Posts Tagged consequences

Why Counting 1-2-3 Isn’t Magic (Plus 4 Tools to Use Instead)

angry dad in grocery store counting to sonangry dad in grocery store counting to son

angry dad in grocery store counting to son

You’ve kindly asked, begged, and bribed–but he just won’t budge. 

It’s time for the final countdown

“Justin, you have three seconds to put that toy back on the shelf.” 

Your 5-year-old remains motionless–despite your warning.


Still nothing.

“2 ½, 2 ¾…”

As you raise your voice, the eyebrows of fellow bystanders raise, too. This is becoming a public battle of wills. 

You definitely don’t want to cause a scene, but you also need immediate cooperation. 

“Justin, I told you we weren’t going to buy a toy at the supermarket. If I reach the count of 3, you’re going to be in BIG trouble!!……..”



Maybe, after your final warning, Justin will budge. 

But, maybe–and just as likely–he won’t. You might even have to chase him down the crowded aisle and pry the toy from his tiny, yet iron-like, fingertips.

In either case, counting for compliance is not an ideal tactic. 

Though many of us regularly rely on this strategy, there are a few reasons why it isn’t going to help our kids–or us–in the long run. (To discover more effective disciplinary measures, sign up right now for our FREE CLASS: Get Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Yelling, or Losing Control!)

Want the scoop on this age-old tactic? 

Here are 4 reasons why counting “1-2-3” doesn’t stop bad habits–it prolongs them.

1. We’re Allowing Kids to Ignore Us

Think about it: counting to three teaches kids they really don’t have to listen the first time. Instead, they learn they have several opportunities before they have to respond to us. 

Even though our blood increasingly boils each moment of a countdown, our kids’ minds read something like this:

“Okay, I’m good here for a while. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing.”

“He just started counting. I don’t have to do anything quite yet. I’ve got time.”

By counting “1-2-3,” we’re actually giving our children 3 or more chances to ignore us. We probably asked them once or twice before we started counting. Add a “two and a half” and a “two and three-quarters,” and we’re up to 6-7 opportunities to be tuned out. 

Effectively, our kids have learned to ignore us–and wouldn’t we rather them listen the first time we make a request? 

Plus, teaching our kids to listen the first time and be more cooperative helps them outside the home, too. After all, a student can’t delay submitting his book report until the teacher has requested it several times. Not if he wants to get a good grade, anyway. 

Nor will a coach play a student in the next big game who repeatedly fails to listen to team strategy and instructions.

Our children won’t always get multiple opportunities outside the home, so it’s important that we set the expectation for listening the first time while they’re in our care.
Counting 1-2-3 quote

2.  Our Kids’ Responsibility Becomes Ours–and Entitlement Grows

When we feel the need to count, who isn’t listening and helping? Our kids. But who is getting angry, frustrated, and doing the work? Us. 

When children don’t cooperate, parents often (mistakenly) deploy discipline strategies–punishment, time-out, countdowns, etc.– that turn those misbehaviors into the parent’s problem.

In short, it becomes incumbent on the parent to force the child to comply instead of placing the onus on the misbehaving child. 

This, my friends, is WAY too accommodating. 

Occasional leniency may be relatively harmless, but a lot of it can lead to entitlement.

Breeding entitlement is surprisingly easy, because it usually doesn’t come from a parent’s conscious effort to reward their kids or spoil them beyond measure.

Instead, it sneakily arises from small, everyday actions that give kids more leeway, advantages, and excuses to shirk responsibility. 

Counting to 3 is one small action that does this by transferring responsibility from the kids to the parents. And, over time, when kids push the limits on the countdown, they will get away with more and more–increasing their feelings of entitlement.

3.  “1-2-3” Means We’re Willing to Wait…and Negotiate

No means no, right? 

But when a lot of parents say “no,” this isn’t the case. 

In the scene above, 5-year-old Justin knew he couldn’t have the toy. His dad said, “I told you we weren’t going to buy a toy at the supermarket.”

