Parenting 101: The Basics of Improving Behavior and Self Esteem

Welcome to the internet parent education workshop. A place to build parenting skills that help parents to discipline kids from toddlers to teens as well as to encourage children and adolescents to feel positive about themselves and to become the winners they were meant to be. Lots of practical solutions for parents as well as tips for improving communication, building positive relationships and other useful parenting skills. The goal of parenting is to teach kids to develop self-discipline. Many parents feel spanking is necessary for effective discipline. When parents learn and apply the three Fs of Effective using the parenting techniques on this page and others, they find that yelling, screaming and spanking disappear and a positive relationship is established.

Guidelines For Parent Child Relationships

  • Try to set a side time on a regular basis to do something fun with your child.
  • Never disagree about discipline in front of the children.
  • Never give an order, request, or command without being able to enforce it at the time.
  • Be consistent, that is, reward or punish the same behavior in the same manner as much as possible.
  • Agree on what behavior is desirable and not desirable.
  • Agree on how to respond to undesirable behavior.
  • Make it as clear as possible what the child is to expect if he or she performs the undesirable behavior.
  • Make it very clear what the undesirable behavior is. It is not enough to say, "Your room is messy." Messy should be specified in terms of exactly what is meant: "You've left dirty clothes on the floor, dirty plates on your desk, and your bed is not made."
  • Once you have stated your position and the child attacks that position, do not keep defending yourself. Just restate the position once more and then stop responding to the attacks.
  • Look for gradual changes in behavior. Don't expect too much. Praise behavior that is coming closer to the desired goal.
  • Remember that your behavior serves as a model for your children's behavior.
  • If one of you is disciplining a child and the other enters the room, that other person should not step in on the argument in progress.
  • Reward desirable behavior as much as possible by verbal praise, touch or something tangible such as a toy, food or money.
  • Both of you should have an equal share in the responsibility of discipline as much as possible.

The "3 Fs" of Effective Parenting

Discipline should be:

  • Firm: Consequences should be clearly stated and then adhered to when the inappropriate behavior occurs.

  • Fair: The punishment should fit the crime. Also in the case of recurring behavior, consequences should be stated in advance so the child knows what to expect. Harsh punishment is not necessary. Using a simple Time Out can be effective when it is used consistently every time the behavior occurs. Also, use of reward for a period of time like part of a day or a whole day when no Time Outs or maybe only one Time Out is received.

  • Friendly: Use a friendly but firm communication style when letting a children know they have behaved inappropriately and let them know they will receive the "agreed upon" consequence. Encourage them to try to remember what they should do instead to avoid future consequences. Work at "catching them being good" and praise them for appropriate behavior.

The Parent As Teacher/Coach

See your role as that of a teacher or coach to your children. Demonstrate in detail how you would like them to behave. Have them practice the behavior. Give them encouragement along with constructive criticism.

  • Try to set aside time on a regular basis to do something fun with your children.
  • Rather than tell them what not to do, teach and show them what they should do.
  • Use descriptive praise when they do something well. Say, "I like how you ____ when you ____." Be specific.
  • Help your child learn to express how he feels. Say: "You seem frustrated." "How are you feeling?" "Are you up set?" "You look like you are angry about that." "It's O.K. to feel that way."
  • Try to see a situation the way your children do. Listen carefully to them. Try to form a mental picture of how it would look to them.
  • Use a soft, confident tone of voice to redirect them when they are upset.
  • Be a good listener: Use good eye contact. Physically get down to the level of smaller children. Don't interrupt. Ask open ended questions rather than questions that can be answered with a yes or no. Repeat back to them what you heard.
  • Make sure they understand directions. Have them repeat them back.
  • When possible give them choices of when and how to comply with a request.
  • Look for gradual changes in behavior. Don't expect too much. Praise behavior that is coming closer to the desired goal.
  • Develop a nonverbal sign (gesture) that your children will accept as a signal that they are being inappropriate and need to change their behavior. This helps them to respond to your prompt without getting upset.

The Use of Reward In Positive Parenting

  1. When ever possible try to use reward and praise to motivate your child to improve their behavior.
  2. For younger children you can use "grandma's rule." Say, "When you have picked up all your clothes, you may go out and play." Be sure you use "when" rather than "if."
  3. Combine reward with time out for serious disruptive or defiant behaviors. Say, "Every time you ____, you will have a ____ time out. If you can go the whole (day, afternoon, etc.) without getting a time-out, you will earn ____.

The First Time Club

If you are having trouble getting your child to do something when you ask, have him become a member of "The First Time Club."

  1. Make up a chart with 30 squares.
  2. Tell the child that each time he does something the first time he is asked, a happy face will be placed in a square. When all the squares are completed, he will earn a reward.
  3. Mutually agree on the reward. For younger children, you can place a picture of the reward on the chart or for older children you can write it on the chart.
  4. Then practice with the child how he is to behave. "Each time I ask you to do something, I want you to: (1) Use good eye contact, (2) Listen quietly, (3) Say OK I will ____. then (4) Do it." Practice this, making a number of requests.
  5. Then start the program.
  6. Be sure to praise him for each success during practice as well as when the program starts. By the time the squares are filled, he will have developed a new habit. When he completes the program, provide the reward immediately. Take the chart down and let him have it as part of the reward. Continue to use praise and encouragement to make sure this new habit remains and becomes even stronger.

