Seven Ways to Prevent Child Behavior Problems

There is no better disciplinary technique than prevention. However, preventing child behavior problems requires time and effort.
Seven Ways to Prevent Child Behavior Problems

Last update: 11 July, 2020

Behavior problems in children and teenagers are often a source of stress for parents, educators, and teachers. Even if  we haven’t experienced them directly, we’re aware that bad conduct and challenging behavior can be a real headache. The good news is that it’s possible to prevent and correct child behavior problems.

The prevention of child behavior problems requires time and effort. Thus, dedicating ourselves to this task can save us a lot of time in the long run and will also lead to a much happier and healthier family life.

“Educate the children and it won’t be necessary to punish the men.”

Keys to preventing child behavior problems

Children and teens act out for many reasons. Trying to understand what that child wants or what motivates such behavior are important steps in preventing behavior problems.

It’s also important to keep track of the circumstances in which behavior problems occur in order to find out to what extent you can positively reinforce them. Although each child has different needs, there are some measures you can take that, in general, can help prevent behavior problems.

Children arguing in front of a frustrated caregiver.

Build a healthy relationship

Having a healthy relationship with the child or teenager will motivate them to behave well. Children and young people are more likely to follow rules and behave well when they feel loved and respected.

To foster a healthy relationship, the adult needs to give the child a lot of attention. We must talk to them about all kinds of things and joke around and laugh together. It’s all about truly paying attention and listening to them when they need to talk about their issues. You should also do fun things together and include them in important decisions. The stronger the relationship with your children, the more motivated they’ll be not only to listen but also to follow fair rules.

Rules and consequences

The best rules are those that are clear and justified. It’s not only about behaving well, but also about providing guidelines that serve as a reference and help children develop self-confidence. Children should know exactly what’s expected of them with these rules.

On the other hand, the consequences of breaking the rules should be well established and explained in advance. In regards to this, it’s important to know that consequences shouldn’t be synonymous with revenge. Instead, consequences should lead to positive outcomes.

Teach appropriate behavior

Sometimes children don’t know how to behave in certain circumstances. Thus, it’s important to analyze what’s happening in any given situation. Is the child nervous? Do they know how to react to a situation that causes stress? Is the situation more than they can handle?

Once the problem is pinpointed, it’s important to teach the child to understand and manage their emotions. It’s also important to teach them that there are other ways to behave and socially acceptable ways to express themselves. Furthermore, remember that when children understand what they’re feeling, they’re more likely to behave well.

A man talking to a boy.

Provide structure and set a schedule

Many children who misbehave improve when they have a clear, orderly routine that’s adapted to their needs and abilities. They require time to study, rest, play sports, free time to do anything they want, and enough time for meals. They also need a sleep schedule that will allow you to have free time for yourself.

When children have a clear routine and room to initiate contact with and enjoy the company of adults who have earned their trust, it’ll be easier for them to behave as they should.

Be positive and recognize good things

When a child misbehaves, the things they do well are often overlooked. It’s for this reason that we must pay attention and reinforce what they’re doing well. It’ll be a way to educate them, give them guidelines, and boost their self-esteem.

When they do something well, you have to recognize it and reward it. And we don’t mean only material rewards. A smile, a hug, a kiss followed by verbal recognition, or even just a kiss on its own will positively reinforce that particular behavior and give the child an idea of what’s acceptable.

Ignore negative behavior

This technique consists of ignoring the behavior that you want to eradicate. It won’t be useful for all cases of bad behavior, even though it works like a charm for many of them. This is because some cases of bad behavior require immediate attention.

When we react to negative behavior, many times all we do is reinforce it. Remember that when children act out, it’s usually because they want to attract attention. Thus, you should ignore them because they’ll eventually get tired and stop.

The problem is that the undesirable behavior will probably worsen when you start applying this technique. That’s why it’s important to stand your ground while it takes effect. You must also complement this technique with subsequent measures (such as teaching alternative behaviors).

Limit the use of mobile phones and video games

The abuse of mobile technology and video games can be conducive to aggressive behavior in young people. It also isolates them from their environment and encourages not only undesirable behaviors but addictive behaviors in general.

This is a very sensitive issue that shouldn’t be left to chance. Thus, we should teach children and teens to use technology responsibly. This way, many behavior problems can be prevented.

Girl looking at a cell phone, with a frustrated adult behind her.

The importance of stress management

Many child behavior problems are the result of stressful situations. Fatigue, over-stimulation, excessive tasks and responsibilities, lack of exercise, and lack of free time, among other things, can lead to stress in children.

The stress they observe in their environment, especially in their parents and teachers, can also stress them out. In fact, children don’t have as many behavior problems when they grow up in quiet environments surrounded by adults who know how to control their impulses and manage their emotions.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Building the Brain’s “Air Traffic Control” System: How Early Experiences Shape the Development of Executive Function
    National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, Center on the Developing Child Harvard University
    Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, vol. /Working p (2011) pp. 1-20
  • Effects of Authoritative Parental Control on Child Behavior
    Baumrind D
    Child Development, vol. 37, issue 4 (1966) p. 887

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.