Telling our children “no” is good–and necessary! It’s important in situations like these to teach our kids they can’t have everything they want. 

But, saying “no”–and subsequently counting down until they finally give in–leaves room for children to re-interpret the situation.  

“He said ‘no,’ but now he’s counting–so I guess I still have time to play with this toy. Maybe he’ll even change his mind and let me keep it.” 

Even though parents see a narrowing window as they count, kids see increasing negotiation power. Depending on how often we rely on counting “1-2-3”, kids may even start to doubt our words and when they need to take us seriously.

4.  Counting Sets the Stage for a Power Struggle

Whether our dear 5-year-old, Justin, tightened his grip and ran down the supermarket aisle, threw himself on the floor in a writhing tantrum, or finally–begrudgingly–put back the toy, this was a classic showdown between parent and child. 

Children have an innate need for power and control and if those needs aren’t met in legitimate, positive ways, they’ll seek those needs through other means. For the power-seeking child, when given an inch, he’ll take it–and a mile more. 

Cue the power struggle.

Power struggles can be common, epic, and ugly. But they don’t have to be. 

If Justin still chooses not to listen to his dad–even after he reaches the dreaded count of “3”–what will he do next? He might say, “I’m serious now!” but he probably won’t believe him. 

Or, what happens when dad continues to lose control–both literally and figuratively? He might feel the need to yell, spank, or apply other totally ineffective consequences in an attempt to re-instill his authority. Justin, in turn, would further roll up his sleeves for the fight. 

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4 Tactics to Try Instead of Counting

Luckily, you don’t have to go down this road! Nor do you need to negotiate, accommodate, or be ignored.

Are you ready to take heart and switch gears?

Here are 4 alternate ways to encourage–and earn–your kids’ compliance:

1. Prevention Through Power

Naturally, life would be a lot easier without all these standoffs in stores, at playgrounds, and at bedtime, right? 

We all want our kiddos to behave appropriately–without having to employ discipline tactics–but that doesn’t happen without some proactive planning on our part.

The best way to encourage positive behavior is to look at the misbehavior itself. Yes, your child is interested in the toy at the store, but he’s also gaining a HUGE power boost at your expense as you jump through hoops and embarrass yourself to get his cooperation.

So he might want the toy; but even deeper than that, he wants to fill his need for personal power and prove who’s boss.

In fact, Adlerian Psychology–which is what all the tools in the 7-Step Parenting Success System® course are based on–tells us that once physical needs are met, all people have an innate need for attention and emotional connection and a sense of autonomy and personal power. 

In kids, when these needs aren’t met positively and proactively, this shows up through misbehaviors like tantrums, whining, arguing, backtalk, and all the rest. They don’t want to misbehave but they don’t have the awareness or the skills to communicate which needs aren’t being met. 

But, if we help our kids get that powerful feeling before their power bucket is running low, they will no longer feel the need to lash out, argue, talk back, and more.

It sounds incredible…and it truly is! 

So, if that’s you in the grocery store with a 5-year-old, instead of waiting for your child to act out, you’re going to help him feel super empowered. 

Give him the list and a pencil so he can check off the items. Let him decide the yogurt flavor. Ask him if he can find the Cheerios box in the cereal aisle. Weigh some vegetables. 

Through these small tasks, your son will feel such a strong sense of power that he’ll be more likely to take your “no” for an answer and put the toy back without complaint when asked.

This works wherever you are: during your routines, in the car, as you’re getting ready to leave the park, or any other tricky times of the day. Preplan some empowering activities, and you’ll be much less likely to even need other strategies. 

But if you do…

2. Start by Maintaining a Calm Voice

As much as we need to be firm when we make requests of our children, we need to be equally respectful and calm. 

Maintaining a Calm Voice, a tool we use in our positive parenting online course, is more powerful than it sounds. Because, in a way, it compels kids to listen without using force

When your 3-year-old refuses to get in her car seat after several requests, simply replace the urge to count by getting down on her level (physically), making eye contact, and stating the desired behavior in your calm but firm voice. 

