Reward good behaviour: Be realistic

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A stressed mum struggling to cope with her kids
'One of the main things parents don't spot is that they are being too hard on their kids,' says Dr Kilbey. 'Placing unrealistic expectations on your children will mean that they'll probably never reach them.'

However much you'd like your 3-year-old to sit at the table for your entire lunch, accept the fact that they're probably not going to manage it until they're a little older.

'It's more important that they eat their lunch, even if it is sitting on the floor in the lounge, rather than at the dining table,' explains Dr Kilbey. 'What you need to do is to spot when your child is doing something well and then praise them and tell how good they are. That's the way to get them to repeat the good behaviour.'

Chill out

Do you feel as if you've tried everything to stop your kids' bad behaviour? You could be too stressed or anxious.

'Kids pick up on their parents' moods,' says Dr Kilbey. 'If you're stressed out, then your children will notice and play up more. Try to give yourself 30 minutes to calm down - being relaxed will make your job far easier.'

Beware of sweets

Most parents say that they are in control of what their kids eat and that the current media fascination with sweets and chocolate in children's diets is over the top.

But the research also shows that mums and dads prefer to use sweets or chocolate as a reward, rather than something far more simple such as family time.

And while Dr Kilbey doesn't say you should never use chocolate as a reward, 'ideally parents should be encouraged to see spending time with their child as an excellent and effective form of reward or treat.'

Continued below...

More help and advice

- The secret of getting your toddler to behave
- 15 ways to be a nearly perfect parent
- What to do when your kids lie
- Why naughty is normal

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