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What do parents need to know about behavioural change?

Team StoryWeavers|August 17, 2022, 19:03 IST|

behavioural change in children

Change of any sort can be hard for most people, let alone children. Helping your child change their difficult or challenging behaviour is one of the toughest things parents can do. There are many things that influence the child to engage in difficult behaviour. Today, we are going to explore the principles of behavioural change that every parent must be acquainted with before they start their positive parenting journey with their child. 

What every parent needs to know about behavioural change?

A book by Dr Michele Borba, Ed.D, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries, published in 2009 mentions principles of change that can guide you in helping your child. Dr Borba is an educational psychologist. She has over 40 years of teaching and consulting experience. She uses this experience to offer sound, practical advice to parents and teachers to help children thrive. 

The principles of change are as follows:

  • Most behaviours and attitudes are learnt. Some are influenced by biological factors. Children pick up behaviours and attitudes from what is taught to them and from their real-life experiences. Though there are some things about the child’s behaviour and personalities that we cannot change, we can teach them skills to manage their behaviour. For example: An impulsive child can be taught to stop and think before acting. There are proven, research-backed techniques that can help the child unlearn certain behaviours and attitudes. 
  • Behavioural change will not happen on its own and parents need to intervene early to help children inculcate healthy behaviours and attitudes. Parents need to understand that poor behaviour is not just a phase that the child will grow out of. 
  • Parents need to use a more effective way of responding to get the child to produce the desired behaviour. In other words, stop reacting and start responding. They can try to be more direct and consistent, and be more respectful to the child, and stay calm in order to get the child to comply with their requests. It is also helpful to be physically close to the child while instructing them. 
  • Parents should focus on changing one behaviour at a time. Too many changes at once are likely to overwhelm both you and the child. Focusing on one thing will also allow you to develop an effective strategy to eliminate that behaviour. 
  • Choosing what you want the child to do instead of the current difficult behaviour is critical. Most parents or people in general find it easy to mention what needs to stop but struggle to explain what needs to be done instead. One way to do this is to ask the Goldilocks question: What is my child doing too much? Or too little? This will help you understand what you could expect from your child. Not having a replacement behaviour in place will lead the child to revert to old ways in no time. This makes this point critical to note. 
  • Practice makes perfect. Newly-learnt behaviour or attitude needs to be practised to make it be used confidently later in life. Provide opportunities to practise the newly-learnt behaviour or attitudes so that they are less likely to revert to old ways. 

All changes require time. Parents need to be consistent and give some time to their children to make these changes a part of their lives. One key thing that parents need to remember is to stick to the behavioural plan, regardless of how long it takes. Some changes will require more time than others. Be patient and adhere to the plan in place, and you will see the result sooner or later. 

Did you know these principles of change? How do you help your child with behavioural change? Do you have any tips that you would like to share? Let us know in the comments below. 


Borba, M. (2009). The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries. Germany: Wiley.

About the Author

“Me-kha-la!” That happens at least once when she introduces herself to new people. She wholeheartedly believes in the quote by Arthur Rubinstein that says – “if you love life, life will love you back”. She is an organizational psychologist and psychometrician. She was a class teacher of 36 adorable girls for two years, grades 2 & 3, as a part of the Teach For India Fellowship. These little girls have a special place in her heart, and when she writes for children, she writes for them!

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