“Becca, we need to pick your sister up from school now, so I need your help getting in the car seat. You can do so many things by yourself now! Show me how you buckle yourself in!

If your toddler has been loud or screaming, she’ll have to quiet down to hear your voice. Plus, without you yelling, she won’t have to raise her voice to respond. Using a calm voice has immediately blockaded a power struggle because you aren’t angry, upset, or emotional.

Becca is also pleased she can buckle herself in! This added dose of encouragement and self-positivity has further helped her comply.

But if she doesn’t, and continues to ramp up her reaction, you’ll feel much more prepared if you…

3. Train Your Child to Manage Big Emotions 

As we follow through with whatever it is we need our child to do–leave the playground, give a snatched toy back to a little sibling, or stop jumping on the couch–children are likely to pitch a fit…especially at first. 

As long as no one is in danger, that’s fine. There’s no need to lecture or get angry; empathize that you know he’s disappointed or that it’s hard to share, but move on. The tantrum will pass and your child will learn the valuable lesson that when you say something, you mean it

In a public place, naturally, this isn’t so easy. And, of course, you’d rather the situation not repeat itself.

The thing is, counting “1-2-3″ doesn’t help our kids get a grip on their defiance, anger, and willpower–it intensifies it!

Instead, training children to manage their feelings and express them appropriately–even in the heat of the moment–is a great alternate solution. 

When a child is at his wit’s end and refusing to listen, take a moment to first find out why. 

Maybe you purchased Justin a toy the last time you were at the store and he assumes he can have another one. Or maybe he just struggles to hear the word “no.” You can start by asking him why he is upset or encouraging him to describe how he feels. 

Also, for kids too young to express their feelings, we can help by labeling their feelings for them. 

“Anthony, I know you’re frustrated and angry that your brother gets to listen to Hamilton on the car ride today. It’s hard not to always get what we want.”

After a moment or two, we can add: “But that doesn’t mean you can yell and make noise during his songs. I know you wouldn’t want him to scream over your Disney tunes. Can you imagine how frustrating that would be, too?”

Labeling our kids’ feelings and showing empathy, despite how frustrating their behavior may be, helps them learn to express their emotions in a less dramatic way. 

And this helps curb their misbehaviors. 

Even a teenager struggling to cooperate can benefit from this tactic. Maybe you’re inclined to give your tween daughter a 5-second countdown after you’ve asked her four times to put her phone away. Instead, you can say:

“Alysha, I know it’s hard to put down the phone. It’s important for you to connect with your friends–and I respect that. But now, it’s time to do your homework.” 

Often, this is the only step you’ll need to take. But if your kids are still putting up a stink, your best bet is to ignore the fuss and avoid getting drawn into the power struggle. Leave the room if you need to, but act completely disinterested. They’ll soon get the point.

And what about that dreaded scenario when your preschooler is losing it in public? Usher kids to a location that can withstand a tantrum (outside, the car, or maybe an out-of-the-way corner) and let it run its course. We can show empathy during this process by holding them and acknowledging their disappointment. 

Empathy doesn’t mean we’re giving into their demands–it just helps them feel understood. 

When they see we’re not budging, kids will, eventually, lose interest. They’ll get the message that pitching a fit doesn’t get them what they want. What’s more, they’re less likely to lose control next time. 

4. Take Action with Redirection

Sometimes, parents resort to punishment when counting goes ignored–spanking, time-outs, etc. Other times, counting is an idle threat with no follow-through. 

But occasionally, both scenarios can be avoided when we take immediate action and redirect our kids.  

Poor Justin may be approaching his wits’ end over this silly toy, but if you quickly whisk him away to see the crabs and lobsters in the seafood aisle BEFORE he erupts, he may just forget it. Or, if you ask him to pick out his favorite brownie mix to make over the weekend, he could be happily distracted. 

