Five Ways to Improve Your Child's Behavior

Discipline success starts with you! Read our easy steps for modeling appropriate behavior.

Improve Behavior, p.1

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Claudia Camassa of Long Island, NY, was pulling out of a parking lot when a car blocked her path. "Come on, move your @X%," she muttered. Her son Salvatore, who was 2 at the time, was in the back seat and the radio was on, so she didn't think anything of it. But a few minutes later, when they were at a stoplight and the light turned green, she heard her son pipe up, "Come on, move your @X%!" Says Camassa, "I was laughing, but at the same time, I was crying!" Since then, she has made an effort not to swear in front of her two children, Salvatore, now 5, and Dominick, 2 1/2. "When I stub my toe, I'll say instead, 'Sugar, honey, iced tea!'" she laughs.

Sure, time-outs can be effective. Yes, it's important to set limits. But most often it's how you act that truly sets the tone for your child's behavior. Setting a stellar example may be the farthest thing from your mind when you're juggling a squirming toddler, a bag of groceries, and a ringing cell phone. Yet, kids observe everything we do -- even if they seem to be absorbed by the TV -- and that's the key to shaping their behavior. "Children are like movie cameras," says Karen Sharf, a New York City family therapist. "They see everything and record it in their minds, whether on a conscious level or not."

These days, in fact, modeling may be more important than ever. Our children's lives are a whole lot more complicated. Today, kids interact with more and more people outside the family, from teachers to coaches to other children's parents -- all at increasingly younger ages.

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