How to Inspire Behavior You Desire

Kids today.


They’re so fill-in-the-blank (disrespectful, ill-mannered, entitled, irresponsible)!


One mom recently said to me:

“I’m losing my mind. My kid rules the house and refuses to listen to me about anything. She’s so stubborn about wanting to do everything herself. I just can’t control her. Nothing works. I’ve tried time outs, counting to three, taking away privileges, sticker charts, and spanking. I can’t take her anywhere. She bites, hits, and throws things when she’s mad. Why does she do this?”


Answer: Because she can.


And because unfortunately, parents don’t have the tools and information they need to handle these types of situations. So, today I’m offering you five specific ways to inspire behavior you desire.


1. Model the behavior you wish to see.



Kids learn what they live. They don’t come into the world knowing about respect, responsibility, gratitude, or self-control. They need to experience what those things look and feel like, and you need to show them. For example, when you become frustrated and feel a meltdown of your own coming on, announce that you’re taking a “time out” for yourself, leave the room, and then calm down before returning to the situation.


2. Be consistent.

Being consistent in your words and actions builds credibility and authority. When you set a consequence, for example, and then fail to enforce it because your child whines or cries, he learns that you can be manipulated.


Tell your kids what the rules and consequences are in advance, expect them to test you, and be prepared to calmly follow through. When you do this on a regular basis (that’s the key), they’ll learn that it’s ineffective to push the boundaries, and they’ll cooperate more often.


For more about limit-setting and consistency, read How to Set a Limit and Stick to It and Be Consistent: Think Like a Bouncer.


3. Focus on what you want.

When you tell your kids, “Don’t talk to me that way” or “Stop doing that,” you’re focused on what you DON’T want, so you’re likely to get more of it. Not only that, but you haven’t told your children what you DO want, so they simply don’t know.


I was in a store with Dalia once (she was four), and she was banging on the counter. I asked her to stop a couple of times and she didn’t, so I said, “Put your hands on your head.” She immediately complied. My direction was clear and I told what to DO, rather than what NOT to do.


For more examples of this, read Focus on What You Want.


4. Teach through role-play.


photo (8)

Kids love to play and make believe, right? So, let them pretend to be an authority figure (parent, teacher, etc.) and you be the child. Act out different social situations and problem-solve while in character. They’ll have so much fun they won’t even realize you’re teaching them a lesson.


Younger kids can also use puppets, stuffed animals, and dolls to act out a scene. This idea works for teens, too (puppets optional). Even high-level business executives sometimes use role-play in their staff meetings.


To get more in touch with your playful side, read Put More Play in Your Day.


5. Encourage the good stuff.

Look for opportunities to give encouragement to your child. Let her know when you notice the good stuff.


Once when Marissa sensed that she and Dalia were headed toward an argument, so she told Dalia they needed a break from playing. This was a HUGE accomplishment that could not go unnoticed. I said, “Wow! That’s amazing, Marissa! How were you able to do that?” I wanted her to stop and identify how she was able to change their pattern. She told me, “I just felt like things were getting rough, so I took a break.” Insert jaw hitting the floor.


I didn’t let it stop there. At dinner, I mentioned it again so Dalia could hear me reinforcing the behavior. The very next day, Dalia told Marissa, “I think we should stop playing now.” Marissa began to get upset, not realizing that Dalia was trying to prevent a fight the same way. When I pointed this out to her, she calmed down. Again, I made sure to talk about Dalia’s behavior positively to reinforce it.


Are you using any of these techniques at home? If so, leave a comment and tell us about it. If not, let us know which one you’ll choose to focus on this week.


Sign up for your mini-session with me. It’s totally free coaching! The call lasts 15-30 minutes and is simply a conversation about where you are now, where you want to go, and how I might be able to help you get the results you want. Click here to claim your spot on my calendar!



Showing 2 comments
  • Anna

    Great tips! What would you recommend for a three year old who is intentionally hurting her 18 month old sibling? hurting = pushing down, hitting, and pulling down the stairs. I can’t think of a positive spin for this.

    • Pam Howard

      Hi Anna! Using the tips in this post, I’d recommend that you focus on the times your daughter is treating her sibling with love and respect and give lots of positive attention for it. You can also be very consistent (and calm) in the way you handle the hitting/pushing. At her age, role playing and acting out the sibling relationship with stuffed animals or puppets can be super effective, too.

Leave a Comment