Creative Child

Changing Your Child’s Environment for Better Behavior

by Rebecca Eanes

“When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.” - Thich Nhat Hanh

When a child exhibits unwanted behavior, often the first course of action is to punish the child; however, I believe we should first seek to understand what’s driving the behavior. If we can determine why, we can then help the child get back to being his or her best self. There are two places one can begin to look to find the cause for the child’s behavior. The first is in the parent-child relationship, and the second is in the child’s environment.

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The parent-child bond is extremely important to a child’s growth and well-being. A child must feel wholly loved and cared for in order to reach his potential. As Dr. Gordon Neufeld says, a child “must never work for our love; they must rest in it.” (Video) Yet, conventional parenting methods make the child work for our love, or at least the expression of our love (which to a child is one in the same). When we are displeased with children, it is common to push them away into a room, corner, or time-out chair or ignore them entirely until they come into line and do what we like. These may be effective ways to change behavior quickly, but they cause deeply unsettling feelings in children which often manifest in other “bad” behaviors. It’s like putting out one fire while setting two more. Such punishments chip away at the attachment bond, and without a strong bond, children become much more difficult to guide. This is why punishments must often increase in severity or length to continue being effective. For information on how to discipline without punishment, read the following articles.

How to Handle Your Toddler’s Defiance

True Behavior Change Begins Here

Six Alternatives to Punishment

Discipline without Punishment

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Perhaps the problem doesn’t lie in disciplinary actions but in critical words spoken or lack of quality time spent. There are many things that could make a child feel less connected and close to us, and it’s our responsibility as parents to discern the state of the relationship and work to keep it close.


If the parent-child attachment bond is intact, the next best place to look is in the child’s environment. Here again are many potential causes for frustration, and feelings of frustration or sadness are often at the root of behavioral problems. Here are a few specific things to look for.

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