Your child won’t go to bed readily. Your children give new meaning to the term sibling rivalry. Mealtimes are a nightmare.

How can you change your child from a horrid brat to a personable youngster?

Identify the need for change: firstly you need to identify which behaviour you wish to change – and that means both Mum and Dad because you both need to feel that the changes are necessary and both be committed to carrying through on a joint course of action.

Try positive reinforcement: often you can change behaviour simply by praising good behaviour and by ignoring inappropriate behaviour, e.g. thank the child for getting into bed without making a fuss (You make me so happy when you get into bed so nicely. Thank you.); comment on co-operative play with a sibling (You and your brother are playing so nicely. Well done, my sweetheart, you are sharing your toys like a big girl.) or express delight when your child eats those dreaded vegetables! (Goodness me! You finished those carrots so quickly. I can see your eyes twinkling, you will definitely be able to see in the dark now!) You may feel that all this praise and affirmation is a little over the top – because there must be lots (!) but this ploy really works!

Ignoring bad behaviour is VERY difficult but exercise a little self-restraint and you will be the benefactor. Sometimes we indulge ourselves by nagging at children and by constantly drawing attention to unacceptable behaviour. A child can then decide that even negative attention is better than no attention at all…

Time-out works: if inappropriate behaviour persists and your child is ignoring all your tactics, employ time out. Pick him/her up or march to the bedroom/the bottom step or the bathroom and then isolate the child for a short period. Tell him/her why you are doing so but then don’t say any more; you do not need to defend your stance and don’t get drawn into negotiations!

Avoid smacking: smacking should be a very final resort and limited to extreme behaviour. Sometimes your smacking can lead to modelling on the part of the child and he/she can, in turn, become aggressive This is reason enough to give pause before constantly disciplining your child in this way…

And don’t expect this course of action to work immediately. Things may get worse before they get better – your child will push all your buttons when they realise that you will stand firm and that both parents are working together and cannot be played off against another!

Good luck and hang in there!