If you and your 11-year-old are nearing a high-noon showdown over his wanting to stay up past 10, try talking about some of his favorite subjects while tucking him into bed or asking what he’d like to do with you tomorrow after getting a good night’s sleep. 

It seems simple, and it is. But taking our kids’ minds off the idea that they’re struggling against us and distracting them in healthy ways is an amazing way to get their cooperation. 

The key is to do it before the tension mounts. Once you’re in the middle of a battle, they’re less likely to take your bait and switch gears.

Kids still need to learn to cooperate without distraction, so this tactic may seem like the avoidance of a hard, but important, lesson. In reality, our kids will have plenty of opportunities to hear “no” and other words of opposition. 

Picking and choosing our battles and avoiding constant stand-offs will eliminate tension. It will also make conversations about what behavior you expect from them smoother and better received next time. 

Final Thoughts

We all want our children to listen the first time we ask, and while counting to 3 might be working for you right now, it’s not the best long-term solution for helping your child become more cooperative and compliant.

So whether you’re counting to 3 out of desperation or conscious choice, I’d love to encourage you to try the strategies above next time you find yourself in a battle of wills.

Or, better yet, you can join me for my FREE CLASS: Get Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Yelling, or Losing Control where I’ll share another favorite tool from my parenting toolbox–the 5Rs to fair and effective consequences. 

But for now, which tactic (or three, or four) will you try next time, in place of counting “1-2-3?”

How to Talk to Your Child About Cyberbullying

Your heart ached for your newborn baby as you paced her nursery in the middle of the night, desperately trying to calm her colicky cries.

You choked back tears and held her hand as the nurse administered her vaccinations.

You cried freely, wrapping her in your warm embrace the first time she came to you with a broken heart. 

As a parent, there is nothing more excruciating than having to watch your child suffer. Whether that pain be physical, mental, or emotional, the ache is real, and you would do anything to make it better. 

Of course, you can kiss away boo-boos and mend cuts and scrapes, but what about the invisible pain your child may be subjected to? 

In all my years as a parenting educator, there’s one topic in particular that breaks the hearts of parents everywhere– bullying.

In addition to causing long-term problems, bullying can have a tremendously negative impact on a child’s mental health and well-being. Children who are bullied are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, health concerns, and struggle academically. 

Of course parents are concerned!

Still, times are changing. Through the use of technology and social media, we are more connected now than ever before–which can be a wonderful thing! However, with this technological shift comes a change in how we interact with one another and how our kids do, too. 

There was a time when bullying never left the confines of the school playground. Today, however, those borders no longer exist. 

Now, kids carry their bullies around inside their pockets, bringing them along wherever they go. Smartphones, tablets, and laptops have paved the way for a new form of bullying known as cyberbullying. 

Though similar to regular bullying, cyberbullying takes the trauma one step further by allowing aggressors to follow the victim wherever they go. No longer are kids only facing harassment from their classmates during school hours. Virtually anyone, anywhere, anytime can bully another person by simply jumping on the Internet or using a cell phone.

Just a couple years ago, the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince left the country in shock when it was discovered that the young girl had been relentlessly harassed and tortured online and by phone. This sparked a conversation around the dangers of cyberbullying that is still ongoing, especially considering the amount of time kids spend on mobile devices.

Most youth spend about seven and a half hours each day tethered to their devices. These kinds of numbers can be enough to make any parent nervous. But the truth is, technology isn’t going anywhere–and that’s not a bad thing! 

Instead of living in fear of technology, have a conversation with your kids about the risks associated with technology and the effects of cyberbullying.

Not sure where to begin? Here are a few suggestions on how you can talk to your kids about cyberbullying today.

Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, please see the Expert Series, “Bullying.” 

Open the Discussion

Your fingers nervously tap against the steering wheel as your son gets into the car after school. You’ve seen it on the news and read about it in the paper; cyberbullying is at an all-time high for kids your son’s age. 

