How to Get Your Child to Behave During Stressful Times

How to Get Your Child to Behave During Stressful Times

Posted By
on18 Aug 2015

Research shows that whatever you give attention to will get bigger. As a result, one of the most effective ways to decrease behavior problems and increase and maintain positive behaviors in young children is to give attention to the behaviors you want to see more of.

Noticing the positive is something we all know we want to do, however, positive behaviors in children often go unnoticed when stress is high. This happens because when children are doing what we want them to, it gives the parent a chance to take a break or get things done around the house. Because of this, and other factors, negative behaviors such as stubbornness become the primary way for children to get attention.

Here are some simple and quick ways to avoid the trap of giving all your attention to the negatives, and instead focus your attention no your child’spositive behaviors.

  • Praise– Praising your child’s positive behavior is one of the best ways to let them know that the behavior is one you would like to see more often. Make sure to be really specific and tell her exactly what it is she did you liked.


“Thanks for using your polite words.”

“I really like how gentle you are being with your little brother.”

“Thank you for playing by yourself while I was on the phone.”

  • Describing positive behaviors– Describing is similar to praising in that it draws attention to the behavior. Describing helps to increase your child’s awareness of their behaviors.


“You’re using a big boy voice.”

“You used gentle hands with the dog.”

“You cleaned up your toys all by yourself.”

“You waited patiently while I was on the phone.”

  • Reflect appropriate talk– When children are talking a mile a minute, it’s natural to begin responding with, “uh huh, uh huh.” Often children are not convinced that you are listening, and sometimes they’re right. By repeating back to them their exact words or a quick summary, children are more confident that you heard them.


Child: “I played on the swings with Johnny today, and had an apple at snack, and Ms. Julie said I was really good at taking turns.”

Parent: “You took turns.”


Parent: “Ooh, apples are your favorite.”


Parent: “Sounds like you did a lot at school today.”

Some experts believe that every time a child is corrected for a negative behavior they need five acknowledgments of positive behaviors in order to balance out their emotional bank.

Put five pennies in your left pocket tomorrow. If you have to correct your child for a negative behavior, move all five pennies to your right pocket. Each time you acknowledge a positive behavior through praise, description, or reflection, move one penny back to your left pocket. Once all five pennies are back in your left pocket you know your child’s bank is balanced! When children’s emotional banks are balanced they are far more likely to listen and less likely to engage in negative attention-seeking behaviors.