How To Correct Children: Inviting Good Behaviors


Situation One


A mother says, “Alice I need you to take out the garbage.”


Alice rolls her eyes and walks away. She has obviously made up her mind not to follow the instruction.


Mother feels Alice needs some correction so she says, “Don’t you look at me like that! Your behavior is disrespectful! Get back here and take out this trash or you will not get to play with friends today.”




I could discuss the flaws in this interaction at length, but for this article I want to bring your attention to one part of the interaction; the correction.


Alice started a power struggle, mother took the bait and reacted with a power struggle of her own. Mother is right that she needs respect, but her method of going about it is all wrong.


Mother’s correction is an attack. It is a play for power which carries with it a destructive tone. The child needs to be corrected, but the tone the mother is using and the words she has chosen make it impossible for the child to learn how to behave differently next time. The mood for teaching, and opening the heart to correction is destroyed and replaced with a ‘survival of the fittest’ mentality.


Situation Two


A mother says, “Alice I need you to take out the garbage.”


Alice rolls her eyes and walks away. She still doesn’t want to follow instructions.


Mother prepares herself to teach her child by getting calm. Then she says, “Alice, a few minutes ago I gave you an instruction to take out the garbage. You didn’t keep a calm voice, face and body, which is one of the steps to following instructions. What you should have done was…(this is where the parent lists all the steps to following instructions.) Since you chose not to follow instructions, you have earned….. Let’s practice following instructions a few times, using all the steps, so that we don’t have this problem in the future.


These practices are followed by praise to encourage self-government. The practice and learning time are for bonding, and focus on relationships. The tone is the greatest teacher.


The Invitation


This second scenario is unique because it describes what happened instead of reacts to a situation, and it focuses on changing the heart and skills of the person instead of just getting a chore done.


Let’s face it, the chores don’t really matter, the condition of the heart is what parents need to be most concerned with.


Since the mother in situation two has a teaching mentality, she is less offended, less judgmental, and more inviting. Instead of merely chastising the child, she invites her to make a change. Her tone shows love and acceptance and fills the child with hope while she is still being consistent with her family structure and using negative consequences to teach cause and effect.


The key to the effectiveness of the mother is the invitation.


Any great leader, parent, diplomat, or otherwise knows that people’s hearts change and learn when they are invited to change instead of being chastised into submission.


Both methods can be effective for getting the garbage taken out, but only the second scenario is effective in teaching a child self-government, which will bring her happiness and good relationships for life.



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9 thoughts on “How To Correct Children: Inviting Good Behaviors

  1. Some behaviors can be corrected by creating better incentives.

    “You get an allowance this week, but you must do every chore required and requested. Failing to do so results in either lower allowance next week or paying back some this week.”

  2. This is fine if the child cooperates in the second example. But what happens if the child chooses not to cooperate? I have one child that will not follow a direction unless he wants to, and if he doesn’t want to, even a consequence doesn’t matter to him.

    I’m not saying that the reaction in number one is good (because it’s not, and it wouldn’t work with him either), but it seems to me that for certain children, they just need to reach a point of maturity where it occurs to them that helping is good. And any amount of “practicing” isn’t going to help.

  3. No name,

    I know many parents have felt like you do before. No matter their age, people all still have agency. However, I want you to know that these disobedient behaviors can be cured. For many years I was a foster parent of very troubled teens and I learned how to make an environment where the children actually took ownership of their behaviors and chose to change their hearts and behaviors. I have written a book all about how I do that. It has been a huge help to many families around the world. The principles I teach are the reason the BBC made the movie about my family actually, and why they call me every year to see if I can refer any other families like mine to them. So, don’t lose hope. There are changes you can make in your home culture which will make a difference. **Warning, it will take some work for you and for them, but it will be worth it. The book is here

    I didn’t have time in this article to tell how to handle it when the child is in the habit of being disrespectful. There are other articles and books for that. You may want to go to my blog


    You are right that positive consequences can often times inspire children more than negative consequences. They both teach cause and effect and both need to be part of raising children. People who learn cause and effect are more likely to be self-governing.

