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Suggesting Alternatives for Unacceptable Behaviour

If our child is doing something that we don’t approve of, we can often suggest another similar activity, which will be appealing to him or her. We need to be thinking laterally and creatively, when we are raising our children. By doing this, our lives will be made easier, because we will both be content with the re-direction. We can also give our child a choice between two alternatives, which will help the child feel more empowered.

This strategy works particularly well once the child is able to reason; around three years old. If we can remain calm when talking to our child, most of the time, we will be more likely to gain co-operation from him. It is helpful to be very specific in our requests and to be aware or our child’s level of development. If we can give a reason, and an acceptable alternative, our child is far more likely to go along with our request. Saying “No!” or “Don’t!”  is not nearly as effective, and doesn’t consider the child’s needs and wants.

Below are some examples of alternatives we can suggest:

Your child is physically attacking another person. E.g. kicking, punching, biting, scratching, pinching, hitting

“Stop hurting (insert name)! It is not acceptable to hurt another person. You need to tell this person how you feel, and what you want to happen.”

Your child is spitting or swearing.

“Stop spitting/swearing! This is unacceptable in our family. If you must do it, do it down the back of the yard, where no-one can hear/see.”

Your child is calling someone a disrespectful name.

“In our family we don’t call each other names, so that we don’t hurt people’s feelings.”

Your child has the radio/TV/computer too loud.

“Please turn down the volume, so that we can talk in here, or listen in your/this room.”

Your child is about to take out another container of toys.

“Please (help to) put these toys/things away, before you take out another lot.”

Your child drops her clothes on the floor.

“Please place your dirty clothes in the wash basket, so that they can be washed.”

Your child comes home late.

“If you can’t get home by (agreed time), please let us know, so that we know you are safe.”

Your child wants to bring a dirty gardening fork inside, or an unsuitable toy/object outside.

“Please keep the fork outside as it is dirty.”  “This toy needs to stay inside, so that it won’t get dirty or spoiled.”

Throwing or bouncing balls inside the home.

“I am worried that you might break something. Please play with the ball outside, or stick to rolling it inside”.

Dropping or throwing heavy toys or objects.

“I am concerned that you may hurt someone, or damage something. Please play with your (insert very light object) instead, or stop dropping or throwing it”.

Touching precious ornaments

“Stop! I’m worried that you may damage my ornament. You can touch this one if you like.”

Your child wants to paint or do other messy play.

“When you have your smock (or old clothes) on, I will get the paints for you /you can get out the paints, and paint outside, or in this area.”

Your child starts swinging a yo-yo or skipping rope or similar inside.

“Stop swinging please! You might hit someone accidentally, or break something. Please take it outside/ in this area.”

Your child is jumping on the couch/bed/furniture.

“Stop jumping please! This is not acceptable in this house. Please jump on the trampoline or somewhere outside. Couches are for sitting on.”

Your child is making it clear to you that she wants to climb.

“Do not climb on this! You might fall and hurt yourself on the tiles/chair/whatever. You can climb on the play equipment outside or we can go to the park this afternoon.”

Your child is eating in the lounge-room or bedroom.

“If you would like to eat, please do it in the family room, kitchen or outside. Let’s keep the mess in there.”

Your child is running in the house or another indoor venue.

“Please stop running inside! It’s not safe. You can run outside or on the spot here.”

Your child is shouting in the house or another indoor venue.

“Please stop shouting here! You may shout outside/ in your room, or talk quietly inside.”


If the child ignores us, and continues with the unacceptable behaviour, there are a few other things we can do. These will be covered in future articles.