Want Well-Behaved Kids? 3 Techniques that Work

Photo: Laura St. John / Courtesy Renee Glick PhotographyA few weeks ago, I shared some personal experiences about how to raise a confident child by avoiding common labels: When I grew up, there was no athletic one, smart one, shy one, or "what a handful" one.

Born into a label-free environment, my parents leveled the playing field for us, and we turned into our own beings without any of their predetermined thoughts. Wherever I went, they'd tell people that my sisters and I were such good girls. We overheard it. We believed it. And it worked.

Read More: Want to Raise a Confident Child? Then Avoid These Common Labels

The Flip Side: Setting Expectations
There's a whole other side to this story. On the flip side, before we went anywhere, my mom would tell my sisters and I how our teachers, neighbors, and friends all thought we were so well-behaved. She would tell us stories (or probably even make up stories) about how they thought we were polite, hard-working, good listeners, friendly and nice. Then she'd clearly tell us how she expected us to behave when we got there. Before she let us be free to go wherever we were going, she'd follow up with how lucky she was to have such good girls.

"Miss Norma tells me how impressed she is with how nicely you girls act whenever you go next door. She tells me how nicely and politely you speak to her. I expect you'll always say please and thank you to her." Then my mom would slip in, "That really makes me happy."

What kid doesn't want to make their mom happy? We delivered.

Make Up Stories About What Others Say About Their Behavior

Like my original article explained, it's one thing to overhear your parent telling others about how good you are. But it's different when you're told that other people have told your parents what good kids you are. Whether they actually did or not -- I doubt it now but I believed it then! -- the bottom line was that we had the feeling that we shouldn't disappoint anyone we knew or came into contact with. They made us believe that everyone in the world thought we were good. Like, Brady Bunch good.

Read More: How to Let Your Kids Set the Rules: And Be Sure They Follow Them

You might worry this would cause some kind of crazy pressure on us kids, but it didn't. It felt great to be one of those good kids that people talk about.

A Quiet Remark to Reinforce Your Expectation

Want to know the icing on top? I feel like I'm digging into a recipe and giving away my mom's secret sauce. Her little quiet slip-ins of, "And of course she said that. That's how I expect my girls to behave." She would always end her remarks with these quiet little "of course" kinds of sayings. Bam! Those quiet remarks went a lot further then you'd think. That is how how she set expectations, and triple reinforced them so they were locked in. A whole fortress of good expectations surrounded us wherever we went.

So try these techniques:
1) Tell your kids that they're good. Let them overhear you telling others they're good.
2) Tell your kids that other people say they're very good, too. Give specific examples.
3) Reinforce your expectations by saying of course they are, that's how you expect them to be.

My, How The Tables Have Turned

Now I do take this with me wherever I go with my three boys. I put my mom's ways to the test nearly everyday. And it works. It works before we go into the grocery store. It works before we sit down at a restaurant. It works when I know my kids are getting cranky hungry or cranky tired. I continuously find myself setting expectations for them like this wherever we go.

Read More: Birth Order Traits: How It May Affect Your Kids & Your Parenting

Now I finally figured out, too, that it is totally made up. I make up that the people at the restaurant have probably "heard what good boys you are," so I expect that they will sit nicely waiting for their dinner. Then when the waitresses are impressed with how my boys may politely ask for their dinner, I say, "See! I knew you'd ask so nicely." It works. I guess I turn my made-up stories turn into real stories by making the expectations turn into reality.

How I Know It's Working
I can say I know it's working because of how my kids act when I'm not around. I get the same good reports from friends, neighbors, and teachers. I admit, I look more forward to teacher's conferences because I like to hear how my kids behave even more importantly to me than their grades. Maybe it's just me, but I believe that their character -- their actions and choices they make -- are my highest priority to develop as a mom.

I'm Not Bragging

I know my kids will be good kids when I leave them with you, but I'm not boasting my kids are always so good. I'm sure I'll get a lot of people tearing me apart if this article hits the Yahoo News! Headlines again! I'm not some parenting "expert" -- I'm just telling you what worked on me when I grew up and what's working for me now that I'm a mom. Believe me -- we've got our fair share of tears, crying, fighting and all the wrestling you can imagine with three boys. I've got my mom meltdowns, too. My life really isn't the Brady Bunch.

But would I ever tell you that out loud, so my kids could overhear me? Absolutely no way -- never!

This post was written by Laura St. John.

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