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Top 10 Natural Ways to Change Your Child’s Behavior

Top 10 Natural Ways to Change Your Childs Behavior
Picture of Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge

Parenting ADHD and autism, along with any other issue that slows your child’s development or interferes with their behavior or learning, comes with challenges and a whole lot of worry. A wealth of practical strategies and resources exists to assist families in fostering resilience and promoting self-regulation and emotional well-being in their children. 

I spearheaded The Get Unstuck Parenting Summit, where my colleagues and I offered invaluable insights and tools for parents seeking to support their children's emotional and behavioral well-being.

Here are my top 10 tips to guide parents in fostering positive behaviors and emotional health naturally in kids. As every child is unique, adapt a strategy that works for your family.

1. Understand Your Child's Behavior


Recognize that a child's behavior often manifests underlying emotional struggles. You can effectively support their mental health by addressing the root causes of their behaviors. It is crucial to recognize that a child's behavior usually reflects their internal emotional state. 

When your child acts out or exhibits challenging behaviors, it's not merely about defiance or disobedience. It's their way of communicating their inner turmoil or distress. Understanding this fundamental aspect of child psychology is the first step in effectively promoting any desired behavior in your child.

2. Focus on Positive Reinforcement


Rather than solely focusing on correcting negative behaviors through punishment, parents must prioritize reinforcing positive ones. This proactive approach encourages your child to repeat a desired behavior and is pivotal in nurturing their self-esteem and overall emotional well-being.

A mother once told me how implementing a reward system transformed her daughter's behavior. She ensures that her daughter receives praise and a token for completing a task and exhibiting good behavior. Then, when she reaches a certain number of points, she gets a reward. When she does that, she notices a positive impact on her self-esteem and overall behavior.

3. Establish Clear Expectations


One of the fundamental pillars of effective parenting is the establishment of clear and consistent rules and expectations for your child's behavior. Setting clear guidelines and communicating good behavior calmly and positively provides children with a roadmap for navigating the complexities of social interactions and personal responsibilities.

For example, your child misbehaves or becomes defiant when asked to do homework. Try to correct that by establishing clear rules about when he should start doing his school assignments and the results you expect. Then, acknowledge his efforts in completing his homework or any task. You should see a marked improvement in your son's bad behavior and focus.

5 Phrases to Establish Clear Expectations With Kids and Teens

4. Model Desired Behaviors


So many kids are keen observers, and they often learn by mirroring specific behaviors they see modeled by the adults in their lives. Therefore, parents must be positive role models, embodying the values and good behaviors they wish to instill in their children.

Parents can effectively guide their children toward developing these essential life skills by showing them what better behavior looks like. Start by demonstrating patience, self-control, and emotional regulation in your actions.

5. Encourage Emotional Expression


Fostering emotional intelligence and expression in children is paramount. Creating a safe place where children feel comfortable sharing their emotions is crucial for their well-being. Parents should encourage their children to explain their feelings openly and give them the tools to navigate and communicate their thoughts effectively.

Encouraging your son to discuss his feelings will help reduce his emotional outbursts and improve his relationships with the family and other people. You will also develop a more robust bond built on trust and understanding by validating his emotions and teaching self-regulation skills.

6. Limit Screen Time


Children are increasingly drawn to screens for entertainment and learning in today's digital age. While technology offers many benefits, using it excessively can harm a child's behavior and mental health. As parents, it's crucial to establish boundaries around using phones and gadgets and promote alternative activities that foster physical, emotional, and cognitive development.


I’ve seen many cases where reducing screen time helped alleviate a child's anxiety and improve their bad behavior, particularly temper tantrums. Call a time out from using their game consoles and lead them out of the house. Engaging kids in outdoor play and creative pursuits allows them to develop healthier coping mechanisms while showing fewer signs of distress.

7. Prioritize Sleep and Nutrition

A cornerstone of your child's overall well-being is prioritizing sleep and nutrition. Adequate sleep and a balanced diet are pivotal in shaping physical health and mental and emotional stability. As parents, ensuring your child receives sufficient rest and consumes nutritious meals is essential for fostering optimal development and behavior. Cut out on processed foods, add magnesium supplements and Vitamin B6, and ensure they get enough sleep daily.

In a separate study by Mousain-Bosc et al. (2004), researchers examined how low magnesium levels inside red blood cells (ERC-Mg) might affect the behavior of 52 hyperexcitable children under 15 years old and their families. 

They found that many of the hyperactive children had low ERC-Mg levels. When these children took magnesium and vitamin B6 supplements for 3 to 24 weeks, their ERC-Mg levels returned to normal, and their hyperactive symptoms improved. 

The same positive effects were seen in other family members with low ERC-Mg levels. The study suggests that supplementing with magnesium and vitamin B6 can help restore normal ERC-Mg levels and improve abnormal behavior in hyperexcitable children.