Today’s the day you decide to talk with him about it.

Of course, getting your son to talk about, well, anything really, can be as painful as pulling teeth. But this is one discussion you know has to be had. And you’re the only one who can start the conversation.

You decide it’s best to just dive right in. “I’ve heard a lot about cyberbullying lately. It seems like a real problem for kids your age. What do you know about cyberbullying?”

He simply shrugs. 

“Do you know anyone who has been cyberbullied?” you ask.

Again, he says nothing. You knew this would be difficult, but he’s not saying anything.

So what do you do?

As awkward as it may feel, try to keep the conversation going without being too pushy. You’ll want to keep your initial questions vague, not focusing on him directly. 

Even if he stays silent, let him know you are always there for him, no matter what. Assure him he can come to you with any problem and you will discuss it free of judgment or shame.

This is a tough conversation–especially if your son happens to be the victim of cyberbullying. By opening the discussion in a non-threatening manner, you can pave the way for more in-depth conversations down the road once trust has been established.
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State the Ground Rules

You take a deep breath as you sit down at the kitchen table with your thirteen-year-old daughter. Her brand new cell phone is clutched in your palm.

“Before I give this to you, we need to go over some ground rules,” you say.

Her eyes roll to the top of her head. You expected nothing less, but still, it hurts. She simply doesn’t get it. She has no idea the power this tiny device can possess.

Despite her attitude, you push on, knowing it’s for the best.

“Having a smartphone is a privilege for you to enjoy, not a right. I must know all of your passwords, I can check in at any time, and it must be turned off before bedtime.”

Though she’s not exactly pleased with the rules, your daughter accepts, knowing this is what it takes to earn a privilege she so desperately wants.

When it comes to preventing cyberbullying, setting the ground rules early, and stating them often, is critical. 

How much time will she be allowed on her devices? What are her passwords and login information? Does she know about proper online etiquette?

Have a plan set for what rules you want her to follow–ideally before she even has the technology in hand–and lay them out, clear and concise. That way, should an issue arise, you’ll have your finger on the pulse, ready to take action at a moment’s notice.

Is your child already well acquainted with their smartphone and tablet? No need to worry! It’s never too late to implement some ground rules.

Please Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions members, check out the advanced module Family Technology Survival Plan to learn the top 7 technology mistakes you might be making and the secrets to the Family Technology Contract and how to stick with it.

Treat Them as Adults

“Stop treating me like a baby! I’m practically an adult.”

You’ve heard these words from your teenage son more times than you care to mention. Usually you respond with the cliché comeback, “I’ll start treating you like an adult when you start acting like one!” 

But not today. Instead you simply say, “Wish granted.”

Over the past few months you’ve noticed your son becoming more and more absorbed by social media. When he’s not checking his phone for the latest fantasy football update, he’s on his computer scrolling through Instagram.

Now is truly the time to treat him as an adult. 

Because like it or not, his online life exists in a world where many of the consequences for his actions lie outside the realm of your control. You can’t fully protect him, and that worries you.

So what do you do? Begin the conversation. 

Let him know that just as in “real” life, there are laws and regulations governing cyberspace. Many things that may seem harmless online could potentially be considered criminal. What he feels may qualify as a harmless prank on a fellow classmate could be considered harassment and is punishable by law just as it would be in person.

Also, make it clear that what he puts online is public record and can follow him for the rest of his life, especially when it comes to college admissions and future career opportunities. There’s no need to sugar coat it–privacy doesn’t exist online.

The fact is, real-world consequences exist online. Because of that, the use of technology and social media comes with an adult-sized dose of responsibility. Therefore, having an adult conversation is not just important, it’s essential. 

Emphasize Safety

From the moment you brought her home from the hospital, your daughter’s safety has been your number one concern. You installed every baby gate, purchased the highest quality bicycle helmets, and never let her ride in a car without a seatbelt.

Now here you stand, facing an entirely new threat as you hand over her first smartphone.

