What You Can Do to Change Your Child’s Behavior


What You Can Do to Change Your Child’s Behavior

Teaching Your Child Self-Control

How to Manage and Prevent Temper Tantrums

Developing Your Child’s Self-Esteem

For Kids & Teens: The Story on Self-Esteem

Helping Your Child Deal With Death

Helping Children Deal With Their Fears

What is normal behavior for a child?

Normal behavior in children depends on the child’s age, personality, and physical and emotional development. A child’s behavior may be a problem if it doesn’t match the expectations of the family or if it is disruptive. Normal or “good” behavior is usually determined by whether it’s socially, culturally, and developmentally appropriate. Knowing what to expect from your child at each age will help you decide whether his or her behavior is normal.

What can I do to change my child’s behavior?

Children tend to continue a behavior when it is rewarded and stop a behavior when it is ignored. Consistency in your reaction to a behavior is important because rewarding and punishing the same behavior at different times confuses your child. When you think your child’s behavior might be a problem, you have 3 choices:

  • Decide that the behavior is not a problem because it’s appropriate to the child’s age and stage of development.
  • Attempt to stop the behavior, either by ignoring it or by punishing it.
  • Introduce a new behavior that you prefer and reinforce it by rewarding your child.


How do I stop misbehavior?

The best way to stop unwanted behavior is to ignore it. This way works best over a period of time. When you want the behavior to stop immediately, you can use the time-out method.

How do I use the time-out method?

Decide ahead of time the behaviors that will result in a time out (usually tantrums, or aggressive or dangerous behavior). Choose a time-out place that is uninteresting for the child and not frightening, such as a chair, corner, or playpen. When you’re away from home, consider using a car or a nearby seating area as a time-out place.

When the unacceptable behavior occurs, tell the child the behavior is unacceptable and give a warning that you will put him or her in time-out if the behavior doesn’t stop. Remain calm and don’t look angry. If your child goes on misbehaving, calmly take him or her to the time-out area.

If possible, keep track of how long your child’s been in time out. Set a timer so your child will know when time out is over. Time out should be brief (generally 1 minute for each year of age), and should begin immediately after reaching the time-out place or after the child calms down. You should stay within sight or earshot of the child, but don’t talk to him or her. If the child leaves the time-out area, gently return him or her to the area and consider resetting the timer. When the time out is over, let the child leave the time-out place. Don’t discuss the bad behavior, but look for ways to reward and reinforce good behavior later on.

How do I encourage a new, desired behavior?

One way to encourage good behavior is to use a reward system. Children who learn that bad behavior is not tolerated and that good behavior is rewarded are learning skills that will last them a lifetime. This works best in children older than 2 years of age. It can take up to 2 months to work. Being patient and keeping a diary of behavior can be helpful to parents.

Choose 1 to 2 behaviors you would like to change (for example, bedtime habits, tooth brushing, or picking up toys). Choose a reward your child would enjoy. Examples of good rewards are an extra bedtime story, delaying bedtime by half an hour, a preferred snack, or for older children, earning points toward a special toy, a privilege, or a small amount of money.

Explain the desired behavior and the reward to the child. For example, tell the child, “if you get into your pajamas and brush your teeth before this TV show is over, you can stay up a half hour later.” Request the behavior only one time. If the child does what you ask, give the reward. You can help the child, if necessary, but don’t get too involved. Because any attention from parents, even negative attention, is so rewarding to children, they may prefer to have parental attention instead of a reward at first. Transition statements, such as, “in 5 minutes, play time will be over,” are helpful when you are teaching your child new behaviors.

This system helps you avoid power struggles with your child. However, your child is not punished if he or she chooses not to behave as you ask. He or she simply does not get the reward.


What are some good ways to reward my child?

Beat the Clock (good method for a dawdling child)

Ask the child to do a task. Set a timer. If the task is done before the timer rings, your child gets a reward. To decide the amount of time to give the child, figure out your child’s “best time” to do that task and add 5 minutes.

The Good Behavior Game (good for teaching a new behavior)

Write a short list of good behaviors on a chart and mark the chart with a star each time you see the good behavior. After your child has earned a small number of stars (depending on the child’s age), give him or her a reward.

