Behavior Management

In times of increased stress, a family’s normal routines and rules change. Increased anxiety, sadness, and anger can lead kids to be disrespectful or have anger outbursts more often. Parents might allow more misbehavior because they are preoccupied with other concerns, or they may be more likely to yell or be impatient with their kids. When kids and parents respond this way, their reactions can quickly feed off of each other leading to arguments and conflict. Parents may find themselves repeating, arguing, yelling, negotiating, and being upset with their children more than before. After you learn how to help kids cooperate you can make your own plan.

Three basic strategies can help kids and parents regain control and increase cooperation.

  • First, increase warm attention. Kids learn best when they feel cared for and know what they are doing right. It is often helpful for parents to make extra time to play with their child and praise them for good behavior, especially during times of stress and change. On the other hand, when kids are misbehaving by whining or arguing, parents should remove their attention through ignoring. Parental attention is very important to children and children will keep acting in ways, good and bad, that get their parents' attention.
  • Second, it is often helpful to use a structured reward system to make it very clear that good things happen when kids are well-behaved. In this step, work with your child to set up a point system where they can earn rewards. Rewards are extra fun activities that your child does not usually get to do and that motivate your child to cooperate and stay calm.
  • Third, set up a plan to use consequences for misbehavior. Some of the more common consequences are time out and loss of privileges, like screen time. Using consequences well is just as important as choosing the right consequences for a given misbehavior. Consequences work best when they are immediate. This way it is clear to your child that when they don’t listen, they lose their privileges. Unfortunately, parents often repeat themselves, argue, or negotiate before they deliver consequences. When this happens, kids don’t know if they got a consequence for not listening, stalling, arguing, or what, and they are more likely to misbehave again. Using appropriate consequences immediately following misbehavior leads to better learning and more positive behavior.

Parents are usually most successful when they combine warm attention, structured rewards, and consequences together. However, it can be helpful to start with one strategy and then add others as you go along.

Here is a summary of strategies you can use to increase cooperation.

Things parents can do

  • Schedule 15 minutes a day to play and have fun with each child
  • Stay calm when frustrated
  • Catch kid(s) being good and immediately praise the good behavior
  • Ignore arguing and whining

Good Behaviors to Increase

  • Do what’s asked of you the first time (1 point each time)
  • Accept “no” calmly (1 point each time)
  • Be respectful (1 point each time)


  • Extra Desert (5 points)
  • Play a game (10 points)
  • Pick a prize from the box (15 points)
  • Screen time (5 points = 15 minutes)


  • Time-Out until quiet and willing to do what was asked
  • Cool down in room until calm and willing to do what was asked
  • No electronics/screen time
  • Extra chore

Use the Behavior Plan Builder to make your own plan to use warm attention, structured rewards, and consequences to improve cooperation at home.