The Family Chip System

If your child is having a lot of difficulty getting along at home consider using the "Family Chip System." This is a very powerful tool. When used consistently, most children will show great improvement within just a few weeks. The program provides immediate reward for appropriate behavior and immediate consequences for inappropriate behavior. By the way, if you have other children around the same age as the child for whom you are designing this program, put them on the program as well. Children really like this system. Parents love the system. Here are the steps to follow to use this program with your child:

  1. Purchase a box of poker chips from the drug store.
  2. Hold a family meeting to discuss the need for the program. Tell the children that it will help them to learn to be in charge of themselves. You can tell older children that this system is similar to what adults experience: (1) Adults earn money for working; (2) Adults have to pay fines for breaking rules like speeding or make a late payment; (3) Adults spend their money on things they need as well as a few things they want.
  3. Develop a list of behaviors they will earn chips for. Start with the morning and then go throughout the day looking for behaviors to reward. These can include positive attitude, self-help behaviors and chores. If you are using a behavior modification program for school you can give them chips for each point earned on that system. Some possibilities are: getting up on time, brushing teeth, getting ready for school on time, playing nicely with brother or sister, completing chores such as feeding a pet or taking out the trash, saying please and thank you, doing things the first time they are asked, doing homework without a fuss, getting ready for bed on time, going to bed on time, cleaning bedroom.
  4. Agree on a list of behaviors that result in a loss of chips. These can include behaviors that are oppositional, defiant or disruptive. Some examples are: tantrums, yelling, screaming, fighting, arguing, throwing things, jumping on the furniture, getting up after bed time, swearing, putting others down. (Some more serious behaviors will receive a Time Out as well as a fine).
  5. Agree on a list of privileges they will earn and pay for with chips. Some privileges will be bought for the day, others will be bought for a period of time (usually 1/2 hour). These can include: watching TV, playing outside, computer time, renting their bike or other large toy, playing a game with a parent, etc.

Assign point values to each item on the list. See the sample below:

Earn Chips For

Making Bed


Picking up bedroom


Brushing teeth


Setting the table


Ready for bed on time


Going to bed on time


Doing things first time asked


Saying please and thank you


Lose Chips For

Throwing things

4 + Time Out


4 + Time Out





Running in the house


Privileges To Spend Chips For

Watching TV

5 chips per 1/2 hr

Playing outside

5 chips

Rent Bike

5 chips for the day

Going to friends

10 chips

Playing game with parent

5 chips

Rules for Parents When Giving Chips

  1. Be near your child and able to touch him (not 20 feet or two rooms away).
  2. Look at your child and smile.
  3. Use a pleasant voice tone.
  4. Make sure your child is facing you and looking at you.
  5. Praise your child "Hey that's great. You're really doing a nice job. That's really helping me." Reward you child with chips "Here's 2 chips for doing a great job."
  6. Describe the appropriate behavior for your child so he know exactly what behavior he is being praised and rewarded for.
  7. Hug your child occasionally or use some other form of positive touch.
  8. Have your child acknowledge you such as, "Thanks Mom" or "O.K."

Rules for Parents When Taking Away Chips

  1. Be near you child and able to touch him.
  2. Look at your child and smile.
  3. Use a pleasant voice tone.
  4. Make sure your child is facing you and looking at you.
  5. Explain what was inappropriate such as "Remember you are not allowed to run in the house because it is not safe." "You need to learn not to yell and scream so we can enjoy being together at home."
  6. Be sympathetic. "I know it's hard to lose chips but that's the rule."
  7. Give your child the chip fine.
  8. Make sure your child gets the chip appropriately.
  9. Prompting the appropriate responses will sometimes be necessary. For example, "Come on, give me a smile--That's right."
  10. If a chip loss is taken very well by your child, it is a good idea to give him back a chip or two.
  11. If your child is too mad or upset to give you the chips, don't force the issue. Place your child in time out (to cool off) and then get the chips.

Rules For Children When Getting Chips

  1. You should be facing your parents, looking at them and smiling.
  2. You should acknowledge the chips by saying "O.K.," "Thanks," or something else pleasant.
  3. The chips should be put in a specified container. (Any chips left lying around are lost.)

Rules For Children When Losing Chips

  1. You should face your parents, look at them and smile (not frown.)
  2. You should acknowledge the chip loss with "O.K." or "All right," "I'll get the chips," etc. (You must keep looking at them and be pleasant).
  3. You should give the chips to your parents pleasantly

Post the list of behaviors and chips earned in a convenient place.

Let your child decorate a paper cup in which to keep their chips. Place the "bank's" chips is a jar or bowl and put it in a place that is out of reach of children.

Start using the program. Feel free to modify the program at any time by holding a meeting. Sometimes point values need to be raised or lowered to achieve a goal. You may add or remove items from the list as well.

After about 6 weeks, you may be able to start short trials off the system. Say, "Today we are going to try not using the chip system. If things go well we will try it again the next day." If the trial is successful continue for about a week. If things continue to go well, hold a meeting and celebrate all that you and your child have both gained from the system. If your child is not ready, continue with the program.

Note: If your child runs out of chips, have a list of extra chores they can do to earn chips so that they remain on the system.

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APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 6). Parenting 101: The Basics of Improving Behavior and Self Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 15 from

Last Updated: February 13, 2016

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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