Behavior Management


When working with families, here are a few ways to help parents address problematic behavior from their children. These tips can be helpful ways of using selective attention and positive discipline to build strong and loving family relationships.

Preventing Misbehavior

Discuss these tips with parents on how to prevent misbehavior:
  • Make sure expectations of the child are developmentally reasonable
  • Offer choices of acceptable behaviors
  • Distract child before misbehavior occurs
  • Ignore inappropriate behavior and praise positive behavior

Positive Discipline

The following are strategies to use for positive discipline:
  • Labeled praise—be sure to tell the child what he/she did right
  • Tangible rewards (e.g., chocolate, stickers)
  • Physical rewards (e.g., hugs and kisses)
  • Activity rewards (e.g., play time)
  • Selective attention (parents decide how and when to pay attention to child).
  • Pay attention to desired behaviors and ignore behaviors you want to discourage.

Using Praise Effectively video 

Effective Ignoring

Effective ignoring can look like some of these strategies:
  • No eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, talking, or physical contact.
  • Never ignore unsafe behaviors.
  • Use in conjunction with positive attention for desired behaviors

Inadvertent Selective Attention video example 


There are many problems associated with spanking: 
  • Pain can make children more aggressive
  • Potentially leads to fear of the parent
  • The child learns to avoid punishment but doesn’t learn new or “right” behavior
  • The child learns to use physical violence to influence others
  • Spanking is often used in anger and can become harsher than the parent intends.

However, there are some cultural nuances to spanking. Visiting our concerns about spanking page via our culture curriculum here. 

Spaking video example. Watch as the home visitor discusses positive parenting strategies. 



The following are resources if you suspect child abuse in the home and other parenting resources related to behavior management:

National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800) 422-4453

Maryland Child Protective Services (410) 767-7112 Managing Child Behavior Problems webpage - Addresses ways to foster healthy relationships and resilience within children through a variety of environments (home, neighborhood, school) and includes examples. - Call 1-800-243-7337 for a 24-hour parenting help hotline. Website includes programs, and classes for families. As well as community activities in the state of Maryland to connect communities and promote strong familial connection. - 2-1-1 Maryland is a confidential hotline service (text or call) individuals can contact for information, resources, and community information. The website has a variety of pages filled with assistance regarding mental health, health care and children & family information. - Maryland non-profit with resources dedicated to assisting families with behavioral health obstacles including children’s mental health and welfare, substance use, juvenile justice, and gambling problems as a few examples. Resource for support groups and community activities to involve family in. - Provides tailored information about behavioral regulation and obstacles with children in the time of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Offers various techniques for self-control, motivating children to complete tasks at home, and tips for compliance.