Get Kids On Their Best Behaviour

There’s no formula to perfect parenting, but there are some steps you can take to get your kids to simmer down and help out around the house. Here are some suggested approaches to common challenges.

Kids Are Fighting Over Toys?

Show Them Compromise Is the Key

Few things are as exasperating as listening to children fighting over a toy or anything else. While your first inclination may be to banish the toy from existence, there’s a better way to restore peace. Take advantage of the situation to teach your kids how to negotiate. The goal is to have them share the toy, or whatever it is they are fighting over. Direct them toward a compromise, but let them work it out themselves. Suggest possible solutions, such as that Tommy gets the toy for the morning and Jack gets it for the afternoon. Teach them that every either/or situation can be turned into a ‘”Why not both?” agreement. And make sure they understand that sharing the toy does not mean losing it for good.

Kids Keep Arguing?

Set Some Boundaries

Establish clear and firm limits on unacceptable behavior—no hitting, screaming, throwing things—and enforce them.

Provide A Distraction

Put on some music and tell the kids it’s time to dance. Or invite a friend over for each of the squabbling siblings.

Don’t Get Stuck In the Middle

Try not to get overly involved in the cause of the disagreement. Encourage the children to work it out themselves.

Call a Time Out

If the arguing gets out of hand, call a time out for each child in separate places.  

Kids Won’t Eat?  

Get Them Involved

Involve your kids in menu planning and food preparation.

Play with Food

Offer your children foods cut into interesting shapes or that are otherwise visually appealing.

Make Food Fun

Switch meals around: pancakes for dinner, a hamburger for breakfast. When meals are surprising and fun, children may eat more.


No seconds of the favorite food—say, spaghetti—until your kids have tried some of the squash.

Encourage your children at least to try a new or rejected food, but don’t insist that they finish something they don’t like. Watching you eat and enjoy a rejected food might get them interested in it.

Don’t Overreact

Take a relaxed approach and don’t turn the dining table into a battleground. As long as your children are healthy, fluctuations in food intake are not a cause for alarm. Offer a variety of nutritious options and let your kids develop their own tastes and preferences.

Kid Won’t Clean?

Assign a Task

Every child’s routine should include a regular household chore suited to his or her age and abilities. Make it clear to your children that putting away their toys, for example, is a requirement, not an option.

Communicate Clearly

Praise your kids when they do well; remind and cajole them when they don’t.

Give Them Initiative

If your children still resist picking up after themselves, a good old threat now and then won’t do permanent damage. Tell them that if they don’t clean up right now, you’re going to take three items lying around the floor and contribute them to Goodwill. (Be prepared to follow through.)

Create a Contest

If you have two or more kids, make a contest out of cleaning up. Whoever cleans the best or the fastest wins a prize.

Kids Won’t Go To Sleep?

Set a Routine

Establish a bedtime routine—with set times for bath, brushing teeth, slipping on pajamas, reading a story, and such—and stick to it. Give your kids a little notice so they can wrap up what they’re doing before starting their bedtime preparation.

Go For a Drive

This tactic works particularly well for babies, but is good for toddlers, too: Strap the child in the car, put on some calming classical music, and take a slow drive around the neighborhood. The movement of the car, the darkness of the night, and the soothing music will probably put the child to sleep.

Tire Them Out

If the kids are acting hyper, it’s next to impossible to get them to lie still. Turn this negative into a positive by playing a quick game of tag in the house. After ten or twenty minutes, everybody should be exhausted from running around.

Don’t Cave In

Children can be very creative when it comes to avoiding going to bed. Don’t cave in. It’s OK to insist that they stay in bed and go to sleep.