Stop that! Be quiet! Settle down! Behave! How many times do I have to tell you? Parents, teachers, mentors and youth development professionals are tempted to scream these at kids when the frustration level reaches the breaking point, but supporting positive behavior and raising well-behaved children doesn’t happen with those phrases.

Summer is winding down, and preparations for the new school year are underway. At the Boys & Girls Clubs throughout the Valley, it is time to clean up after summer camp while plans for afterschool services are being finalized. To prepare staff for the new school year, we train staff on discipline procedures which emphasize redirecting the unwanted behaviors of children. It’s the one training where no one falls asleep and everyone has comments and questions about.

Here are some of the things we discuss which may serve as tips to all adults who care about kids:

Build relationships

Child psychologists and behaviorists tell us that punishment for negative behavior is the least effective way to confront and change children’s behavior. Children naturally seek the attention of adults. They especially seek the attention of caring adults and desire to please them. Much of the negative behavior we see from children is an effort to get the attention of adults around them. Therefore, any positive behavior stimulus plan must begin with relating positively to children. First and foremost we must listen. Listen to their stories, their emotions and the special meanings behind their stories. Listening surely requires patience.

Praise, affirm and reward

the good behavior.

When you see good behavior, praise it, praise it, praise it. More effective is to affirm the positive behavior when you see it, such as praising kids for doing homework, treating others respectfully or being responsible for themselves.

“I really like how you are doing your homework after dinner without being reminded.”

“Thank you for sharing your toys with your brother.”

“Wow! Thank you for cleaning up your room just like I asked.

Redirect, redirect, redirect

the negative behavior.

When bad behavior occurs, state the behavior you want and offer an alternative. Give children choices.

For younger children who take the toys of others, offer a trade for the toy. “Look you can have the red one or the green one, instead of the blue one. The blue one belongs to your brother.”

Knowing a child’s interests and motivations is helpful in begin successful at redirecting behavior. When Grace rushes through her hand washing task before dinner, ask her to go back and wash thoroughly then she will be allowed to help cut and stir her favorite ingredients for the meal.

If Juan is interrupting others and talking out of turn, ask him to wait his turn and give him a listening job to do while his classmate or sibling is talking, such as, “Listen for the main idea in what Felipe says, because I might need your help in a minute remembering his story.”

Have a plan, and work the plan.

Set up clear expectations and follow through.

Reward the good behavior with extra “helper” responsibilities.

Reward the good behavior with special privileges.

Behavior Charts — Point Systems - offer tangible rewards on a chart with stars or stickers to the child for performing the desired behavior.

Use peer pressure — we can’t start till everyone settles down.

“I’ve already done this activity when I was in summer camp so I can wait all day for you to settle down so we can start.”

Plan ahead — put the most fun activity for the last 5 to 10 minutes of your time together that you can use it as a reward.

Laura Reagan-Porras is a sociologist and Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen. She can be reached for question or comments at or 956-682-5791.