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How to Improve Your Child's Behavior: Master the Art of Positive Change with Expert-Approved Techniques

April 5, 2023
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    Many parents find it difficult to distinguish between typical behavior in kids and atypical childhood behavior. All kids will sometimes exhibit bad behaviors as a standard part of childhood development, so it can be difficult to understand where the line is. Regardless, one thing is true - most parents want to know how to encourage good behavior in kids.

    Generally, positive attention for good behaviors and effective consequences for negative ones can go a long way. Still, every child is different. So, what should you know about improving your child's behavior?

    In this article, we'll discuss understanding typical childhood behavior and ways to improve your child's behavior, including how Joon can help. Then, we'll go over tips for rewarding good behavior in kids.

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    Understanding Typical Behavior In Children

    It's important to gain awareness of and understand typical behavior in children. Your child's age and developmental level will play a role in their behaviors. Younger kids especially push boundaries and test limits at times. A young child may show bad behavior here and there out of natural curiosity and experimentation. In that sense, some lower-level "bad" behaviors are expected.

    Context also matters. During high-stress times, kids may be more prone to bad behavior that would be unacceptable the rest of the time. This differs from consistent or abnormal bad behavior, which can require specific techniques and professional support. When should a parent or family worry? Any dangerous behaviors that could cause harm to oneself or others shouldn't be ignored. In this case, mental health support from a counselor, therapist, social worker, or psychologist may be helpful.

    If your child has ADHD or another condition, develop an understanding of your child's symptoms and why they occur, as it may be necessary for navigating a child's behavior most productively. ADHD can co-occur with other disorders. This may be relevant to a child's behavior in some cases.

    How To Improve Your Child's Behavior

    If power struggles are consistent in your family, you aren't alone. The right approach can help the home become more peaceful for both you and your child. You may be surprised to find out which practices are most helpful for your family. With that said, here are some ways parents can promote better behavior in children.

    Try Joon To Help

    Joon is a to-do app and game that encourages good behavior in children. Designed for kids with ADHD and related disorders, Joon is an excellent way to reduce power struggles, boost self-esteem, and promote healthy habits. Here's how it works:

    Adults sign up first with the Joon Parent App and create a personalized task list for their children. You can add unlimited tasks, including homework, chores, personal hygiene activities, or any other part of your child's routine. Kids connect with a separate app called Joon Pet Game. When children complete tasks, they get rewards that allow them to take care of a virtual pet called a Doter and move forward in the game.

    90% of kids who use Joon finish all the tasks adults assign. Many parents say that Joon has improved their parent-child relationship. Joon is rated an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars in the App Store, with over 4k reviews from parents like you.

    Click here to try it for free.

    Notice and praise desired behavior

    Rewarding good behavior is an excellent way to improve your child's behavior overall. If a child misbehaves often, it is crucial not to lose sight of the need to reward good behaviors. Give your child positive reinforcement, even for small wins.

    Learn their triggers

    We all have triggers that can affect our behavior, including kids. Try to identify patterns that affect your child. For example, does feeling tired, hungry, or experiencing sensory overload tend to make an outburst more likely? Once you know what a child's triggers are, you can make a game plan and set them up for success. Depending on what they are, this could mean avoiding certain triggers or finding ways to navigate them.

    If you need help identifying patterns and triggers, try tantrum or behavior-tracking apps.

    Give direct expectations for specific behaviors

    One critical component of effective parenting is not relying on common sense when instructing your child. If you want your child to do something, be specific.

    For example, if you want them to put their toys from the floor into their toy basket, you might say, "Put your toys in this basket," rather than just, "clean your room." If you want kids to complete multi-step tasks, like cleaning their room, it can help to break each step down into several smaller, more specific steps.

    Explain all behavioral expectations just as clearly, whether you want a child to speak quietly in a certain environment or something else. Don't assume that your child will pick up on what's between the lines.

    Be a role model for positive behaviors

    Model the behavior you want to see, and be mindful that you aren't engaging in the behaviors you want your child to stop. For example, if you raise your voice, it'll be harder for a child to stop doing it themselves. They may feel confused and will most certainly question double standards.

    Similarly, if and when you make a mistake, apologize and redirect yourself just as you'd want them to. When you show a child that you can apologize and change your behavior, it shows them that they can do the same.

    Teach coping skills

    Every child must learn about emotions and healthy coping skills. Help your child learn coping skills that can help with self-control and intense feelings, such as breathing exercises or asking to excuse oneself when they feel angry and need a break.

