are 10 great ways to get our children to do what we say without shouting or punishments:

– Instead of getting angry when they make mistakes,
Tell them what they need to know clearly and calmly.

When we wear muddy shoes inside the house it makes a huge mess on the floor. That’s why we take them off by the door.

Telling it like it is and giving them the information they need can solve a lot of annoying behaviour with no trouble at all.

Your sister is upset because you pulled her hair. Even though it was an accident and you didn’t mean to hurt her, apologising is the quickest and best way to solve it.

Great Ways to Get Children to Behave

– Instead of getting annoyed when they don’t do something,
Tell them what to expect and what’s going to happen ahead of time.

When we get out of the car, could you please collect the juice boxes and banana peels and bring them into the house? Thank you.

The more we can tell them what we expect of them ahead of time, the more likely it is that they’ll do it.

Grandma isn’t used to the noise when we’re all in the house. So when we’re there, we need to try not to shout loudly.

– Instead of pleading or bossing them around,
Tell them how we feel.

I’d like some help clearing the table please.

It’s far nicer to help out when they’ve been asked nicely.

– Instead of forcing them to do something,
Give them choices.

You can either apologise properly for pulling her hair or take a time-out. Which would you prefer?

Giving them option gives them a teeny bit of control, which is often what they want.

Would you like to clear the table or wash the dishes?

– Instead of going on and on or lecturing them,
Say as few words as possible.


Our children get the message loud and clear without us having to lecture or get that toxic desperate edge to our voices, like, “I’ve had enough! If you don’t get in bed right now I’m going to … blah, blah, blah …”

– Instead of nagging them,
Ask them what they need to do next.

You’ve finished your breakfast. Now what do you need to do to get ready for school?

When they come up with the next step themselves, they’re far more likely to follow through and do it.

– Instead of shouting,
Talk very quietly.

Pushing her off the sofa wasn’t kind.

Surprisingly, when we speak quietly our children are often far more receptive and likely to hear us.

– Instead of expecting them to remember what to do,
Write a list or a note.

Bedtime list:
Put pyjamas on
Brush teeth
Get in bed

Even simple things can seem overwhelming when children are tired at night or in a rush in the morning. A simple list can help to focus their minds (if they’re little, the list can be in pictures).

– Instead of motivating them to do what we say with bribery or anger,
Motivate them with encouragement.

You finished that tricky maths problem. Well done.

When they do a bit of what we ask, say something kind about it. Then the atmosphere will improve and everyone will be happier. The bonus prize? They’ll feel good about themselves, so they’ll try next time. Then getting them to do whatever it is won’t be so annoying!

– Instead of getting annoyed,
State the rule.

No toys at the table.

We don’t hit people.

No insults.

That way everyone knows, ‘That’s just the way we do things around here’.


It’s when we aren’t sure what we think that our children are most likely to get away with murder. Like when we think they should go to bed, but maybe they could stay up for just one more TV programme. It could be we really do want them to go to bed, but we’re so tired ourselves that we can’t face the argument or we want to be nice parents and not be too hard on them.

It’s a similar problem when we know that they shouldn’t have biscuits after 5pm or they won’t be hungry for dinner. But then the niggling doubts start: just one won’t hurt, or, maybe two. The problem is that children are like sniffer dogs; they can sense they’ve got a chance from a mile off. Once they get that whiff of doubt, they’ll go for it.

Life it so much easier when we’re sure of our ground and everyone knows the rules, that the TV gets turned off at 7pm or no biscuits before dinner. Here’s how to make new rules and get them to work:

– Explain the problem.

We’re all going to bed too late and then we’re grumpy the next day – or at least I am!

When we eat biscuits before dinner, no one is hungry. So no one eats a proper meal and I’ve wasted time and money preparing it.

Either ask them or tell them how to solve it, being sure to give them advance warning.

Good idea. Starting on Sunday, let’s turn the TV off at 7pm. If you want to watch programmes that come on later, we can record them and you can watch them the next day.

Starting next week, we’re not going to eat biscuits until after dinner.

– Remind them once or twice what is going to happen and when.

We’re sure to get negative feedback about the new rule up front, so expect it. But when the time comes to implement the new rule, they’ll have had a chance to get used to the idea, so they’re usually surprisingly compliant.


Ideally, consequences help our children to learn cause and effect and to take responsibility for their actions. So the way to get consequences to work best is to make them the logical result of behaviour. Like rules, they also work best if our children know what they are ahead of time.

When children do something hideous and we make up consequences in the heat of the moment (that usually don’t make sense), children feel that the consequences, and therefore we, are unjust and unfair. So instead of learning the effects of their behaviour, they can become seething cesspits of resentment. When they do something appalling, like pulling their sibling’s hair, it’s so easy to blurt out, “Right. That’s it! No dessert for you tonight!”

But no dessert isn’t the logical outcome of pulling someone’s hair. The result of hurting others is that people don’t want to be with you. So the logical outcome if they pull hair is that they have to leave the room.

We don’t want to be with you if you pull our hair. So if you do it again, it will be straight into the other room.

This is when being consistent is the most important thing. Once we tell them what will happen if they do it again, we have to stick to it like a limpet on a rock!

Consequences can also work well when our children treat us badly or won’t help us out; those times when we feel anything but warm and fuzzy inside and our blood pressure shoots straight up. But instead of exploding we might try telling them the result of their behaviour,

When you are unkind to me it makes me feel like I don’t want to do anything for you. So the next time you want something from me, I may not be so inclined.


When you refuse to help me, it makes me not want to help you. So the next time you ask for my help, I may not be in the mood either.

Clear, reasonable rules and consequences lead to feelings of security and responsibility, and help our children to understand the logical outcomes of their behaviour. In a nutshell, they just make sense. Illogical rules and consequences lead to frustration and anger, feeling misunderstood and resentment toward us.

Get Tough

Sometimes when our children misbehave we can try pulling everything out of the bag. But no matter how smart or saintly we are, they still won’t budge. It’s feels like we’re trying to scale a mountain. We can:

Stop and Think of the right thing to do
Listen to why our children won’t behave and acknowledge their views
Try to Appreciate them
Love and Look After them so they feel secure and well, not overtired or over-sugared
Cooperate and ask them what to do about the problem
And try lots of Discipline options and tell them the consequences if they don’t do what we say

But STILL no luck. Here’s how to get tough when we need our children to cooperate and they refuse:

  • Tell them what needs to be done
  • Stand in their space, stay quiet and look straight at them until they get moving
  • You may be there a while, but stay there. Still no result?
  • Warn them what will happen if they don’t behave and continue to stay in their space
  • Follow through with what you said

*This strategy comes with a warning:
It isn’t for the faint-hearted or for those in a hurry!
(cue motivational music …)