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4 Keys to Improving Your Child’s Behavior

4 Keys to Improving Your Child’s Behavior

Do you have an unruly or sad child? Is your child hyperactive and/or defiant? Are time outs, discipline and shouting matches not working?

I have done hundreds of hours of research on discipline and behavior with children. I have put to test every tip I read to practice on my own children. It all boils down to four critical keys to why your children are misbehaving: If you can put the following tips to practice, you will discover a whole new child.


I know you have probably heard before that “sleep matters”. But do you really know how much it truly matters – not only how sleep affects your child’s behavior, but their overall health? Po Bronson, author of Nurture Shock, conducted detailed research on sleep with children. He found that the children who did not get as much sleep as their peers had lower IQs, had higher diagnosis of ADHD, made poorer grades in school and had a higher chance of obesity. Bronson said “Sleep deprevity in children is the equivalent of lead exposure”.

A new study on ADHD has found that a mass number of children have been diagnosed with the wrong disorder. The New York Times recent reported that half of the children in this study no longer had symptoms of ADHD after they were treated for a sleep disorder.

Not sure how much sleep your child needs in order to not be sleep-deprived? Check out the sleep chart HERE.


In 2009 Primetime: Family Secrets on CBS had an entire 1-hour episode on behavior with children. They profiled 3 families who agreed to have hidden cameras in their home. A panel of experts reviewed the video footage and “diagnosed” why the children were so defiant towards their parents. What the experts pointed out is that all parents were extremely critical towards their children: “Get your shoes on, take your feet off the table, don’t hit your sister, be quiet, do your homework!!!”…and the list goes on. These parents never praised their kids for doing anything right, they only criticized their kids the things they were doing wrong. As a result, their kids were confused, angry, upset, defiant and overall very hard to manage. Once these parents changed their communication and hourly/daily found things to praise their kids for and communicated phrases like “great job”, “high five”, “I’m so proud of you”, “you are so smart”, etc… their children’s behavior improved dramatically.

* The show on CBS stressed that sometime it takes children time to change, especially if they have been dealing with an overly-critical parent for a long period of time. But don’t give up on your positive reinforcements. It may take 2-4-10 weeks to really see a change in your children, but remember the real change starts with…YOU!


On a recent Dr. Phil episode, he stated that 71% of American families have both the mother and father working full-time. This means that 71% of children are home alone after school, in after-school care or daycare 8-12 hours each day. Cary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages of Children says about quality time, “Most children are starving for it. Even children whose parents truly love them walk around with empty emotional tanks, and few seem to know what to do about this.”

Chapman also says, “The most important factor in quality time is not the event itself but that you are doing something together, being together.” Even parents with good intentions can hurt their children emotionally with the simple comment “hang on”, “not now”, or “I’m busy” when a child wants their attention while on the phone, checking emails or cooking. The more parents can carve out quality time with their children, the more their emotional tanks will be filled – which results in a much happier child.


How much sugar do your children digest each day? Be really honest with yourself here. Are they drinking fruit juices, Sprite, Gatorade, sweetened cereal, sweetened applesauce, cookies, popsicles, candy, granola bars, etc…? Parents and schools are notorious for inundating kids with sugar. I have had dozens of parents complain to me about their children’s behavior, and 100% of the time those kids are sucking down a popsicle as their mother is begging me for help.

Here is my challenge to you: DO NOT GIVE YOUR CHILDREN ONE MORSEL OF SUGAR FOR 10 DAYS: no fruit juice, no Sprite, no cookies….nothing! You will be amazed at the changes in your children: far less hyperactivity, more attentive, more respectful, less defiant, better sleep, and overall better health. ** Even if your child does not have misbehavior, it is essential that you are responsible with the foods you feed your children for both their short-term and long-term health.

If your kids are addicted to sugar, detoxing them won’t be easy in the beginning. But hang in there. Don’t give up. After 5, 7, 10 days your kids will start to realize that blueberries taste pretty good. And water isn’t so bad either.

10 Snacks for Kids with no refined sugar:

1. Fruit, fruit and more fruit (fresh fruit – not canned fruit)
2. Veggies with a little bit of ranch dressing
3. UNSWEETENED applesauce, blueberry sauce or pomegranate sauce
4. Cheese and crackers
5. UNSWEETENED yogurt (or throw some fruit in for added flavor)
6. High fiber, UNSWEETENED cereal (Kashi is my top pick)
7. Hummus with pita bread (YUM!)
8. Water, water, water! NO juice, sodas or sports drinks
9. White milk
10. Whole wheat tortillas with salsa

Change is not always easy or convenient. And there is no such thing as a perfect parent. But the best ones try to be. The most successful parents understand that their children’s behavior is a direct correlation to the emotional and physical well-being they invest in their children. Parenting is like cooking: if you leave out one key ingredient your cake is a mess. Typically misbehavior in teens or children stems from a missing ingredient – quality time with mom and dad, positive reinforcement, quality sleep and/or healthy nutrition. If you can focus on these four ingredients, you should discover a whole new child.

Kate Raidt Kate Raidt is author of The Million-Dollar Parent: How to Have a Successful Career While Keeping Family a Top Priority and founder of advantage4parents.com. She is also an alumnus of the Southwestern Company's summer work program. Kate is also the mother of two young children.
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