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Behavior Management for Parents: Common Mistakes

We’re starting a series to help parents who feel a little off-track when dealing with their kids’ behavior. These are some basic bits of information, but we offer more in-depth parental coaching through our clinic; see below for contact information.

So, in no specific order, here is the first of several common behavior management mistakes:


Not Setting Clear Expectations

Parents should follow the path of the teachers who are better classroom managers. Teachers who effectively manage their classrooms, and the behavior of 25-30 children on a daily basis, know that they have to communicate their expectations clearly to their students. These expectations include the basic rules and consequences. Parents often get side-tracked at home because they are operating from a fuzzy set of expectations, or rules, that they keep in their head. Just like teachers, it is important for parents to write down the general rules of the house so that they have something concrete to work from, and the rules can be explained clearly to the child. The rules can also be posted somewhere in the house such as a blackboard, whiteboard, or pinned to a corkboard where the kids can see them.

There should be no more than 3 – 5 rules that are phrased positively. Along with those rules, the consequences of following and breaking the rules need to be clearly communicated.

A couple of examples of positively phrased rules could be: 1) We follow directions the first time, and 2) We are safe inside and outside of the house.

These rules are general enough to cover a great deal of things that come up, capture the essence of the behavioral expectation, and are easy for the child (and parent) to understand.

As for consequences, you need both positive consequences for following the rules and negative consequences for not following the rules. More on those later.

If you’re having behavioral challenges with your child or children ages 2-12, and want more help, please contact us at or 865-974-6177. We can do more in-depth parent coaching either in-person or via Zoom.