Good Marks/Bad Marks (best method for difficult, highly active children)

In a short time (about an hour) put a mark on a chart or on your child’s hand each time you see him or her performing a good behavior. For example, if you see your child playing quietly, solving a problem without fighting, picking up toys, or reading a book, you would mark the chart. After a certain number of marks, give your child a reward. You can also make negative marks each time a bad behavior occurs. If you do this, only give your child a reward if there are more positive marks than negative marks.

Developing Quiet Time (often useful when you’re making supper)

Ask your child to play quietly alone or with a sibling for a short time (maybe 30 minutes). Check on your child frequently (every 2 to 5 minutes, depending on the child’s age) and give a reward or a token for each few minutes they were quiet or playing well. Gradually increase the intervals (go from checking your child’s behavior every 2 to 5 minutes to checking every 30 minutes), but continue to give rewards for each time period your child was quiet or played well.


What else can I do to help my child behave well?

Make a short list of important rules and go over them with your child. Rules should relate to safety, health, and how to treat others. The fewer the rules, the less rule-breaking behavior you may have to deal with. Avoid power struggles, no-win situations, and extremes. When you think you’ve overreacted, it’s better to use common sense to solve the problem, even if you have to be inconsistent with your reward or punishment method. Avoid doing this often as it may confuse your child.

Accept your child’s basic personality, whether it’s shy, social, talkative, or active. Basic personality can be changed a little, but not very much. Try to avoid situations that can make your child cranky, such as becoming overly stimulated, tired, or bored. Don’t criticize your child in front of other people. Describe your child’s behavior as bad, but don’t label your child as bad. Praise your child often when he or she deserves it. Touch him or her affectionately and often. Children want and need attention from their parents.

Develop little routines and rituals, especially at bedtimes and mealtimes. Provide transition remarks (such as “in 5 minutes, we’ll be eating dinner.”). Allow your child choices whenever possible. For example, you can ask, “Do you want to wear your red pajamas or your blue pajamas to bed tonight?” “Do you want me to carry you to bed or do you want to go all by yourself?” “Which book do you want to read?”

As children get older, they may enjoy becoming involved in household rule making. Don’t debate the rules at the time of misbehavior, but invite your child to participate in rule making at another time.


Why shouldn’t I use physical punishment?

Parents may choose to use physical punishment (such as spanking) to stop undesirable behavior. The biggest drawback to this method is that although the punishment stops the bad behavior for a while, it doesn’t teach your child to change his or her behavior. Disciplining your child is really just teaching him or her to choose good behaviors. If your child doesn’t know a good behavior, he or she is likely to return to the bad behavior. Physical punishment becomes less effective with time and can cause the child to behave aggressively. It can also be carried too far into child abuse. Other methods of punishment are preferred and should be used whenever possible.


This is a very interesting proposition.  I think first you have to work with the autism and gain their trust and cooperation.  Children with autism need structure and to feel secure that their world can make sense.  They have difficulty processing purely verbal information so incorporate visual supports, even for those with higher intellectual ability.  Here are my top 10 get started for your 30 minute period.

  1. There are many similarities between students learning a second language and students with autism learning to navigate the complexities of their native language.  The ESL material you may already have should prove helpful  with some modifications. Emphasize the patterns and structure to the language learning as students with autism often have logic based systems of learning.  When things are shown how they just make sense, a light bulb goes off for them.
  2. Create a regular routine in class and post that schedule on the wall.  Give each student a copy of the class routine as well.  Many students with autism often find this type of structure calming.  Emphasize a pattern in your tutoring session that they can count on, repetition with variety is an art in planning learning for children with autism.
  3. For those struggling and attempting to engage in their preferred activities use this as a first/then/next lesson.  You provide them with an opportunity to engage in their preferred activity only after engaging in the lesson you have prepared and gives them what you want them to do next in short spurts.  Here is a link to how to set up a first-then-nextVisual Schedule Series: First-Then Schedules (Freebie!!).  I would include how much time they get to spend in each category in minutes (Vocabulary study 10 minutes (the first), Lego ( 7 then), Conversation practice (13 minutes next)
  4. Since their primary language is not English, use picture symbols that are universal such asBoardmaker Software or other free picture symbols you can find online to create picture schedules that illustrate how the tutoring session will flow and concepts you are teaching.  A visual lesson plan for each child so they can check off and know when each activity is finished.
  5. If you sessions do not have to be focused on academic tutoring, use the time to focus on social skills for those who need it.  They will learn English terms for emotions, feelings and communication at the same time.  Teach foundational social skills embedded in your academic tutoring such as ability to maintain eye contact, maintaining appropriate personal space, understanding gestures and facial expressions.
  6. Always use strategies to activate background knowledge on what you are teaching.  Since your learners are middle school age and they have lived and traveled great distances they may have many experiences that can be tied to lessons in math, reading, science and social studies.  Use short video clips and stories to tie the lesson back to their recent experiences.  If they lack background knowledge I am sure you can think of fun ways to build their background knowledge.
  7. Ask the students to translate terms into their language.  If some of the words are cognates (sound similar to the English word) this provides a fun bridge between the two languages.  Some children with autism have incredible memories and ability to discern a pattern once they are aware of them.
  8. Because your students have autism, which in and of itself, is a communication based disorder, learning a second language presents a big challenge.  Avoid sarcasm, idioms and local humor.  Not only does the language barrier hamper understanding, the autism as well hinders their ability to read between the lines and interpret humor and idioms.
  9. Because your students have autism one of the common (although not true for every student) traits is a limited but extensive knowledge/interest in a particular topic.  Use these interests to teach.  For example, you may have a student that knows all about trains and only wants to talk about trains.  Though you need to encourage wider interests, get to know what each student has as a pre-occupation and build those into your lesson sessions whenever possible.
  10. Work with your special education teacher, psychologist and behavior specialist to learn how to help students in your sessions.  Each student is an individual and you will need to build a community that can assist you in learning how to reach a student who does not seem to respond to any strategy you are using.


