Home Feedback Contents Search

Get FREE Practical Parenting Advice Newsletter

Child Behaviour Advice

Quick Poll
Do you think getting parenting support is now easier?


View Results

£360 OFF
Your Family Holiday

Investing in Your Childs Future

WIN FREE Behaviour Whee

Subscribe to Practical Parenting PLUS5 WEEK


Get personal advice and support on using the course and access to the weekly target sheets








Claim FREE Achievement Award When Course Is Completed


The following is a summary of the main points from a book that was designed to help parents deal with 'strong willed' children (Forehand, R. & Long, N. (1996). Parenting The Strong Willed Child: The clinically proven five week programme for parents of two to six year olds).

This term is carefully selected and may cover a variety of behaviours that can occur either regularly or occasionally.

If you are bothering to read this it is a clear demonstration of your commitment to your child. All of us as parents (and I mean all) need encouragement and support from time to time.

It's intent is, to provide straightforward suggestions of things to do. It is not intended to answer questions as to why a particular child might act in a particular way at a particular time. Truth is, no one may ever know for sure.

The reassuring part about that is that we don't need to know why in order to do something constructive. These methods have been tried and tested and seem to work in most cases. They will require some consistent practice for short periods of time (mostly ten minutes in any one day) and follow a logical order. They are designed to be achievable within the busy lifestyles of most parents today.

For ease and consistency the words "he" and "him" are used throughout to provide examples of applying skills. These skills can be equally used with female children!





What is an ‘attend’?

An attend is when the parent notices what the child does without questioning or criticising.

Much play between adults and children tends to take the form of questions. The art of attending is to avoid asking questions but make comments on the simple activities the child is doing. It is following their lead rather than directing their play. It enables the parent to get into the world of the child rather than attempt to make the child conform to the expectations of the adult.

The idea sounds and is simple however since we are probably used to talking in the form of questions it can be difficult at first to think of new ways to say things. Here are some suggestions.

Examples of attending conversation

  • ‘Your stacking the blocks high’
  • ‘Your putting the yellow block on top of the blue block’
  • ‘Now your driving the truck’
  • ‘Your turning the truck around in a circle’
  • ‘You are colouring the sky blue ‘
  • ‘Your lining up all the toys’
  • ‘Your putting the ball next to the bucket’ 

How to practice attending

  1. Set aside a ten minute period preferably every day.
  2. Sit on floor with child with a number of toys.
  3. During this time simply describe his good behaviour , If he behaves badly then try to ignore this. Another way of attending is to imitate what he is doing.


  • Issue any instructions
  • Ask any questions


  • Describe your child’s appropriate behaviour
  • Imitate
  • Tape record or get someone to watch you
  • Evaluate what you have done
  • Reward yourself - you deserve it  




There are different types of rewards that you can give. They are not necessarily any better than each other and all can be used at the right time.

Social rewards

Verbal : praising his desirable behaviour

e.g. ‘I like it when you come to dinner when you call’

‘Thank you for picking up your blocks’

‘I thought you did a great job tidying up your room’

Physical: contact e.g. a pat on back following his desirable behaviour

Activities: doing activities selected by him following his desirable behaviour

Non social rewards (always combine with praise) ; Toys or treats following his desirable behaviour OR STAR CHART.

It is important to use rewards at the right time to avoid confusion as to why he is being rewarded. You should avoid rewarding behaviour that you do not want, this can some times happen particularly when you give in to his demands.

Effective use of rewards

  • Use immediately after the behaviour you want to increase
  • Initially reward the behaviour every time it occurs
  • Reward only behaviours you want to increase. 


Focus on the positive

  • ‘Stop grabbing toys from your sister’ = 8
  • ‘I saw you share the toys with your sister that was great’ = 4

Focus on obedience not defiance

  • ‘Why are you so disobedient’ = 8
  • ‘You put your shoes on so quickly when asked’ = 4

Focus on appropriate behaviour

  • ‘I wish you would stop running through the aisles of the supermarket’ = 8
  • ‘I am pleased you stayed by my side for almost the whole time we were in the store’ = 4

Focus on co-operation not on tantrums

  • ‘Your crying every time I ask you to get out of the bath, is driving me crazy’ = 8
  • ‘Thank you for getting out of the bath quietly when I told you.’ = 4

Desirable behaviours and ways to increase them

Coming when called

  • Tell him you want to work on improving his behaviour when you call him
  • Tell him exactly what you expect e.g. When I call you, I expect you to stop what you are doing and come
  • Praise him as soon as he comes in response to your call
  • Praise him every time

Staying with you in the shop

  • Put him in the trolley so he will stay. On first trip, praise and attend him every 30 seconds
  • On the next few trips let him walk beside you as you hold his hand praise and attend him every 30 seconds
  • On next few trips lightly rest your hand on his shoulder. Praise and attend every 30 seconds
  • On later trips let him walk beside you with no physical contact. Praise and attend every 30 seconds
  • Gradually lengthen the time between your praise and attending but never phase them out completely.

Playing co-operatively with sibling

  • Make your expectations clear e.g. I want you to play together without arguing or fighting
  • Monitor closely the play between the two children
  • Praise appropriate play.