You know it’s time. Between all of the after-school activities and weekend sleepovers, you find comfort in knowing she’s just a call away. But you also understand the risk and want her to understand it as well.

But how do you initiate the conversation? 

To start, make sure she knows her worth. Tell her, “You have a right to be treated safely, both in person and online, no matter what.” 

When you do this, you’ll find an amazing thing happens. You empower her! And the more empowered she feels now, the more likely she’ll be to disengage from anyone that tries to make her feel differently later.

Next, let her know which steps you’re taking in order to ensure she stay safe online. Perhaps you’ve enabled software that prohibits anything inappropriate from popping up or you insist on knowing all of her social media passwords. 

This isn’t an excuse to be snoopy. You simply care about her enough to put forth the effort to ensure she stays safe.

Finally, talk to her about the risks. How much does she know about cyberbullying? Does she know who to go to for help? 

Above all else, just remember, cyber safety is–and always should be–an ongoing conversation. Normalizing the issue now will help make sure that safety online is always at the forefront of her mind.
Cyber Safety should be an ongoing conversation

Encourage Empathy

Your son has always had a chip on his shoulder. He’s the captain of the football team, a straight-A student, and friends with just about everyone. 

You love that about him but often wonder: His life is just so easy. Does he know that’s not the case for everyone? 

Empathy. It’s a trait we all want to see in our children. 

Though the concept is easy enough, the execution can be difficult, especially for kids whose lives are already complicated enough. They can barely understand their own feelings and now we want them to understand the feelings of others, too?

I know encouraging empathy may seem difficult when parenting young children and teens, especially when they’re still learning emotional control. But, raising empathy-rich children can have a tremendous impact on their lives and the lives of others.

When it comes to cyberbullying, help your child take a walk in another person’s shoes.

Ask them, “How would you feel if someone sent you hateful comments or messages?”

And be sure not to avoid the hard topics. Perhaps they knew someone who, like Phoebe Prince, was pushed to suicide? 

“How do you think they felt when they were being bullied?” or “Who could they have reached out to for help?”

Allowing your child to truly identify with others in that situation decreases the likelihood of them bullying another person. Likewise, it allows them to reflect on their own personal situation. If they are currently being bullied, an exercise in empathy may be just the reminder they need to know they are not alone.

Final Thoughts

At times it can seem as though our world is changing so swiftly we can’t keep up. We may remember the feeling of being bullied as a kid, but the thought of being bullied in a world so deeply encompassed by technology and social media can be hard to imagine.

Take heart! Because, believe it or not, the change is actually not as grand as it may seem. In fact, very little about bullying has changed other than the way it is carried out. 

Please don’t skip out on having this very important conversation with your children. You have the knowledge to face this problem head-on!

Still feel like you need a little extra support? Not to worry. We want to be the support you need. The Positive Parenting Solutions course was designed for parents just like you who are looking for tools they can use to help with issues just like these. 


Let’s work together to ensure your kids are happy, healthy, and most importantly safe online.

Parents on Strike: Making a Point to Raise Responsible, Self-Reliant Kids

Mom tied up and kids going wild
Imagine six days of freedom from being “Mom the Maid”: no cleaning up after kids, doing their dishes, or constantly putting away their toys and school bags.

Jessica Stilwell, mother of three, made headlines a while back when she got just that – by going on strike.

And although in less than a week, her kitchen sink could easily be mistaken for a science experiment and her entire house was now artfully decorated in dirty clothes, she had also taught her kids a very valuable life lesson–and offered hope to parents everywhere who are fed up with their kids not lifting a finger.
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Resisting Rewards: When Treats Turn Sour

Child Holding Lollipop

Times are tough, and some days it seems that we live in an increasingly “What’s in it for me?” society. Worse, we see it in our kids, too–they won’t so much as empty the dishwasher without trying to bargain for some extra TV time. What does a parent have to do to get good behavior and a child who’s willing to help out?

