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Babies and children listen to what you say and copy what you do from the moment they are born. By watching how you behave, your child will learn about how to react in similar situations. You are your child’s role model. It’s really important to notice the behaviours that you want to see in your children, so that they know to repeat them.

Tips to encourage positive behaviour:

  • Show appreciation and love through words and affection. Your child will learn to talk and act based on how you talk to them and how you treat them.
  • Be polite and respectful when you talk to your child. This will help show your child how to talk and interact with others. Saying please and thank you will set a good example.
  • Give your child lots of praise when you feel proud of them or when you see a desirable behaviour. This helps your child learn what positive behaviour looks like. Reward the behaviour with lots of attention, praise, cuddles and favourite activities. Don’t worry about praising your child too much. Make it clear to your child what you are praising.
  • Create family rules that apply to everyone. Keep rules clear and simple, suitable for your child’s age and ability. Reward and praise your child for following agreed routines and rules. Use positive language to reinforce these expectations e.g., “we use gentle hands” instead of “no hitting”. Tell and show your child what you want them to do instead of what you don’t want them to do. For example, say “Please put your toys in the box” and show them what to do, rather than “Don’t leave your toys out”.”.
  • Let your child see you express and deal with difficult emotions. When you express your anger without shouting or hurting others, you will teach your child how to deal with angry feelings.
  • Nobody is perfect. Everyone loses their cool occasionally and says things they are sorry for. It’s okay to say sorry to your child if you have been cross. Apologising to them or giving them a cuddle after using harsh words helps them to see what they can do to make it right when they lose control of their emotions. You are showing your child what to do and it will make them feel valued.
  • Using the acronym HALT (is your child Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) can be a helpful reminder to stop and think about the possible feelings and needs underneath the behaviour, before responding.
  • Spend quality time with your child. Examples include playing a game, reading a book, or eating together as a family. Your child will love this special time with you. It is a great opportunity to chat and spend time together as a family, and will also help their development.

Where to get advice and support

Universal parenting support and advice is provided by midwives, health visitors, GPs and your local authority. Early help programmes such as Flying Start (if you live in a Flying Start area) and Families First are also available.

Look after yourself. Meeting up with other parents can be great for your wellbeing. Your local Family Information Service ( will be able to tell you what’s on in your area.