Happy Mother’s Day! Four Experts Give Tips to Get Well-Behaved Kids!

Posted By:

We heard you  – 54% of moms we polled answered that what they want more than anything for mother’s day is well-behaved kids. So, we asked a few top child development experts for their top tip/s on how to achieve that this year. Here’s what they have to say, and Happy Mother’s Day! — TMC

Susan Stiffleman:


  • Take 15 minutes a day to shut off every device (laptop, tv, cell phone, etc) and simply hang out with your children telling jokes, singing songs or jointly solving a riddle. The strongest influence on raising a socially and emotionally confident child is their internal sense that their company, opinions and presence is pleasing. Who better to teach them that than you?


  • Ask your child to teach you something. Almost all the interactions we have with our kids are top down: we instruct, direct, advise and correct them all day long. Help a child develop genuine confidence by inviting them to teach you how to draw a horse’s tail, or sing a song they’ve memorized. When we empower our children with the knowledge that they have things they can teach us, we fortify their sense of competency, and contribute to their emotional health.
Betsy Brown Braun:


  • Parents (mothers) whose emotional houses are in order have a much better chance of raising children who are emotionally fit.  Taking care of your own needs, whatever they might be, is one of the ways parents on whom so many demands are made, stay emotionally healthy. Whether it’s working out, lunching with a friend, or speaking with a therapist, these actions represent putting the oxygen mask on your own face first. Then you will have air you need to help your child. In so doing, you are also modeling for your child that Mommy is a person who also has needs. Children need to see that their parents take care of their children and of themselves, just like you hope they will do someday.


  • If you want your child to talk with you, don’t ask her/him questions about his day. Share what happened in your day, and s/he will want to tell you about hers/his.   Share stories from your day or from your past; look at photos together; look through safe magazines together…and talk about what you see.


  • Tell your child what s/he should be doing before you say what s/he shouldn’t be doing. (“If you want to jump, you can jump on the bed. We don’t jump on the couch.”) This is otherwise known as  Say yes before no.
Jennifer Waldburger:

It’s tempting to wish that your child always do what you ask just because you said so, but obedience doesn’t help him build skills for problem solving.  What’s far more valuable is to direct him toward his internal navigation system, otherwise known as his feelings, which will motivate him to make positive choices because he senses what’s best in the moment.  Young children need your help exploring the vast terrain of their emotional landscape; they are like little travelers who don’t yet understand the customs and language of the new place they’re visiting.  There are three essential skills for acquiring emotional intelligence:

  • Learning how to identify feelings.  Help your child put words to what he’s feeling, or if he can’t or gets stuck, offer your observations of what he seems to be feeling.  Help him locate where in his body he is feeling his emotions, and what they might “look” like (shape, color).


  • Learning how to tolerate feelings.  Reflect your child’s feelings back to him in the moment, without trying to change or “fix” them.  Rather than trying to distract him, let your child know that it’s OK to simply have the emotional experience he’s having.


  • Learning how to express feelings.  In addition to teaching him language for his feelings so he can verbalize them, offer creative outlets:  encourage him to paint, draw, play dress-up, sing, dance, play music, tell stories and use his imagination.  Creative expression is one of the best – and most fun! – ways to help emotions flow through us and prevent emotional blocks (which can lead to tantrums and acting-out behavior).

As you teach your child how to recognize, manage, and express his emotions at a young age, he will achieve emotional mastery with practice – and a human being who is the master of his feelings can achieve anything in life he wishes.

Noël Janis-Norton:


Whenever there’s something that’s bothering you that your kids have been doing, there’s probably a rule that’s missing. The good news is that you can make a new rule anytime you want! So what’s the most effective way to establish a new rule?

Just use these four magic words, “The new rule is…”.

The key is not to tell your child about the new rule right after she’s done something wrong. Wait until there’s a neutral time, when nobody is annoyed with anybody. Let’s say that what’s bothering you is your daughter is yelling for you in the mornings from her room until you come get her, and you find it irritating. At a neutral time, you could say, “Amanda, there’s a new rule about mornings. The new rule is: when you wake up, you have to wait quietly in your room until Daddy or I come in. You’ve been used to calling and yelling for us to come get you, and we used to do that, but not anymore. You’ll have to wait.”

The next step is to ask your child to tell you what the new rule is. This is a very important step, because when our children have to tell us the rule, they get a vivid mental image of themselves doing it right. It also gives you a chance to give them descriptive praise for answering correctly.

You could say, “That’s right, you were listening and you remembered the new rule. Now you may not feel like waiting until we come to you. So instead of yelling for us, what can you do while you’re quietly waiting?” This gives you a chance to brainstorm with your child about the different things she could do, such as what she could play with or do, like sing or hum, etc. Notice that in this example I also empathized with Amanda about her not wanting to wait. When you can inject empathy into rule setting, your child will accept new rules much more calmly.

If your child isn’t verbal enough to answer your question about the new rule, just answer the question for her and repeat the question and the answer several times. Pretty soon, when you ask her the new rule about mornings, she’ll say “wait”.

The technique I’ve just described for establishing new rules (and well behaved kids!) is called a “Talk-through”, and it’s one of the foundation skills of the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting program.

The Mother Company aims to support parents and their children, providing thought-provoking web content and products based in social and emotional learning for children ages 3-6. Check out episodes of our “Ruby’s Studio” children’s video series,  along with our beautiful children’s books,  music, and more.


This article was originally published May 4, 2015

Posted in: Behavioral Issues, Expert Advice, Happiness, Family, Holidays, Learn, The Mother Co. Mamas