Managing your child’s behaviour

Helping children to learn to behave the way you want them to is one of the most important jobs of being a parent.

Parent managing child's behaviour
Children learn by copying you. The people they learn most from are those closest to them: their mums, dads and whānau.

Teaching good behaviour

If you want your child to behave in a certain way, they need you to show them. If you want them to behave in a kind and calm way, they need to see you often being kind and calm. This is how they learn.

Ignore behaviour that you don’t like or distract your child with something else. Behaving badly may be your child’s way of getting your attention. Listen to your child when they talk to you and spend time with them.

Be clear about what you want your child to do and what you don’t want them to do. Make sure that everyone who looks after your child agrees on TV time, eating, playing, bedtime and general expectations.

Children won’t stop loving you if you’re firm with them. They’ll feel a lot safer when they know what the limits are, even though they will test them sometimes. Being fair and consistent makes things easier for them – and for you.

For help with managing your child’s behaviour, see the Tākai website.


Most small children have tantrums. Here are some tips to stop tantrums before they start, and to help your child when they do have a tantrum.

Stop tantrums before they start

  • Give your child time to say what they want or feel.
  • Know the times when your child is likely to have a tantrum, such as when they are tired, hungry or frustrated – have food and drink on hand or give them something else to do to calm them down.
  • Let your child know when change is coming, like when it’s almost time to go home.

Helping your child when they have a tantrum

  • You can’t stop a tantrum. Make sure that your child is safe, stay near and carry on with other things.
  • Losing your temper or shouting won’t end the tantrum. Ignore the people around you and concentrate on staying calm.
  • If the tantrum is in public, gently take your child to a safe place for ‘time out’. (‘Time out’ means 2–3 minutes in a safe place away from other people until things calm down.)
  • Try holding your child until the tantrum passes. Some parents find this helpful but it can be hard to hold a struggling child. This usually works best when your child is more upset than angry.

Your nurse will be able to support you with strategies to manage your child’s tantrums.

Related websites

Conscious parenting – Tākai
The Tākai website has lots of advice on parenting, including tips for avoiding and managing tantrums.

Your toddler’s behaviour – Plunket
Information about how toddlers behave, including tantrums, and how to get the behaviour that you want.

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