Avoid Problems Before They Can Arise

Here are a few tips for avoiding problems and annoying behaviors by your children -- before they happen.

Place frequently used items in same, easy to find spot every time (shoes, coat…).  If need be, place on top of the refrigerator, they are sure to stay put. 

Avoid offering too many choices.

  • Only have one jacket, one pair of shoes… within sight and available.
  • Put winter clothing away in summer and summer away in winter.

  • Store a portion of your toys. Too many choices can be overwhelming. And, when they reappear it will feel like a whole new set of toys.

Avoid planting ideas (and avoid projecting).

  • “Do not throw that food on the floor.” vs. “Food stays on your plate or in your mouth.”

  • “I know you are not excited about going with mom to the store but please control yourself.” vs. “It’s time to go to the store.  Let’s see how many red cars we can find along the way.”

  • “She isn’t saying hello because she is really shy.  It’s Okay.”  vs. “When we get to school let’s say hello to Ms. Gray together.  Then she will know we are happy to see her.  We can look her in the eyes when we do it.  That way we will know she has heard us.”

  • “My son is afraid of dogs so I am going to hold him while we are here.”  vs.  “Let’s stand back here and say hello to the dog together.”

Take note of patterns of misbehavior.  Be ready to address problems before they can escalate. It is far easier to change behavior if you can catch it before it happens.

  • Your daughter’s soccer coach has asked the players to not touch the goals.  Yet, she still snatches the goal and runs with it every week.  The moment you see her making a move to grab the goal jump in and correct the behavior.  Don’t let it get too far.

  • Your son has started hitting.  When he is playing with others stay close, the moment you see his hand moving into the hitting motion jump in.  Gently guide his hand and words towards something appropriate.   

Timers are a great tool for getting through the day.  They take the power struggle away from the parent and child.  A watch or cell phone works well.   Any time you need to move onto a new activity give a warning, “We will be heading to the car when the timer goes off.”  There are endless uses.

  • Time for your sister’s turn on my lap.

  • Time to eat dinner.

  • Time to go to the park.

  • Time to get ready for bed.

  • Time to leave your friends house.

Accept appropriate communication.  Addressing this at a young age will make life much easier later.

  • Whining/Grunting -- Do not respond to whines and grunts.  Simply provide children with the appropriate language and do not meet their needs until they have changed their tone.  “I will give you the yogurt when I hear Emma’s voice”

  • Manners -- Do not respond to a child’s request until they have said please.  Mastering this skill takes years. They will need loads of reminders.  Role model good manners:  at the grocery store, bank, with your spouse, with your children.

Defuse = Life Happens!  Get your child familiar with the idea that sometimes, “life happens.”  Acknowledge feelings, but do not dwell on them.  Sometimes we need to just pick up and move on.

Spend quality one-on-one time with your children.  Have fun together!  Plan special date nights with individual parents.

Try a family game night.

Be an active listener.  Get down on their level, comment specifically on what they have said and acknowledge their feelings.

Show affection towards your children.

Establish predictable routines.

When possible try ignoring negative behavior.  When children misbehave it may simply be that they are looking for a reaction/attention.  Whether they receive negative or positive attention does not matter. Try busying yourself with another activity before jumping in. The behavior may just take care of itself.  

Be consistent. Whether this means leaving the park after a two-minute warning, not giving into whining or following through on a consequence consistency is key.  This small change in parenting will make a huge difference in behavior.  Children will still put up a fight, but once they realize you are going to stand by what you say, the battles will lessen.


Parent Educator Katie Becker, writes about parenting from Seattle Washington.  As a parent educator, education professional, and parent coach, Katie has been working with children and their families for over 20 years, from Detroit to Seattle. In addition to her work as Parent Educator for Woodland Park's Summer Co-op Katie runs Thrive, an independent parent coaching practice that works with parents of children 18 months to 12 years of age.