Empowering Your Children to Behave

Empowering Your Children to Behave

By: Laura Bushman


Dr. Becky Bailey warns parents to not link their love with their approval. When love and approval are linked, children’s behavior is based on a fear that others won’t love them, rather than a choice to love others. Parents want their children to behave and do good things, but if children are manipulated by “earning our love” to do those things, then they will never learn to regulate themselves. How can we help our children self-regulate and choose to behave?


  1. Make sure children know rules and expectations

Our children cannot live up to our expectations if they don’t know what those expectations are. We need to be clear about what children are supposed to do, and we need to teach them how to do it. For example, if you want your 5-year-old daughter to set the table every night, she needs to know what time to set the table, where things are in the cupboards, and how to arrange everything on the table. If she doesn’t know these things, then she can’t be successful in setting the table according to your expectations.


  1. Make sure children know the consequences

Helping children to understand the consequences of following (or not following) rules will help them motivate themselves. For example, you may have a rule that your 12-year-old son must do his homework as soon as he gets home from school. The consequence of following the rule is that he gets free time until dinner; the consequence of not following the rule is that he can’t do anything else. If he knows the consequences, he can motivate himself to follow the rules


  1. Make sure children know the whybehind the rules and expectations

Children need to know why we ask them to do certain things. If our constant explanation is “Because I said so,” then children will stop listening. However, if we explain why we ask that, they will understand why it’s important that they do it. Explain to your daughter that she needs to set the table because everyone does something to help with dinner, and that she helps by setting the table. And you may explain to your son that he must do his homework so that he can practice the things he learned at school in order to remember them better.


  1. Make sure children know they are loved—no matter what

This may be the most important step of all. Children need to know that you care about them even if they mess up. They don’t earn your love when they’re good, and they don’t lose your love when they misbehave. Knowing this will give them the freedom to choose to behave without fear of losing your love if they mess up. When children know that they are loved, they choose to behave because they love you, not because they fear losing your love if they misbehave.


You can empower your children to behave by setting clear rules and expectations, establishing clear consequences, explaining the why, and loving your children—no matter what!


Bailey, R. A. (2015). Conscious discipline: Building resilient classrooms.Oviedo, FL: Loving Guidance.