If you’re a mom or a dad, you likely have –at one time or another – found yourself at wit’s end while parenting your child. When a pattern of bad behavior emerges, you may feel overwhelmed and frustrated. While each individual situation is different, there are a few elements that research has found to be consistent in fostering better behavior among children.

Here are some ways you can help foster better behavior in your child:

  1. Bonding

Above and beyond anything, is bonding. Well bonded children are secure and, therefore, do better in all things. They problem-solve better; they stick to a task longer; and they have better cognitive and social development. It is important while bonding with your child, not to burden them with your problems. This can create anxiety, and take their childhood away.

2. Communication

Active listening is the key to good communication between parent and child. In fact, active listening is the essential ingredient to family communication. Active listening involves a safe environment in which confidences are kept. Trust based on experience is developed; eye contact is held, and full attention is given. Furthermore, it is important not to defend positions, and to maintain empathy for all family members, including parents.

3. Environment

A safe space should be created in which the family sits together while communicating. This environment should not be anyone’s power place such as an office, study, or bedroom; but rather a mutual place such as the kitchen table, the heart of the house where alchemy happens. The empathic process should occur at least once a week at a set time – consistently.

4. The Empathic Process

The Empathic Process teaches empathy and mutuality by investing children in family problem solving, such as conflict resolution. Such participation in family business empowers children to feel that they have respect and responsibility, and therefore, a choice in what happens to them which establishes a win-win outcome for all. When children are invested in the process of creating the rewards and consequences for their behavior, they are more likely to behave. The empathic process has rules of engagement, which are flexible in relation to your particular family style. But in general, each family member speaks for a prescribed amount of time, while the other members listen intently, making eye contact. Then the parent speaks, giving his or her opinion without defending his or her position for the same allotted time. Then the entire family participates in the brainstorming period, which allows the children to be invested in the options for conflict resolution. This is a successful problem solving strategy, with positive regard for all. This approach works well for the assignment of chores, as well as their rotation and allows us to keep connection with our children, checking in on how they are doing in their social, emotional, and academic lives.

5. Consistent Follow Through

Following through in all things is imperative. If parents are reliable and children discover that they can count on their parents to advocate them – right or wrong – then they will value and trust themselves. If children value and trust themselves, they will transfer that trust to the world at large. This is how we make self-actualized children who are secure and proactive rather than reactive.

6. Be What You Want To See

Children take their cue from their parents. Parents are their children’s first teachers; and as children grow, they look at their parents with a more critical eye. The best inoculation against behavioral problems with children is to be a positive role model by having good nurturing skills; meeting their needs in a responsible way; and by being reliable. Then children will behave appropriately and choose to be responsible, have empathy and reliability.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at EmpowHER.com since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Amazon.com. Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.