8 Ways to Be a Better Parent

6. Look Behind "Bad" Behavior

Mother and daughter

Lenora Gim

At some point your child will break every rule you make. But if you react to each infraction with the same show of disapproval -- Mommy's mad; he's in the time-out chair -- he may not reach an understanding of what prompted the rule-breaking behavior in the first place.

Simply put, your child's "misbehavior" is a direct result of the fact that he cannot control his emotions -- and it is one of parents' most important tasks to teach their children how to do just that. "Your child doesn't whine and have temper tantrums because he is trying to manipulate you. He isn't purposely being 'bad,'" says Pantley, who calls emotion-fueled outbursts on the part of very young children "biologically, psychologically, and absolutely normal."

So while you may well impose the appropriate disciplinary measure (that time-out, for instance), a calm and compassionate conversation is important too. Ask your child questions, and provide suggestions, Pantley suggests: "Your sister is crying because you took her bear. What will make her feel better? Do you think you can help her bear give her a hug?"

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