Parental Behavior

Parental behavior is about how parents act in specific situations; these behaviors directly influence your child’s development. There are three behaviors that parents use to influence their children—direct instruction, role modeling and feedback.

Let’s take a look at these three pivotal parental behaviors and how you can make the most of them to positively influence your child.

Direct Instruction

Many parents find themselves frequently just telling their kids what to do, drill sergeant style: ‘eat your dinner!’ ‘do your homework!’ It’s an easy trap to fall into as time and frustration are plotting against us. But there’s a better way to instruct your children!

Instead of barking orders, direct instruction involves telling your child what to do, when and why they should do it. It’s mainly about explaining why a child should act on the parent’s instructions. Without a reason, children often don’t see the purpose. Explaining gives your child a purpose for the action.

There’s also a very positive parenting technique that you can make use of. Direct instruction allows parents to help their kids gain better social skills. This is done by explaining how emotions and behaviors are linked. For example, ‘Bobby is sad because you made fun of his hat’ or ‘Richie is angry because his eye hurts.’ Kids who benefit from this kind of coaching have better social skills and so get along better with their peers.

Role Modeling

It’s no secret that kids learn by imitation. This is why a parent’s own behavior is very important. When you’re dealing with personal conflicts, choose proactive coping strategies because your kids are more likely to pick up on them.

Another important aspect of role modeling is that you can narrate the reasons behind what you are doing. This means that your child will never blindly imitate someone else. It also means that they have a deeper understanding of what motivates us to take actions. This deeper understanding usually leads to children to make better choices when faced with decisions. Here’s an example:

Melinda’s mom, Loraine, was helping a family friend by babysitting their daughter for free each week. Loraine explained to Melinda that she wanted to help out the friend and that it would be nice if Melinda also helped by playing and sharing with the daughter. Melinda wanted to help out like her Mom did, so she felt great about playing and sharing because she knew it would make the friend’s daughter feel good.


Lastly, parents use feedback to help influence their child’s behavior. Feedback is used to show a child what behaviors are appropriate and what behaviors need to be changed. Basically, this is about rewards and punishment. Rewards are used to increase the good behaviors they follow. Punishment is used to decrease the bad behavior it follows.

While rewarding an punishing your child for their behavior seems straightforward, there are some very important tips that help optimize behavioral control. To read about these tips, visit our disciplining your kids article.