22 Tips for Teaching Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders


Use Task Analysis –very specific, tasks in sequential order.

  1. Always keep your language simple and concrete. Get your point across in as few words as possible. Typically, it’s far more effective to say “Pens down, close your journal and line up to go outside” than “It looks so nice outside. Let’s do our science lesson now. As soon as you’ve finished your writing, close your books and line up at the door. We’re going to study plants outdoors today”.
  2. Teach specific social rules/skills, such as turn-taking and social distance.
  3. Give fewer choices. If a child is asked to pick a color, say red, only give him two to three choices to pick from. The more choices, the more confused an autistic child will become.
  4. If you ask a question or give an instruction and are greeted with a blank stare, reword your sentence. Asking a student what you just said helps clarify that you’ve been understood.
  5. Avoid using sarcasm. If a student accidentally knocks all your papers on the floor and you say “Great!” you will be taken literally and this action might be repeated on a regular basis.
  6. Avoid using idioms. “Put your thinking caps on”, “Open your ears” and “Zipper your lips” will leave a student completely mystified and wondering how to do that.
  7. Give very clear choices and try not to leave choices open ended. You’re bound to get a better result by asking “Do you want to read or draw?” than by asking “What do you want to do now?”
  8. Repeat instructions and checking understanding. Using short sentences to ensure clarity of instructions.
  9. Providing a very clear structure and a set daily routine including time for play).
  10. Teaching what “finished” means and helping the student to identify when something has finished and something different has started. Take a photo of what you want the finished product to look like and show the student. If you want the room cleaned up, take a picture of how you want it to look some time when it is clean. The students can use this for a reference.
  11. Providing warning of any impending change of routine, or switch of activity.
  12. Addressing the pupil individually at all times (for example, the pupil may not realize that an instruction given to the whole class also includes him/her. Calling the pupil’s name and saying “I need you to listen to this as this is something for you to do” can sometimes work; other times the pupil will need to be addressed individually).
  13. Using various means of presentation – visual, physical guidance, peer modeling, etc.
  14. Recognizing that some change in manner or behavior may reflect anxiety (which may be triggered by a [minor] change to routine).
  15. Not taking apparently rude or aggressive behavior personally; and recognizing that the target for the pupil’s anger may be unrelated to the source of that anger.
  16. Avoid overstimulation. Minimizing/removal of distracters, or providing access to an individual work area or booth, when a task involving concentration is set. Colorful wall displays can be distracting for some pupils, others may find noise very difficult to cope with.
  17. Seeking to link work to the pupil’s particular interests.
  18. Exploring word-processing, and computer-based learning for literacy.
  19. Protecting the pupil from teasing at free times, and providing peers with some awareness of his/her particular needs.
  20. Allowing the pupil to avoid certain activities (such as sports and games) which s/he may not understand or like; and supporting the pupil in open-ended and group tasks.
  21. Allowing some access to obsessive behavior as a reward for positive efforts.