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City of Hamilton - Public Health Services

Helping your child to behave well

  • Children under 3 years often use aggressive behaviours like pushing, grabbing, and hitting to get what they want. Positive behaviours like sharing, taking turns, and using words to express feelings are behaviours that your child needs your help to learn.
  • It will take time for your child to learn positive behaviours. It is important for you to be patient. Children learn new skills by repeating them many times.
  • Notice when your child is behaving well. Some examples of behaviours to look for are:
    • talking with a friendly voice
    • playing well with others
    • being patient or staying calm
  • Look for signs that your child is ready to learn positive behaviours. For example, it will be easier for your child to learn to behave well when he is well rested, alert, and calm. It will be more difficult for your child to learn when he is tired, hungry, stressed, or sick.
  • When you praise your child's positive behaviours, your child will use these behaviours more often. Praise your child with words, such as "Fantastic!" You can also praise with affection such as smiles and hugs. When giving praise, it is important to:
    • be specific and label the behaviour. For example, instead of saying "That was great!", try saying "Great job sharing your toy with your friend."
    • praise your child as soon as you notice him behaving well. For example, if your child starts to pick up toys, praise right away. You don’t need to wait until all the toys are picked up before praising.
    • avoid following your praise with a negative comment. For example, "Good job talking in a friendly voice. Why can't you talk like that all the time?"
  • Other important ways to help your child behave well are:
    • role modeling positive behaviours. Your child learns positive behaviours from watching you. Let your child see you showing concern for others, taking turns, and staying calm.
    • labelling your child's emotions to help him learn to express his feelings. You could say, "That made you really angry" or "Wow, you're really excited."
    • helping your child understand how others are feeling and guiding your child to respond appropriately. You could say, "Sarah feels sad that she doesn't have a puzzle to play with. Can she help you finish your puzzle?"
    • providing opportunities for your child to practice positive behaviours with you and with other children
  • Praising your child might feel uncomfortable at first. As you praise more often, it will feel more comfortable. Be patient with yourself.
  • Taking time for yourself will help you cope as a parent. Get enough sleep and eat well to help you have the energy to care for your child.

Common questions parents ask about promoting positive behaviours

Please click on the desired question to be directed to the answer in PDF format.

  1. I want to praise my child but he never does the good behaviour enough to earn the praise. For example, he knows to say "Please" but will only say it sometimes, not every time.
  2. My child should know how to behave properly. Won’t I spoil him if I start praising everyday things I expect him to do?
  3. My child refuses to share toys with other children. What can I do to help him learn to share?

Additional Information

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