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Help, the kids are driving me mad!

Parents often ask me “How can I stop my children doing X?” The first step is to turn it around and think about how you want them to behave instead. Do they behave that way ever? How do you respond?

the kids are driving me mad!Nine times out of ten, parents fall into the trap of paying far more attention to the behaviour they want to stop than to the behaviour they want to encourage.

We’ve all done it. The kids are playing quietly for once. They’re not fighting over the remote or bickering about whose turn it is or yelling for help, string, biscuits or anything else. So you make the most of a precious moment to make a cup of tea after a hard day’s work. Or, more likely, to run around trying to complete the million jobs you still have to do as part of your ‘second shift’.

Whatever you do, you don’t go and disturb the kids because that might break the magic spell….

But is that really going to encourage them to repeat their good behaviour in the future? We all like to be praised. When somebody says you did a particularly good job at work, you feel great about it. You feel motivated to put in the effort next time.

Children are no different. If you can catch them being good (no matter how briefly!) and tell them how much you like it, then they are far more likely to behave that way again. It might feel weird at first, but do it repeatedly and consistently every time the desirable behaviour occurs and it will make a difference. Try to be positive and specific in your praise (“Well done for staying calm when your sister was teasing you”) so they know precisely what they are doing that you like. Back it up with a smile, a hug, a pat on the back.

As a parenting strategy, it has everything going for it. There’s no preparation. It’s portable. It’s free (though the occasional surprise reward to go with the praise can really boost success rates). And more good behaviour means less time battling bad behaviour and more time to spend doing something enjoyable with the children (or, occasionally, if you must, the hoovering).

So the next time the kids are playing together quietly – even if it is only for a moment – before you reach for the phone or fire up the laptop, walk into the room and tell them exactly what they are doing that you like. Be enthusiastic (after all, you really do like it!). Invest in those moments and you might just reap many more magical moments in return.

This post originally appeared on

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The Work/Parent Switch.

By Anita Cleare

Not sure where to start?

Practical tips on how to be the parent your child needs and create happy family dynamics (but still do your job!)

20 responses to “Help, the kids are driving me mad!”

  1. This a great tip – I have to confess to taking advantage of those quiet moments to get other things done (pretty much like I’m doing now in fact!) but good to be reminder to notice it and praise them for it too. #twinklytuesday

  2. Kim (sisterkin) says:

    Great advice. I have found recently that my almost three year old enjoys going on the ‘thinking step’ because she is getting attention for her bad behaviour. I will definitely be giving more praise having read this. Thank you. #TwinklyTuesday

  3. Caroline (Becoming a SAHM) says:

    It’s so true and I am trying really hard to give praise for good behaviour at the moment, as it is all too easy to end up.exactly. as you describe. Getting other things done when they are playing nicely then telling them off for acting up. Always have a reminder! Xx

  4. Lizzie says:

    I try hard to do this but it’s easy to slip. I do agree that positive parenting raises well behaved children and I hope I get the balance just right even if I am a bit shouty at times. Great post very true x

  5. Anna Brophy says:

    Love it! Must focus on the good! Cheers #TwinklyTuesday

  6. Renee @peonieandme says:

    That is such good advice. Henry is nearing 9 months now, so a good time to encourage his good behaviour, as he takes everything in.

    He’s currently in his cot chatting away. Off to tell him, well done for only having only one wake up last night. Even if it did last an hour :0).

    #bestandworst Renee @peonieandme

    • AnitaCleare says:

      Brilliant! The earlier you can get into the habit the better – it doesn’t matter if he can’t understand all the words at first, just the tone of your voice and lovely Mummy smile will do the trick (and he will be learning those words all the quicker for hearing them!) X

  7. Kirsty says:

    This is a great tip. I tend to just tiptoe in and make sure he isn’t doing anything naughty if he has gone quiet and then run away until he comes to look for me a little later. #bestandworst

  8. Rhyming with wine says:

    Great advice. I need to keep this in mind.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. I’m quite pleased Anita as I actually do this but do feel like a loony telling my daughter. It is so lovely when she is sat playing. I told her today as I got a tonne of cleaning done and she was great. It’s fab to be reassured. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst x

  10. Orana says:

    oh my goodness it’s so simple isn’t it? Every time they are calm we just want to walk off and be alone. But you are right, telling them that they are doing something right is definitely a good idea and I will try to implement it into our days. Thank you #twinklytuesday

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