Tips for positive parenting and managing behaviour in children up to age 5

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Find out how parents and caregivers can encourage and reinforce positive behaviour in children up to age 5 years, as well as manage and redirect unwanted behaviours.

Key points

  • To encourage positive behaviour in children, parents should model that behaviour themselves.
  • It is important to re-direct unwanted behaviour as soon as you see signs or triggers.
  • Stick to a routine so that your child feels more secure.
  • Your child's daily routine should include 5-15 minutes of special play time with their parent or caregiver, without asking questions, teaching, or giving commands or criticism.

Model the behaviour you want to see

One of the most important things parents can to do to encourage positive behaviour in their child is model that positive behaviour themselves. The following suggestions can help you to model this behaviour:

  • Show your child how you manage frustration and stress in a healthy way.
  • Try not to shout at your child. Shouting at your child will make you and your child more stressed and angrier.
  • Use your child’s name to get their attention and speak in a calm, positive voice. Make eye contact with your child when giving directions.
  • Tell your child what you want them to do, instead of what you do not want. For example, you could say, "Please put your toys away" instead of "I don’t want your room to be this messy."
  • Whenever possible, repeat your child’s concerns so that they feel heard. For example, you could say, "I know you want to play, but I would like you to finish your lunch first."

Praise the behaviour you want to see

Praise your child when they are showing the behaviours you would like to see. This will reassure them that you notice and care. Children are also more likely to repeat the behaviour that they receive praise for.

Be specific in your praise and recognize your child’s strengths. You could say, "You did a great job cleaning up your toys!" instead of "Great job!"

Try to re-direct unwanted behaviour

If you start to see 'triggers' (e.g., being hungry or tired) or early signs of unwanted behaviour, it is important to stop it before it starts. When your child starts to get restless, you can distract them with another activity.

You are the expert on your child. Identifying any triggers that make unwanted behaviours more likely will help prevent progression to these behaviours over time.

Remember to be flexible and patient when your child is tired, sick, hungry or under stress.

Stick to a routine

Try to maintain a consistent daily routine so your child knows what to expect. Routines help a child feel more secure and can help improve the frequency of desired behaviors. Create a schedule for your child that includes waking/bedtime, naps, meals, play, reading and time spent with peers and family.

When you know there will be a change in schedule, tell your child about this as soon as you can. Help them to adjust as the change is happening.

Special play time

Your child’s schedule should also include special play time. Reserve 5-15 minutes of special play time with your child every day, during which you are enjoying time together without asking questions, teaching, or giving commands or criticism.

Use your PRIDE skills to guide your special play time:

  • Praise (be specific). Tell your child when you see a desired behaviour. For example, "I like that you are being gentle with your toys."
  • Repetition. Allow your child to direct the conversation. For example, if your child says, "I made a house" you can reply with, "Yes I can see you made a red house!"
  • Imitation. Do what your child does. For example, if your child chooses to draw, you should draw too.
  • Describe what your child is doing. For example, "You’re making a big tower!"
  • Enjoyment. Let your child know that you are having fun with them.
Last updated: June 19th 2020