Helping Children Learn to Behave


Hi I need some guidance in terms of bringing up my daughter. She is going to be six years old in December. I am finding that she is grumpy, clingy and moody a lot, especially in mornings. She is seeking attention of course. Every time she doesn’t get what she wants, its tears and tantrums. I believe this attitude is also preventing her from making friends at school. She is shy. How can I help her cultivate the right attitudes of joy and happiness, so she has the right tools to live a happy life?

—Karan, Australia


Hi Karan,

Thanks for your question. Sometimes these things happen more in a small family. Is your daughter your only child? If so, you may have missed some natural timelines to build in positive behavior. I ask because throwing tantrums is fairly normal at age two, but by age six they should be quite rare. But that is okay, for she is still young enough to help her catch up quickly to her appropriate age level.

You ask how you can help her to cultivate the right attitudes of joy and happiness, which is a beautiful goal for a parent. But first a child needs to learn how to eliminate the joy destroying attitudes and actions she is exhibiting every day. Start with a simple behavior chart to help her with her worst part of the day — the morning. (See these behavior charts: “It’s been proven that when we measure and track efforts, the behavior of children will improve…”) I would suggest a simple chart that tracks one thing for the first week — simply getting up and saying, with a smile, “Good morning, Mommy!” in a nice voice. This free Princess Castle chart might be a good one to start with.

But you also need to do your part… Why is she waking up so grumpy, moody and clingy? Is she getting enough sleep? Is she also pulling tantrums at night, and thus delaying bedtime? If that is the case, you may need to start there with your chart, and see if the mornings improve. For the first few weeks, just track one new behavior each week. Explain to her that as she learns to behave, she will feel happier within herself, and she will also feel more love and happiness flowing to her, both at home and at school.

Please also review her diet. Sometimes if kids have too many carbohydrates, and not enough protein to balance that, they can be very grumpy, and fall apart in tears at the drop of a hat. This can even happen with healthy carbohydrates, and we sometimes see this in vegetarian kids, but it improves quickly if the parents add in either eggs or other protein. It is something to consider, to see if this may be a factor.

Keep using behavior charts, with a reward once a week, but with evolving goals over the course of the year. Start with the worst habit first for the first week. The next week you can build on that budding strength, and add a new goal that is similar, such as cooperation at bedtime, and then being cheerful in the morning. But keep it very specific, so it is easier to succeed in the beginning. This will give a sense of accomplishment for her and for you, and you may see some positive spillover into other areas. As time goes by you can add other goals, but see where this initial effort takes you.

You can also read one of these Life’s Little Secrets for Children to her, either at dinner time, or as part of her bedtime routine. And please do have a routine that works for her and you — such as bath, brush teeth, one or two stories, and prayers. It is easy to get loose with routines when there is only one child, but ultimately it makes life easier for everyone if they know what to expect; there is security in that. You can occasionally bend the rules, but not so often that she thinks she can always get her way.

Well, that is enough to get you started. Once some basic peace and harmony has been restored, you can expand your spiritual efforts using the many helpful, free items here in the Family Life Treasure Chest. As you peruse the titles, simply start reading whatever attracts you now. There are many resources to help you along the way at each stage of her spiritual growth.

I hope this has been helpful, and please feel free to ask more.

God bless you.

In His joy!

Mary Kretzmann, author

Finding God In Your Family