Ignoring can be a useful way of indicating that you do not want him to do certain things. It can avoid getting into an argument about why he is doing it and clearly shows that you are not pleased. Ignoring involves:

  • No physical contact
  • No verbal contact
  • No eye contact

What can be ignored

  • Demanding you do something you don't want
  • Crying for attention
  • Tantrums
  • Screaming
  • Pouting
  • Showing off
  • Arguing
  • Acting irritable.

Basic principles

  1. Select a behaviour that can be ignored
  2. Remove all of your attention from the behaviour when it occurs
  3. Once started don't stop until good behaviour starts, stop ignoring immediately when the good behaviour starts
  4. Expect the behaviour to occur more often before it reduces
  5. Reward and attend appropriate behaviour

Guidelines for practice sessions

Do Not

  • Issue any instructions
  • Ask any questions


  • Attend to appropriate behaviour
  • Imitate his play
  • Verbally reward his appropriate behaviour by praising him and labelling the desired behaviour (e.g. "Thank you for picking up your toys!")
  • Ignore inappropriate behaviour
  • Tape record or be observed
  • Evaluate what you have done
  • Reward yourself




Ineffective directions

Chain direction - involves more than one step. - he may not remember what they all are.

Vague direction - unclear e.g. "be good" - may be different for different situations

Question direction - which allows the option of saying "no"

Direction followed by a reason - This may distract him from complying if you want to give a reason keep it short and give it before the instruction

Which are the right sort of directions?

  1. ‘Hand me the red block’
  2. ‘Why don't we play the card game now’
  3. ‘Please be careful’
  4. ‘Please sit beside me’
  5. ‘Put the red block here then put the green block over there’
  6. ‘You really need to be good when we play together’
  7. ‘Because I want you to build a high tower, put the red block on top of the blue block’
  8. ‘Put the red block on top of the blue block because I want you to build a high tower’
  9. ‘Would you like to clean up now?’
  10. ‘Please clean up, put your coat on and go outside.’

(Answers 1,4 and 7 are effective. 2 and 9 are questions. 3 and 6 are vague. 5 and 10 are chain directions. 8 is a direction followed by a reason.)

Principles of giving directions

  • Get his attention and make eye contact
  • Use a firm but not loud or gruff voice
  • Give a direction that is specific and simple
  • Use physical gestures when appropriate such as pointing to the toys
  • Use "do" directions rather than "don't" directions
  • Reward compliance
  • Think before you give a direction and make sure you are prepared to gain compliance regardless of the amount of time, energy or effort required.




Choose a location

Best options


Parents bedroom

Kitchen corner( for 2-3 year olds)

Least desirable

Child's bedroom

Not options



Dark room

Anywhere frightening


  1. Issue a good direction
  2. If he does not begin to comply within 5 seconds issue a warning, " If you do not ................, you will have to take time out"
  3. If he does not comply within 5 seconds state, " because you did not ..............., you have to take time out"
  4. Lead him to time out without lecturing scolding or arguing
  5. Ignore shouting protesting and promising to comply
  6. Tell him to sit in the time out chair
  7. When he is sitting quietly, set the timer for time (i.e. 1 minute for every year of age up to a maximum of 5 minutes)
  8. When his time is over, including being quiet for the last thirty seconds return to the chair and say that time out is over
  9. Restate the original direction
  10. Implement the time out again if he does not comply
  11. When he complies, praise him

Steps to using Time Out

  1. Select time out place
  2. Memorise the steps
  3. Practice without the child
  4. Tell him about time out for non compliance
  5. Begin to use time out for failure to comply with directions
  6. Begin using time out for other problem behaviours in the home
  7. Begin using time out for other problems in public places


  • Avoid giving lengthy explanations about why you are using time out.
  • Avoid trying to make him feel guilty or getting an apology - you are aiming to get them to do what you wanted.
  • Don't feel guilty
  • Don't let them make you feel guilty even if they say they are going to comply before they get to the chair. To stop it before it is completed will give the message that - "I don’t have to comply until I have been warned and until I have been sent to time out"
  • The message you want them to get is - "I should comply when I am asked to do something"

Problems and solutions

  • Refusing to sit in the chair - do not start time out until he is seated.
  • Leaving chair or moving - stop the timer.
  • Place him in chair tell him to sit stay and place your hand on his leg.
  • Remove a privilege if he does not return to the chair (for 5 year olds and up).
  • Insulting you verbally - ignore the results
  • Yelling and crying - ignore
  • Refusing to leave the time out - start the time out again
  • Sibling interaction during time out - put the sibling in time out in another location


Claim FREE Achievement Award When Course Is Completed


E-mail for further details on above programme.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Sport activity for kids

Things to do with
the children

Junior ISA from Scottish Friendly
Junior ISA
Invest in your child's long term financial future.



Discount Parenting Books
In association with Amazon.co.uk

Child Trust Fund - Family Investments

Working Tax Credit Calculator - Money for Mums

Giant Reward Charts & Free Stickers from The Naughty Seat


Home ] Up ]

Last modified: 04/29/12