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Seven significant strategies for bringing out the best in our kids. By Michael Grose 

  1. Avoid your impulsive reaction when kids are less than perfect. Generally, the first parental reaction to children’s uncooperative or poor behaviour can actually encourage more of the same. Sounds bizarre, but children often keep repeating the behaviours that work in achieving a result. Whinging, for example, is a brilliant way for a child to get his or her own way. Like ancient ‘water torture’ it effectively makes us lose our cool and give in for some peace and quiet.

  2. Teach kids manners. Old fashioned good manners such as making eye contact, addressing people by name and using please and thank you’s are basic social skills that many of our current generation don’t possess. Manners are respect in action and very empowering so don’t leave it up to schools and pre schools to teach. Insist on it yourself.

  3. Cure parent deafness by acting rather than talking. Often when kids ignore our requests for cooperation we simply repeat ourselves or raise the volume of our voice. Forget it. Cure parent-deafness by acting rather than talking. For instance, put the meal on the table and let it get cold rather than repeatedly tell kids to come to the meal-table. Kids learn from our actions as much as from our words.

  4. Set consequences like a good cop. Behavioural consequences are all the rage in schools and childcare centres. I love them as a way of shifting the responsibility onto kids to behave well. Consequences have their own set of rules if they are to be effective. But the key to their success is to set them like a good cop, as opposed to a rude cop, so the kids are mad at themselves rather than at you.

  5. Use the language of cooperation to get…er…cooperation. Some parents use the wrong language to get what they want. They use the language of coercion (‘do this now!’) to get cooperation, however all they get is confrontation and conflict. For some hard-to-shift kids you need to use the right language to win their cooperation. They are puppy dogs really if you use the right words. The language of cooperation is about choices, not backing kids into a corner and focusing on yourself rather than the child.

  6. Use behavioural rehearsal with kids. If you want kids to behave in certain ways then it is useful to get kids to practise in fun, low or no stress ways. For instance, if you want to bring out your children’s best behaviour when eating out then set up the meal-table at home like a restaurant and have some fun serving them the meals and using their ‘best going out’ manners.

  7. Put yourself in timeout – tactical withdrawal. Most parents have heard of timeout for kids but timeout for parents is effective too. If that sounds bizarre then consider a child with ‘last wordedness’ or a child who keeps nagging or arguing with you to get his or her own way. You need to tactically withdraw from these kids to save your sanity or stop yourself from giving in. If you can’t move away from your child then disappear psychologically – that is, imagine your child is not there and refuse to respond while your child behaves poorly.