Respond rather than reacting. Think before speaking or acting when your kids say or do something that bothers you. Don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Stay calm and rational. If you’re calm, consistent, and always do what you say you’ll do, you’ll earn their respect and trust.

Don’t do for your kids what they can and should be doing for themselves. Refuse to do tasks that your kids have the responsibility to do. Let the tasks go undone until your kids step up to the plate to do them. For example, if your son was supposed to do his laundry but didn’t and now doesn’t have clean clothes for school, have him wear dirty clothes until he does the laundry himself as he should have done.

Withhold one thing until another thing is completed. If your kids haven’t done what you’ve asked them to do, insist that they complete it before you’ll allow them to do what they want to do. For example, if your daughter hasn’t done her homework, make sure she completes it before allowing her to invite a friend over to play.

Start with the end in mind. Think and pray about the kind of people you want your kids to be several years from now, and after they grow up. What character qualities are most important to you, and why? What steps can you take now to encourage your kids to develop these qualities?

Make spending time with your kids a priority. Often, kids misbehave as a way of getting their parents’ attention. No amount of training your kids to behave well will pay off if you’re not spending enough time with them. Make it a high priority to spend as much time as you possibly can with your kids, so you can build the close relationships they need with you. If you treat your children well – giving them respect and unconditional love – they’ll naturally want to treat you well.

Use an authoritative parenting style. Avoid the unhealthy extremes of being too permissive or too controlling. Instead, be an authoritative parent, who: Gives your kids age-appropriate choices and formulates guidelines with them; Provides decision-making opportunities to your kids; Develops consistent, loving discipline; Asks your kids the facts about a situation and what they think before jumping to conclusions; Encourage your kids to think for themselves while maintaining a healthy respect for themselves and others; Holds your kids accountable; Looks out for the welfare, yet lets them experience the natural consequences of their mistakes; and Conveys respect, self-worth, and love to your kids.

Say it once and walk away. Give your kids instructions just once, and expect them to obey the first time. Don’t repeat your instructions. Simply say what you need to say once, then walk away. If your kids don’t comply the first time around, enforce a consequence so they’ll learn that you’re serious about having them obey the first time you tell them something. You don’t need to remind, threaten, warn, harass, or coax your kids. You simply have to give them clear instructions once and enforce consequences if they don’t comply.

Empower your kids. Give your kids three crucial things that will empower them to grow strong character: acceptance from you, a sense of belonging in your family, a opportunities to build competence by taking on increased responsibilities.

Encourage instead of praising. Rather than giving your kids praise that isn’t tied to something they actually do, encourage them when you notice specific things they do that you appreciate. While general praise can seem insincere and backfire, specific encouragement will motivate your kids to keep trying their best.

Be consistent and remain positive. Always communicate the same clear set of high expectations, and follow through on the consequences. Ask God to help you stay calm and positive as your kids learn and grow. Celebrate the progress you see!


Adapted from Have a New Kid by Friday: How to Change your Child’s Attitude, Behavior, and Character in 5 Days, copyright 2008 by Dr. Kevin Leman. Published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich.,   

Dr. Kevin Leman is an internationally known psychologist, radio and television personality, and speaker who has taught and entertained audiences worldwide with his wit and commonsense psychology. He has made house calls for hundreds of radio and television programs, and has also served as a contributing family psychologist to Good Morning America. A bestselling and award-winning author, Dr. Leman has written more than 30 books about marriage and family issues. Dr. Leman and his wife, Sande, live in Tucson, Arizona. They have five children and two grandchildren.