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Good Child Behavior is Easy as 1…2…3

Remember back in your day if you disobeyed your parents you’d most likely get a smack on the posterior with a wooden spoon?  Heck, I remember clearly the principal of my elementary school proudly displaying “the strap” on his wall. I once nearly experienced the strap myself, it was my first taste of “one person’s word against another’s” when I stepped in to break up a fight but ended up being falsely thought of as a participant by the teacher.  I must have been pretty convincing, or my principal was bluffing but I wound up with just a warning.

I don’t like striking my children, and I’m not going to try and say I haven’t ever done so.  I personally think it teaches them that in order to get their way, they need to use physical violence. I’d find myself to be a hypocrit if I struck my child, but then chastised them for hitting a sibling or classmate who was acting poorly toward them.

It’s been a while since I have punished my children with a spank because now they are getting older and I can reason with them in other ways.  The funny thing I noticed is I can scream my head off at my kids and they barely flinch; an act that when my father had done it to me would have set me off in tears.  I think its because for a time I really feared my father, although he never abused me, he would give me a corrective “smack” just after the raised voice. Pavlovian tears.

The way my wife and I reason with our children is multi-faceted. the first technique is a points system, the second is time-out.

The Points System

The points system is a daily list of points you keep.  Each kid starts out the day with 10 points.  There is a goal they need to reach in order to receive a “prize”.  After several days, if their remaining points surpasses the goal, they get the prize.  For instance, let’s set the goal to 150 points and the prize will be a trip to the toy store where they can pick out a $10-$15 toy.

Behaviour Points Chart

Tape this up on the wall where your child can see it, I suggest near the dinner table where bad behavior tends to lurk


The way the points system work is like this.  Your child is exhibiting some type of behavior which is undesirable. You get their attention, and say “On the count of three, you’ll stop that behavior or you are loosing a point 1..2..”  If your child doesn’t stop you repeat the phrase but the amount of points coming off doubles and they are reminded of the prize which is at stake.  If they continue their bad behavior, double the amount of points again, if they have a sibling who’d not engaged in the bad behavior and has a better points standing you can remind the ill behaving child what it will feel like when the sibling receives the prize but they don’t. [side note: Our kids, although only four and six have a really good understanding of negative numbers :) ]

The point system can also be used to promote good behavior.  A child should know that when they are at a point deficit they can always regain a few points by helping clear the table after dinner, or picking up their toys.

Criticism of this approach is it promotes your child to only doing things to attain something in return.  Well, I have news for you, this is how the world, and specifically the workforce works.  The only reason you work is to collect a paycheque so you can buy a house, a TiVO a car, food, etc…  Ever hear the saying “you get back what you put in”?


Time outs are a pretty effective way of punishing your child, at least in my experience. If you are not familiar with timeouts, essentially it goes like this: your child is or has engaged in some bad behavior.

Ways into Time-Out

There are a few ways a child enters time-out.

  • They engaged in a very-bad behavior (i.e. hitting their sibling, a pet or yourself) they immediately go into time-out.
  • They’ve done something mildly bad but refuse to apologize for it or they talk back to you.
  • They are doing something ill-behaved and you count to three.  If they don’t stop, they go into timeout.

We use a “two minute” timeout, if they are acting up, kicking things, etc, then you double the amount of time.  The key to timeout is to ignore your child.  They have to learn that they don’t deserve your attention when they act poorly.  Really drill into them that the bad behavior is disrespectful, especially if they continued to do it even after being told to stop.  If you talk to your child, or respond to them when they tell you how much they hate time-out or how unfair it is, then you might as well not bother.  The key is to deprive them of your attention.

Getting out of Time-Out

When it’s nearing the time to be released from time-out have them count.  This is really good for younger children, I think it’s the reason my son can count so well :)   So say “after you count to twenty you can come out of timeout”, and just keep upping the number they count to as they get better at it.


These are some techniques which my wife and I have implemented to curb bad behavior, give them a try for yourself.  Consistency, consistency consistency… The key is to follow through on any punishment you implement.  If you don’t, the little ones learn very quickly that there are no consequences when they act poorly and no incentive to behave.

Fatherhood Friday at Dad Blogs

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