    Don't ignore defiant behavior

    While it is true that many kids favor negative attention over no attention and not giving your child attention for some bad behaviors can be okay, it is also important not to ignore defiant or dangerous behaviors. When a child misbehaves, address it using your best judgment.

    Depending on the situation and family, this can be anything from gently letting a child know what they did wrong and helping them correct behavior to allowing for natural consequences to giving your child specific, marked consequences.

    Just as you want to explain rewards and expectations clearly, effective consequences require an explanation. Give your child an explanation for the consequences. Rather than just saying, "you get a time out," for example, tell them why.

    Problem-solve together

    Sometimes, parents and children will have an opportunity to work together to find a solution. Kids who struggle with impulsivity might say, "I didn't mean to do it - it just happened," or "I couldn't control myself." While it is not an excuse, it does give you an opportunity to come up with a solution together. Listen actively. If a child consistently struggles with certain things, you may brainstorm replacement behaviors together during a calm time.

    Keep promises

    Make sure that what you say and what you do are consistent. Kids need to know that they can take your word. If you say that you're going to provide a reward or consequences for a certain behavior but don't, they'll learn that they can't trust what you say, and it's less apt to work.

    Tips For Rewarding Good Behavior

    We talked a little bit about how crucial it is to give your child positive reinforcement and reward desired behavior, but how do you do it? Here are some tips for rewarding good behavior in children.

    Pick rewards that work

    For rewards to work, you must pick effective rewards that appeal to your child. Take into consideration your child's age, interests, and what makes sense for their current age group or developmental level. Reward ideas for kids include but aren't limited to:

    • A token system. Token systems let kids collect tokens over time and exchange them for larger rewards when they have enough, like a new clothing item for school or a concert. This can be ideal for older kids and teens.
    • Going to bed later. Some children may be motivated by a reward, such as staying up a half hour later.
    • Screen time. For example, an extra hour of video game time, computer time, or time watching a TV show.
    • Experiences and activities. For example, outings like going to the park.
    • Small items, like stickers.

    Think about what will be sincerely rewarding for your child. Some parents find that letting their child be involved in deciding their reward is helpful, but it may not work for other children.

    Give verbal praise

    We talked a little bit about making sure not to discount the power of positive feedback. Even if it is alongside another reward, make sure that you give your child positive feedback verbally. To best encourage your child, compliment specific actions. For example, you might say, "It was so helpful when you put your toys away. Thank you!" This helps children learn which behaviors are desired.

    What Causes Poor Behavior In Kids?

    Again, no child behaves perfectly all of the time. Mild, infrequent bad behaviors can be normal. But what if bad behavior is a persistent or daily problem? Poor behavior in kids can be explained by more than one factor or cause. If there's an unexplained but consistent uptick in poor behavior, it is something to pay attention to and explore. Be mindful of when behavioral changes started, and consider whether the following factors could play a role.

    • Unmet emotional needs (e.g., one may feel upset, angry, or misunderstood)
    • Unmet physical needs (e.g., low blood sugar, not getting enough sleep)
    • Unmet sensory needs (e.g., itchy clothes, too hot or cold, noisy environments)
    • Trauma, an increase in stress, or significant life changes
    • Mental health disorders and other conditions

    Disorders like ADHD can lead to behavioral disruption. Extra work on a child's behavior in addition to treatment may be needed in this case. Place extra focus on coping skills, rewards for good behavior, positive discipline, creating supportive and healthy routines, and learning triggers. Working with a professional like a therapist or counselor can help kids with behavior change as well as understanding and coping with feelings effectively. This is highly recommended if behavior or mental health problems are ongoing.


    There are ways for parents to encourage desired behaviors in kids and help children with overall behavioral improvement. Positive attention in the form of verbal praise, giving explanations to help kids understand desired behavior and the consequences of their actions, and using an appropriate reward system can be valuable. For children with ongoing behavioral or mental health concerns, seek professional help for support and guidance.


    Dr. Brittany Ferri, PhD

    Brittany is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who holds a PhD in Integrative Mental Health. She is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has direct experience in program development, behavioral health, pediatrics, and telehealth. She has published five books, lectured at 20+ OT/OTA programs, and has been quoted as a health expert by NBC News, WebMD, CNN, and other outlets.


    Dr. Brittany Ferri, PhD

    Brittany is a registered and licensed occupational therapist who holds a PhD in Integrative Mental Health. She is the owner of a writing and consulting company called Simplicity of Health. She has direct experience in program development, behavioral health, pediatrics, and telehealth. She has published five books, lectured at 20+ OT/OTA programs, and has been quoted as a health expert by NBC News, WebMD, CNN, and other outlets.