As soon as I tell parents about the importance of magnesium, adequate sleep, and proper nutrition, we see an impact on specific behaviors. Simple things such as establishing a bedtime routine and incorporating wholesome meals improve a child's good behavior and decrease emotional outbursts. Use essential oils like chamomille to lull them to sleep faster.

8. Address Sensory Issue

Understanding and addressing sensory issues are among the basic principles in supporting children who may experience heightened sensitivities or sensory processing difficulties. These sensory challenges can significantly impact a child's good behavior and emotional regulation. However, with the right strategies, parents can help their child navigate their sensory world more comfortably and effectively.

Many parents ask me how to address this issue among older children. I advise them to create a sensory-friendly environment at home and school and provide children with sensory tools and therapy to support their needs and development.

9. Implement Positive Discipline Techniques

Shifting away from traditional punishment methods towards positive discipline techniques is a transformative approach that nurtures a child's emotional development and strengthens the parent-child bond. Change your child's behavior by giving them the attention they need. Any attention from parents, even negative attention, is so rewarding to young kids.

In one study by Walker and Buckley (1968), researchers worked with a 9-year-old boy who wasn't paying attention in school. They used different techniques to help him focus better. First, they figured out his normal behavior. Then, they introduced ways to help him focus more on his tasks. 

They measured how well these techniques worked and gradually made them harder. By changing how he was rewarded, they noticed big changes in how much he paid attention and how often he got distracted. Once they found methods that worked, they made sure he could keep up the good behavior even outside of the study.

10. Seek Professional Support

Recognizing when to seek professional help for your child's behavioral challenges is a proactive step toward providing them with the support and resources they need to thrive. While many behavioral issues can be addressed through positive techniques, persistent or escalating behaviors may indicate underlying emotional or developmental concerns that require specialized intervention.

Navigating challenges, especially when dealing with children's mental health issues, requires patience, understanding, and proactive strategies. Incorporate these top 10 tips from The Get Unstuck Parenting Summit to empower yourself to support your children in developing positive behaviors and emotional well-being. Remember, every small step towards change can make a significant difference in your child's life. 

For more detailed instructions on how to support children with anxiety, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, OCD, or PAN/PANDAS, download the Natural Solutions Parent Kit.

How can I tell if my child's behavior indicates a more profound emotional issue?

Look for patterns of behavior that persist over time or escalate in severity, impacting your child's daily functioning and well-being. But more than using common sense, seeking guidance from a mental health professional can help clarify any underlying emotional concerns in your child.

What are some signs that my child may be experiencing sensory issues?

Look for sensitivity to certain stimuli (e.g., loud noises, bright lights), aversion to certain textures or smells, or difficulty with transitions or changes in routine. These may indicate sensory processing difficulties that can contribute to behavior challenges in kids.

How can I promote positive behavior in my child without punishment?

Focus on positive reinforcement by acknowledging and rewarding desired behaviors, setting expectations, and being a role model yourself. Utilizing time-ins and time outs, as well as active listening techniques, can foster emotional connection, better behavior, and growth in a child.

What role does sleep play in my child's behavior and emotional health?

Sleep is crucial for children's cognitive function, mood regulation, and well-being. Establishing consistent bedtime routines and making rooms conducive to sleep can support healthy sleep habits in kids. Notice how the behavior is better after a good night's sleep.

How can I encourage my child to express their emotions healthily?

Create a supportive environment where your child feels safe to express their feelings openly. Teach them coping skills such as deep breathing or journaling, and model healthy emotional expression yourself. A new behavior can quickly be learned if they feel good about themselves.

When should I seek professional help for my child's behavioral issues?

If your child's bad behavior persists or escalates despite your efforts to address them, or if it interferes with their daily functioning, school, and well-being, it may be time to talk to a qualified mental health professional for guidance.

What can I expect from therapy for my child?

Therapy provides a safe and supportive space for children to explore their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. A therapist will work collaboratively with the parent, the child, and the whole family to develop personalized interventions and strategies for addressing their needs.

How can I incorporate sensory-friendly strategies into my child's daily routine?

Identify sensory triggers and create a supportive environment that minimizes sensory overload. Provide your child with sensory tools and accommodations. For example, noise-canceling headphones can help your child regulate their sensory experiences. You can also keep fidget toys handy to keep your kid from acting up.

How can I support my child's emotional development at home?

Foster open communication and validate your child's feelings. Teaching them self-regulation will help them manage their emotions and behave better. Model empathy, resilience, and problem-solving in your interactions, and prioritize quality time together as a family.

What is a time out when dealing with a child's behavior? 

A time out is a disciplinary technique where a child is temporarily removed from a situation or activity due to inappropriate behavior. During this time out, the child is typically isolated in a quiet, non-stimulating area to allow them to calm down and reflect on their actions. Using a time-out in kids can lead to better behavior in most cases.