The best solution? Quit rewarding your kids for behavior you should be able to expect. For instance, a child should not need a candy bar to make it through the grocery store without a tantrum, or a movie ticket as motivation to study for a test. And if we give our kids treats for such things, why would we expect these kinds of accomplishments in the future without offering yet another–probably steeper–reward?

Worse, plenty of studies have shown that kids who are rewarded actually lose interest in the activity they’re being rewarded for, from preschoolers making art to older kids reading. Yikes!

What does all this mean? In a nutshell, you’re doing your child no favor by doling out treats for his accomplishments or behavior. Instead, you’re setting him up for a “What’s in it for me?” attitude down the road.

By making a few changes, however, you can help your child develop a healthier mindset when it comes to good behavior and a “can-do” attitude.

Here are a few things that will help:

1. Develop When-Then Routines

Schedule key parts of your children’s day so that when they’ve completed the not-fun stuff (emptying the dishwasher, completing homework, practicing the piano), then they can do the fun stuff (join the family for dinner, play with their friends or enjoy their allotted TV time). This isn’t a reward – it’s placing the less desirable activity before the more enjoyable parts of your daily routine.

Note: For Positive Parenting Solutions Members, see Lessons 23 & 24 in Session 3 to learn how to diffuse your biggest power struggles.

2. Use Encouragement to Foster Internal Motivation

Be sure to notice your child’s hard work, good manners or helpful spirit–and tell her how much you appreciate these things. Then watch her beam with pride!

3. Use Consequences to Enforce Positive Behavior

When you’ve told your kids what kind of behavior you expect–whether that means picking up their toys before dinner or returning home before curfew–make sure they understand what happens if they fail to follow through.

If you regularly use rewards with your kids, the idea of stopping them could be daunting. But trust that they’ll do just fine under the new system.

To start, let your kids know that since they’re growing up, they don’t need sticker charts and other rewards anymore. Express confidence in their ability to cooperate without these treats. Hold a family meeting to discuss individual responsibilities, and then develop a when-then routine to help your kids get off on the right track. Make sure they know the consequences they’ll face for negative behavior.

With a little tweaking, your home can be one that’s free from the “What’s in it for me?” mindset. Even better, your kids will develop into the caring, responsible adults you know they can be.

For more strategies to raise responsible, respectful, un-entitled kids, join us for a FREE online class:  Get Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. 

Do’s and Don’ts to End Hitting for Good (part 2)

Little Boy Covering His MouthLittle Boy Covering His Mouth

Little Boy Covering His Mouth

In Part 1 of Do’s and Don’ts to End Hitting and Biting for Good we discussed the best ways to address hitting and biting in toddlers.

This post will address what you should do for kids OVER the age of 3.

Hitting and other aggressive behaviors may be frustrating with younger kids (under age 3) but with older kids who should “know better”-  it’s hard not to feel livid!

But before we lose all our marbles and overreact to their displays of aggression, let’s take a moment to pause.

Instead of seeing their aggression as a precursor to becoming a life-long bully, we need to look at these behaviors as a sign our child could use some training in impulse-control strategies.

The worst thing we can do, in fact, is label our child as “bad,” “violent” or “aggressive”–this will only discourage the child and make the behavior more likely to happen

However, there are several things you can do beforehand, in the moment and after an incident to help ensure aggressive behaviors will be a thing of the past.

Set your child up for success

DO make sure kids are well-rested.

They’ll be more likely to control their impulses positively if they’ve had enough sleep (aren’t we all?).

DON’T overstay a visit.

When kids are at the end of their rope on a visit that’s longer than they can realistically handle, they may be more likely to act out with aggression.

DON’T skip naps or rest time.

Playdates and family visits will go much better when the child has had a little quiet time to regroup and rest her body–whether she sleeps or not.

DO fill your child’s attention basket daily.

Provide positive attention daily. Take time each day to get into their world, on their terms, to build emotional connections and calm the child’s impulses to lash out.

