How to Change Your Kids' Bad Behavior in One Week

From Woman's Day

Kids misbehave-it's a fact of life. But if it feels like your world revolves around an obnoxious child, with nary a peaceful moment at home, it may be time for a change.

Jacqueline Burt, a single mom of a 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son, felt overwhelmed by her youngsters' everyday bickering and tantrums, so she decided the madness had to stop, she explained in her essay for

"My kids' annoying tendencies tend to bring out the worst in me," she wrote. She realized that in order to change her children's behavior, she would have to change hers too. Jacqueline reached out to some of the best parenting experts across the country for their discipline tips, then tested them for one week with her own kiddos. Here are some of the methods she found the most helpful when her kids acted out.

1. Don't express a reaction. When Jacqueline's son became impatient during an errand, she decided to not react to his outbursts, and found that it made a big difference. "The mistake most parents make is responding to the misbehavior, since negative attention is better than none at all," Ed Christophersen, Ph.D., clinical child psychologist at Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, in Kansas City, MO, told her. Within a few minutes, her son realized he wasn't going to get the attention he was seeking and calmed down. Crisis averted!

2. Be optimistic. Instead of snapping when her son complained about a problem, Jacqueline encouraged him to fix it-assuring him with a positive tone that he was capable. How you expect your kids to act is often what's bound to happen-it's a self-fulling prophecy of sorts, Robin H-C, a family coach and author of Thinking Your Way to Happy! explained. "When you label your child, make sure it's positive so he has something to live up to," the expert said. Immediately after, her daughter stepped up to help her brother and the peace resumed.

3. Set the tone and be an example. If your kids are complaining and irritable, you have to be the one to show them the right way to act, said Jayne Bellando, Ph.D., a pediatric psychologist at Arkansas Children's Hospital. When Jacqueline's kids were running late for school, she decided to calmly remind them that they needed to leave soon, instead of nagging them like she typically does. Then she pointed out her own attitude change to her kids. Her daughter noticed the difference and even said, "That's good, Mom." The best part-it worked! They arrived to school on time that day.

4. Acknowledge your child's feelings when they behave badly. Kids lash out for a reason, said Gary M. Unruh, the author of Unleashing the Power of Parental Love. When you explain that you understand why your child did something wrong, they are more likely to feel understood and respond in a positive manner. "That's why you should point out the feelings that caused your child to misbehave, and then give her a fair consequence," Unruh said. When Jacqueline's daughter hit her brother after he broke her bracelet, the mom explained to her that she can see why she was mad. Jacqueline proceeded by giving her a time out, but her daughter didn't complain at all about the punishment because she felt like she was heard.

5. Be consistent with the rules. Children are more likely to behave well if they know you're going to follow through with a punishment. "You need to be consistent, make your expectations clear, and avoid your own outbursts," said Bertie Bregman, M.D., the chief of family medicine at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Jacqueline chose a motto that she would say to her son every time he misbehaved and eventually he caught on. She admitted that he was annoyed by this tactic, but it didn't matter because his was able to recognize his bad attitude and change it.

Read Jacqueline's full story at

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