    I will say though that some consequences can come across as bribery, so you have to be careful. Bribery is part of power struggling and gives the child the illusion that the parent is powerless. Bribery also encourages negative behaviors because the message is “because you are being bad, I will offer you something to be good.” Choosing bad behaviors then have multiple positive consequences.

    I go into more detail about making consequences that change hearts, instead of just behaviors, in my book Parenting A House United.


    Nicholeen Peck

  4. Nicholeen, good suggestions as always. It takes a lot of patience and practice to react the way you suggest, but it is certain to be more effective.

  5. Actually, I have read your book. And while there are some good tips, there are some kids that just have to grow out of their stubbornness while the parents do what they can to make home a loving environment.

    I just think that you should be realistic in these posts that some kids are going to take more time than others to come around to proper self government. A short post like this could clue people in that there are more than one way to interact with kids, but making it seem like all of a sudden a child is going to become cooperative if the parent takes the approach you recommend is an oversimplification.

  6. No name, I think that is exactly what Nicholeen is trying to do: to get parents to look at the way they habitually interact with their children and see if it “works.” Do the parents get the results they want, yes or no? If not, then try something new rather than pounding your head on the wall doing the same thing over and over again.

  7. The only thing that works with my 2-year-old right now is something resembling method #1, followed by an approximation of method #2. As a single parent, I leave almost no tool out of my belt. 😀

  8. Well said Geoff. That is true.

    In fact, responding as described above is no easy task for many parents. Reacting emotionally is generally the normal parent style. But, taking time to practice self-government as a parent during corrections defuses children and parents. It is very difficult for anyone to keep up a one way power struggle when the other person is totally calm. There is just nothing to fuel the fire.

    NO Name:

    If you have read the book, then you might want to use the RULE OF THREE for “out of instructional control behaviors.” Also, you may want to help your child take ownership of the family government by being consistent with the four basic skills and by conducting regular family meetings. The most important thing is that you don’t become passive to the child’s outbursts. Ignoring a child’s outbursts is only a passive agressive way to power struggle. Find the best way to assertively address the behavior and make a plan for a better relationship and communication style. (If not with the principles I use, than with yours.) If a child doesn’t respect you enough to allow you to correct his behaviors, then your relationship needs adjusting and probably a planned communication structure.

    Self-government takes practice and time to learn, so don’t get discouraged if things aren’t “perfect” in a week or two. Consisitency, calmness, a loving tone, and using a structure based upon true principles is the only way to change the heart of a child who has a habit of power struggling or misbehaving. I have put this to the test with many troubled youth as well as emotionally healthy youth, and have found great success.

    In the end there are always two choices: Do what you are doing, or change yourself. Both choices have consequences. It is up to a parent to decide which choice will impact their family for the better. You will notice that the first option does not say: “do what you are doing and rationalize the results.” This is because rationalizing is never a solution. It is only a tool we use to avoid the other choice.

    If you want more reading about disrespectful behaviors, there are many other articles on my site you can look at. I obviously can’t cover everyone’s specific situation in each article. People, with really specific situations usually just arrange mentor time from me, or sign up for my Implementation Course, which is incredibly comprehensive.

    Hope this helps.

  9. SilverRain – if you are using method #1, then you might be just threatening rather than simply giving the consequence. Threatening is trying to get them to do it right then. Delivering the consequence means it doesn’t happen right then, but it pays off in the future. I often see parents of toddlers and preschoolers (and myself over the years) threaten time out for instance to try to get the kid to obey. I have learned it is far more effective to immediately give the time out (or other consequence) and then after a few times they realize that you mean what you say and there is no more negotiation and drama in the future just to get them to do whatever little thing they were balking at.
    I like what Nicholeen Peck is saying here and it ties in to what I have noticed during my years of parenting. A calm, consistent, matter of fact discipline parenting style with consequences but without threats seems to work for all four of my very, very, very different children of different ages.

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