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10 Tips for Better Behavior From Your Kids

10 Tips for Better Behavior From Your Kids - Amy McCready

I need to stop yelling at my girl so much. I never thought I’d be a snappy, gritona mom, but sometimes I feel like that’s the only way I can get my girl to pay attention, focus and, well, do what I want/need her to do. At age 5, it just feels like one minute I’m her “best mom ever” and the next she’s warning me how I am not the boss of her.

The worst part is that the screaming, yelling and nagging I do is pretty much always for the same things.

“Hurry up and get dressed. This is the last time I warn you!”

“Now. Get in the shower right this second or else (insert futile threat).”

“Stop it! Just stay still and quiet for 10 seconds!”

It’s just so obvious that my high-pitched strategy is getting us nowhere. The behavior I’m expecting from my daughter has not gotten better because what I’m doing is just being confrontational and even desperate in my attempt to “fix” a problem without digging deeper to find strategies that would be more long-term.

Fortunately, I got an email in my inbox last week that introduced me to parenting expert Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling (Tarcher/Penguin, 2011). Aha! That sounded not only like a book I needed to read yesterday, but also like an expert I must consult because she’s been through what I’ve been: the screaming, nagging and yelling parenting days that get you on a high road to nowhere.

Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. She’s developed strategies and methods that empower us as parents to take control, in the positive sense of the word, and understand how to truly motivate our children to want to be on their best behavior.

“You CAN correct the misbehaviors quickly and permanently! But, only if you address the root cause of the behavior,” says McCready, who’s mom to two teenage boys. “You need more than a Band-Aid on symptoms you must understand what really motivates the misbehavior and have the concrete tools to address the root issue.”

Amy agreed to share with us her top 10 tips to getting to the root of our child’s misbehavior and turning it into better behavior, sans the nasty yelling and nagging no one can stand. Click through below for Amy’s advice in her own words.

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  • Spend one-on-one time with kids on a daily basis 1 of 10
    Spend one-on-one time with kids on a daily basis
    This is the most important advice I give to parents. Kids are hard-wired to need an emotional connection and attention every day, and if they don't get it, consequences and other discipline tools won't be effective (not to mention the fact that they might resort to practicing their ninja scream indoors just to turn your head). Just 10-15 minutes of one-on-one quality time once or twice a day will do wonders to fend off negative behavior from your kids!

    Photo by mikebaird on flickr.
  • Everyone contributes! 2 of 10
    Everyone contributes!
    All kids, toddlers to teens, should be responsible for family contributions (not "chores") they do on a daily basis. When you expect your kids to contribute at home, you'll develop important life skills, foster family teamwork and ward off the entitlement epidemic.

    Photo by clogozm on flickr.
  • Be a stickler for bedtimes 3 of 10
    Be a stickler for bedtimes
    Most toddlers to teens get far less sleep than their growing bodies need. Consult your pediatrician about the hours of shut-eye kids need by age and if necessary, adjust the bedtime backwards by 10 minutes every few nights. A well-rested kid is a well-behaved kid!

    Photo by pikmin on flickr.
  • Training, not Time Outs 4 of 10
    Training, not Time Outs
    If Time Outs aren't working for you, take heart. It's not you and it's not your kids. Forcing a child to go to his room or the naughty chair for a prescribed period of time does nothing to teach him to make a better choice next time. For a strong-willed child, Time Out will most certainly escalate the power struggle. Instead, ask the question… "What can I do to teach him to make a better choice next time?" Focusing on training rather than punishment will almost always deliver better results.

    Photo by Images by Westfall on flickr.
  • Don’t play judge & jury in your kids fights 5 of 10
    Don't play judge & jury in your kids fights
    Parents escalate sibling rivalry when they step in to determine who's at fault and who should receive a punishment. Taking sides creates a winner and loser and fuels competition. It also robs kids of the valuable opportunity to work out the conflict on their own. Ignore kids' squabbles whenever possible and if you need to step in, simply say, "I'm not concerned with who started it, I'm here to help you come up with a solution. What ideas do you have to resolve this problem?"

    Photo by Images by Westfall on flickr.
  • Be clear—and simple—about your family rules 6 of 10
    Be clear—and simple—about your family rules
    First, narrow down your top 50 family rules to a handful that are most important. Then, assign a consequence, warn your kids ahead of time and stand your ground. For instance, remind kids that access to technology is a privilege, not a right, and be crystal clear about rules for a smartphone or computer. . If they aren't willing to follow your family rules for technology, it goes away. Assure them the public library has rows of computers they can use for homework.

    Photo by epsos on flickr.
  • Be a YES Mom or Dad 7 of 10
    Be a YES Mom or Dad
    Kids hear us say "no" or "don't" more times than we care to know—and they resent it (wouldn't you?). Find opportunities to say "yes" when you would normally say "no." When your son asks to go to the park after school and you know there's no way it can fit in the schedule, say "yes" instead: "The park sounds awesome! Would you like to go this Friday after school or on Saturday morning?"
  • Root for routines 8 of 10
    Root for routines
    Create clearly defined routines for the most challenging times of the day mornings, after school and bedtimes. Seek input from your child when creating the routines and then stick to them. If you've agreed on two books and five minutes of snuggles every night before bedtime, stick to it! If you give in to Jamie's pitiful plea for just "one more book" or "two more minutes," it lets her know the routine is up for negotiation every night.

    Photo by Anders Ruff Custom Designs on flickr.
  • Smile more! Think about the energy you give off 9 of 10
    Smile more! Think about the energy you give off
    Would your kids describe you as fun and lighthearted, or stressed, always in a hurry and downright bossy? If the latter sounds frighteningly familiar, it's probably time to smile more. The simple act of smiling changes your energy. You'll find yourself using a calmer voice and your kids will respond positively. Place smiley face Post-It notes around your house this week as a visual reminder, and watch as your family's dynamic grows more positive every day.

    Photo by macrj on flickr.
  • Remember that misbehavior is telling you something 10 of 10
    Remember that misbehavior is telling you something
    When determining the best strategy to deal with misbehavior, ask yourself, "Why is this behavior really happening?" Dig deep until you can get to the root cause. Is she jealous of the time you spend with a sibling or your computer? Does she feel powerless because you call all the shots and don't give her age appropriate independence? Misbehavior is always a symptom of a deeper issue. When we identify the root cause, we can be more targeted in the strategy to correct it.

    Photo by Gebala on flickr.

{Main picture by Images by Westfall on flickr. }

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Buy the book I co-authored, Bilingual is Better: Two Latina Moms on How the Bilingual Parenting Revolution is Changing the Face of America.

Read more from me at

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