How does a time out help kids who don't behave? 

A parent can use a time out to help kids who behave inappropriately by providing them with a brief period of separation from the situation, allowing them to calm down and reflect on their behavior. Time outs help break the cycle of negative behavior, encourage self-regulation, and enable them to learn from their actions.

How can I differentiate between typical childhood behaviors and signs of a mental health issue?

Pay attention to the duration, intensity, and impact of your child's behaviors on their daily life. Consulting with a mental health professional can help determine whether further evaluation or intervention is needed.

What role does nutrition play in my child's behavior and emotional well-being?

A balanced diet rich in nutrients supports brain function, mood stability, and overall health. Limiting processed foods high in sugar and additives while incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can positively impact your child's behavior and emotional health.

How can I effectively communicate my expectations to my child?

Communicate your expectations using age-appropriate language and positive reinforcement. Set consistent boundaries and explain rules to help your child understand and internalize expectations.

Are there any specific parenting techniques to help manage my child's emotional outbursts?

Practice techniques such as deep breathing exercises, sensory breaks, or redirection to help your child regulate their emotions during distress. Encourage them to use coping skills learned in therapy or through positive parenting strategies.

What can I do if my child is resistant to therapy or counseling?

Approach therapy with patience and empathy, and involve your child in decision-making. Highlight the benefits of treatment positively and address any concerns or fears they may have. Building trust and rapport with the therapist can also help alleviate resistance.

How can I support my child's emotional development during challenging life transitions, such as moving or divorce?

Offer reassurance, validation, and opportunities for open communication during transitions. Provide structure and consistency, maintain familiar routines as much as possible, and seek additional support from therapists or support groups if needed.

Citations 

Mousain-Bosc, M., Roche, M., Rapin, J., & Bali, J.-P. (2004). Magnesium VitB6 Intake Reduces Central Nervous System Hyperexcitability in Children. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 23(5), 545S548S. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2004.10719400

Walker, H. M., & Buckley, N. K. (1968). The use of positive reinforcement in conditioning attending behavior1. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 1(3), 245–250. https://doi.org/10.1901/jaba.1968.1-245

Dr. Roseann is a mental health expert in Self-Regulation who frequently is in the media:

  • Healthline Understanding Self-Regulation Skills
  • Scary Mommy What Is Self-Regulation In Children, And How Can You Help Improve It?
  • USA Today From listening to building trust, here's how experts say you can increase emotional intelligence

Always remember… “Calm Brain, Happy Family™”

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to give health advice and it is recommended to consult with a physician before beginning any new wellness regime. *The effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment vary by patient and condition. Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC does not guarantee certain results.

Are you looking for SOLUTIONS for your struggling child or teen? 

Dr. Roseann and her team are all about science-backed solutions, so you are in the right place! 

Grab your complimentary copy of
147 Therapist-Endorsed Self-Regulation Strategies for Children: A Practical Guide for Parents

Dr. Roseann is a Children’s Mental Health Expert and Licensed Therapist who has been featured in/on hundreds of media outlets including The Mel Robbins Show, CBS, NBC, PIX11 NYC, Today, FORBES, CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Business Insider, Women’s Day, Healthline, CNET, Parade Magazine and PARENTS. FORBES called her, “A thought leader in children’s mental health.

Dr. Roseann - Brain Behavior Reset Parent Toolkit

She coined the terms, “Re-entry panic syndrome” and “eco-anxiety” and is a frequent contributor to media on mental health. 

Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge has three decades of experience in working with children, teens and their families with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, concussion, dyslexia and learning disability, anxiety, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), depression and mood disorder, Lyme Disease, and PANS/PANDAS using science-backed natural mental health solutions such as supplements, magnesium, nutrition, QEEG Brain maps, neurofeedback, PEMF, psychotherapy and other non-medication approaches. 

She is the author of three bestselling books, It’s Gonna Be OK!: Proven Ways to Improve Your Child's Mental Health, The Teletherapy Toolkit, and Brain Under Attack. Dr. Roseann is known for offering a message of hope through science-endorsed methods that promote a calm brain. 

Her trademarked BrainBehaviorResetⓇ Program and It’s Gonna be OK!Ⓡ Podcast has been a cornerstone for thousands of parents facing mental health, behavioral or neurodevelopmental challenges.

She is the founder and director of The Global Institute of Children’s Mental Health, Neurotastic™Brain Formulas and Dr. Roseann Capanna-Hodge, LLC. Dr. Roseann is a Board Certified Neurofeedback (BCN) Practitioner, a Board Member of the Northeast Region Biofeedback Society (NRBS), Certified Integrative Mental Health Professional (CIMHP) and an Amen Clinic Certified Brain Health Coach.  She is also a member of The International Lyme Disease and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), The American Psychological Association (APA), Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), International OCD Foundation (IOCDF).

© Roseann-Capanna-Hodge, LLC 2024

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