DO teach positive conflict-resolution strategies.

When kids know how to use strategies such as “I feel” statements, walking away, ignoring, finding a compromise, and more, they won’t feel the need to resort to hitting.

DO get involved at the first sign of aggression.

If your child is negotiating with words, let it play out. But once the fists get raised, step in immediately to help your child calm down and find a more peaceful resolution. This may require keeping a particularly close eye on your child for a while.

When it comes to sibling’s fighting, however, there’s a lot more to it. Be sure to check out my tips here for when sibling fights turn physical.)

DO encourage your kids when they stay peaceful.

When you see your child manage their emotions without hitting, point it out. Say, “You really kept yourself under control when you were frustrated with your friend. I know that was hard. You’re really growing up!”

DO allow plenty of physical activity.

Some kids are just more physical than others and need to move. By encouraging movement in a positive way, such as practicing goal kicks, they’ll release some of that pent-up need to
move and be less likely to take it out on a playmate.

DO model peaceful communication.

The more respectful our environment at home, the less likely our kids will be to turn to aggression. Use kindness and respect, and train all your kids to do the same, and the levels of
aggression-inducing stress and frustration will decrease.


In the moment

DON’T spank or slap a child for hitting.

Doing so reinforces that hitting is okay and models exactly the behavior you’re trying to stop.

DON’T punish.

Our focus should be to help the child learn positive ways to manage their big emotions.  Punishing the child, telling him he is “bad” or embarrassing him in front of others only furthers his discouragement
and makes future aggression more likely. 

DON’T worry about other opinions.

It’s tough to parent in front of an audience but whether you find yourself dealing with aggression at the park or your “perfect” sister’s house, tune everyone else out. Focus on your child–not your reputation or others’ suggestions–while being respectful to those in the vicinity.

DO remain calm.

It’s understandable to be upset when your child hits you or another child, but you’ll get better results by staying calm.

Not only does an explosive reaction give your child a big dose of attention and power for negative behavior, which only serves to reinforce it, but you’ll put her on the defensive. By staying calm, however, you’ll show your kids that you’re in control of your own conduct and are able to help them with theirs.

DO make sure the injured party is okay.

If your child is calm enough to do so, include your child in this process so she can begin to learn empathy and how her actions make another person feel.

If she is not calm enough, model empathy by making sure the injured party is okay, but keep your child close so he doesn’t feel shut out.

If necessary, gently (and without anger) remove your child from the immediate situation so you can help her calm down without the distraction of others.

DO provide empathy and boundaries.

Let your child know you understand her big emotions, then separate the feeling from the behavior. Say, “Wow, you look angry/frustrated/mad/upset. But it’s not okay to hit when you are mad.”

Practice for next time

In a calm moment…

DO role-play typical scenarios.

With your child, practice how to respond without hitting – using words, asking an adult for help, walking away, etc.

DO practice strategies for calming down.

With your child, decide on a technique your child can use to calm down when she’s feeling angry or frustrated. Consider belly breathing, counting to 10, or anything else you and your child can think of.

DO create a super-secret non-verbal signal.

This is a sign you can show when things start to get tense to remind your child to use the strategies you practiced rather than resorting to aggression.

DO recognize impulse control is difficult for kids.

And it’s even more difficult for kids with ADHD and other differences.  Have patience and remember that training is an ongoing process.

Final Thoughts

While facing your child’s aggression may feel like the end of the world, it isn’t. Take heart that you can use this challenging time as an opportunity to practice peaceful impulse control strategies that will help your child now and far into the future.

Just remember, hitting is the SYMPTOM of a bigger problem. Once you get to the root of the issue, you’ll be able to solve it in no time.

If you’d like to learn more discipline strategies that work, I’d love for you to JOIN ME FOR A FREE ONLINE CLASS. In it, I’ll teach you how to get your kids to listen–no nagging, yelling or reminding required!

As always, I’m wishing you the best on your parenting journey!