Managing your child's behaviour

Helping tamariki (children) to learn to behave the way you want them to is one of the most important jobs of being a parent. Tamariki learn by copying you. The people they learn most from are those closest to them — their parents and whānau.

Teach good behaviour

If you want your tamariki to behave in a certain way, they need you to show them. If you want them to behave in a kind and calm way, they need to see you often being kind and calm. This is how they learn.

Ignore behaviour that you do not like or distract your tamariki with something else. Behaving badly may be your child’s way of getting your attention. Listen to them when they talk to you and spend time with them.

Be clear about what you want your tamariki to do and what you do not want them to do. Make sure that everyone who looks after your tamariki agrees on:

  • screen time
  • eating
  • playing
  • bedtime
  • general expectations.

Tamariki will not stop loving you if you are firm with them. They will feel a lot safer when they know what the limits are, even though they will test them sometimes. Being fair and consistent makes things easier for them — and for you.

For help with managing your child’s behaviour, see the Tākai website.

Conscious parenting — Tākai (external link)


Most small tamariki have tantrums. Here are some tips to stop tantrums before they start, and to help your tamariki when they do have a tantrum.

Stop tantrums before they start

  • Give your tamariki time to say what they want or feel.
  • Know the times when they are likely to have a tantrum, such as when they are tired, hungry or frustrated. Have food and drink on hand or give them something else to do to calm them down.
  • Let them know when change is coming, like when it is almost time to go home.

Helping your tamariki when they have a tantrum

  • You cannot stop a tantrum. Make sure that your tamariki is safe, stay near and carry on with other things.
  • Losing your temper or shouting will not end the tantrum. Ignore the people around you and concentrate on staying calm.
  • If the tantrum is in public, gently take your tamariki to a safe place for 'time out'. Time out means 2 to 3 minutes in a safe place away from other people until things calm down.
  • Try holding them until the tantrum passes. Some parents find this helpful but it can be hard to hold a struggling child. This usually works best when your tamariki is more upset than angry.

Your nurse will be able to support you with strategies to manage your child’s tantrums.

Conduct disorder service

​​Te Ohu Whakarahi Whānau works with you and your tamariki aged 3-8 years to help with health, behaviour and learning needs.

Services and support

This service is free and is available to Mid-Central whānau. Services include:

  • child assessments and evaluations
  • extra guidance, coaching and assistance to help you and your whānau introduce effective parenting skills to help with challenging child behaviours.

Accessing the service

Your healthcare provider can refer you to the service.