top of page
back to top


Tool Kit 2: Managing Difficult Behaviour

Setting Boundaries

​The keys to improving behaviour is building the relationship and setting boundaries:

  • Both parents need to discuss which rules  are most important and enforce those first


  • Both parents present a united front to explain new expectations of behaviour. Do this even if children live in two households


  • Both parents need to be consistent in reinforcing these expectations, every time

  • Both parents remain calm, reinforcing new expectations by using praise and natural consequences

  • Both parents spend positive time with the child building the relationship

Group Of Children Jumping On Sofa.jpg


Pushing Boundaries:

Anchor 1

Children Often Misbehave for the Following Reasons

  1. They want to exert their power

  • If they're really pushing it and want to run the show, let them have a turn at being the boss. Swap roles. Because what comes with being the boss... is all the responsibility. This means: house cleaning, gardening, meal preparation, washing, folding, earning money, grocery shopping, etc. Let them experience what really 'being the boss' is like for a couple of hours.

  • Explain that you're trying to 'let them be a kid' for as long as possible, because with the privileges of being an adult, comes all the responsibility.

  • When they decide being 'the boss' isn't so much fun after all, make them aware they're not an adult, they're a child. Children need to learn what to do from their parents. That's why you're telling them how to behave... And from this point on you'll both be expecting them to behave.

If kids are continually pushing boundaries  some of the most likely reasons could be:

  • They want to exert their power

  • They've learnt they can get away with disobeying the rules sometimes, so it's worth the risk. Or they've learnt to play the gap between parents

  • There have been times when being rude/cheeky has worked. They've been funny and you've laughed

  • They're being disrespectful and not listening to what you say

  • There are no significant consequences for bad behaviour

  • Being 'good' is not important to them

  • They're getting lots of attention for doing the wrong thing

2. They've learnt they can get away with disobeying the rules some of the time... so it's worth the risk

  • At some time they've learnt they can get away with not doing as you ask. So they're just working on the law of averages... You're busy. They might be getting away with not doing as you ask, much more than you realize. e.g. not keeping bedroom tidy, not unstacking dishwasher, not raking the leaves, etc

  • They play the gap, especially if they know the parents are in disagreement. Parents need to communicate and present a united front. If there is disagreement ensure it's not in front of children who are inclined to exploit it.

3. Your child may like getting attention for being funny

  • It can only take once to set up a new behaviour so if your child says something rude, for example, if you must laugh, walk away. Laugh with friends later on, but not in front of a child who likes to be disrespectful.

  • Most kids will try swearing. If they get a huge reaction (particularly laughter) they're going to link swearing to attention. A more sensible approach might be calmly explaining that it's not nice to swear because it makes people feel bad.

  • If your child is becoming an attention-seeking  'clown' reduce their contact with a supportive audience. This could involve making it difficult to see friends you'd consider bad influences.


5. There are no consequences for bad behaviour:

  • They've learnt they don't need to follow the rules. (The younger the child, the easier this is to fix, so start earlier than later.)

6. Being good isn't that interesting to them. There's not a big enough pay off for them to do as you ask:

  • They've already learnt they don't need to follow the rules.

  • Build a more positive relationship so what you think, matters more.

4. They're being disrespectful and not really listening to what you have to say.

  • Train your child to listen to what you've said by asking them: ' So what do you understand I need you to do?' Clarify expectations. Get them to repeat them. Then you both know exactly what's expected.

  • As they improve their ability to listen and follow directions well, praise them. Lay it on thick at the start. And be specific.

Father and Son Playing

7. They're getting lots of attention for doing the wrong thing:

  • Maybe the best kid in the family position is already taken by a sibling, so these kids get their attention for being challenging

  • Doing the wrong thing gets noticed more than doing the right thing in your family. To turn things around, flood praise onto those doing the right thing


1. Set the rules. Explain them clearly.

2. Flood your family with praise for every good thing they do and be specific about it. Notice the good in everyone.

3. Parents back one another up. Be consistent every time kids break your rules. Be clinical... give minimal attention. Use natural consequences to reinforce limits

4. Spend positive time together building your relationship: reading them stories, kicking a ball round the back yard, cooking, playing games, hanging out together, etc so you have more credit points with them. Then, what you think, will matter more to them.

I've seen really entrenched difficult behaviour turned around within six weeks. But things usually begin to improve within a week.

Give yourselves a reward for maintaining your commitment.

The key to success is building the relationship.

Anchor 2
Anchor 3

For specific information on improving behaviour go to the following links:

Best Parenting is a high quality parenting website designed with child and family success in mind. It highlights what successful parents do differently to those who struggle. Best Parenting provides free online resources for busy parents who want the best practical advice on: how to give kids a best start in life, better tips for parenting toddlers, effective child rearing strategies, behaviour management tips, successful goal setting and organizational strategies for successful families, easy family dinner recipes, self-care tips for time-poor parents and free kids learning games. The aim of Best Parenting is to provide quality practical parenting tips and advice to best help children and families succeed using the convenience of a website.

This website provides examples of what worked for me over decades and you are welcome to use these ideas as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. Best Parenting does not provide any guarantee that this information will work in every circumstance with every family or with every child. It is your responsibility as a user of this website to ensure that you adhere to any recommended safety suggestions either implicit or explicit on this site and supervise your children while playing any games suggested. Similarly users of this website are advised to follow any recommendations for seeking professional advice as all information on this site is generic. Best Parenting is an independent website and is not affiliated with any other groups, clubs, religious organizations or educational systems.


Best parenting takes time. The best parenting advice ever is simple: Do your best, don't give up and love your children, no matter what.

bottom of page