Setting Clear Ground Rules & Managing Child Misbehavior:

Positive parenting advice for managing child misbehavior.

We all want our children to listen to what we say, or follow rules which we know will protect them and help them become valued adolescents and eventually adults in our society.

This is why ground rules need to be introduced as early as at least 3 years of age.

All children need limits, as this is the only way they will come to know what is expected of them. We don’t want to bombard children with a huge list of rules which will overwhelm them and make our efforts seem worthless.

Four or five rules should suffice to start and once they become part of everyday life we can add new ones as they reach older ages with different responsibilities.


Tell Your Children What YOU WANT them To Do:

A rule should tell children what to do, instead of what not to do.

For example, instead of always saying don’t for every rule which sends out a negative tone, try setting the rule in a more positive tone to help in managing your child misbehaviour better.

Clean up after yourself, is a much nicer rule than, Don’t make a mess.

Speak in a pleasant voice, is a much nicer rule than, Don ‘t yell.

Rephrasing your rules is easy. All you have to do is think about the rule you want to enforce which will more than likely start with the words NO or Don’t, and rephrase it to tell the child what you want them to do.

Here’s one more you could use, instead of saying don’t run, you could say, walk in the house.

Getting children involved in rule making is a very effective way to set rules. Because they have a part in coming up with them they will remember them much easier, and be more inclined to remember them.


Here are a few tips when coming up with some ground rules & managing child misbehavior:

•have no more than 4-5 rules

•rules should be age appropriate and easy to follow

•there should always be consequences when rules are broken

•rules should say what to do instead of what not to do Over the next week, sit down with your family or students and come up with four or five rules that should be enforced in your home or classroom.



Write them down a large sheet of poster paper or print them out in large print on a regular sized piece of paper and post them for everyone to see and be reminded of.

I am sure you will see a big difference when you put the information in this article into practice.

Remember this is just the beginning, next weeks article will discuss how to use directed discussion when rules are broken.

Until then, be consistent, clear, and work with your children rather than against them.


Marisa Robinson (R.E.C.E.)

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