mother writing with young daughter

Modeling Good Behavior During COVID-19

4 ways parents can lead by example

Parents, hang in there. During this historic response to COVID-19, nearly all families are adjusting to a “new normal” that includes working from home, online learning, stay-at-home life and changing routines. It can be difficult for both parents and children. Here’s a few ways you can support one another by modeling good behavior.

1. Walk the talk.

“Stressful situations can bring out feelings of frustration and bad behaviors,” said Sharon Rink, MD, a pediatrician with ThedaCare Physicians-Darboy. “Now is the time for parents to pay particular attention to their own reactions to different situations. Children observe everything and everyone, especially their parents. If parents are showing appropriate coping capabilities, children will do the same.”

2. Communicate your feelings.

Living in close quarters 24/7 can lead to frustration, and even anger. It’s best for parents to identify their feelings and express out loud how those feelings are playing out inside them. Your child will then feel comfortable expressing his or her own feelings, and that can lead to good conversations.

For example, your child might say, “Mom I’m really mad at you for not letting me ride my bike without a helmet.” This is your opportunity to reinforce your child’s healthy expression of feelings by responding, “I see you are mad, but I love you and worry about you getting hurt if you don’t wear a helmet, so until you wear your helmet, you cannot ride your bike.” This process teaches kids to say what they feel instead of lashing out or resorting to unkind remarks.

3. Offer encouragement.

Whether your child is minding their manners, sharing toys or simply listening to your requests, point out their good behavior with a verbal acknowledgement. When your child does as you ask, use reinforcing statements such as “Good job listening the first time” and “Good choice using your inside voice.”

4. Show affection.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stresses the importance of appropriate touch for children and its link to good behavior, recommending you give your children 50 to 100 quick “loving touches” every day.

“It doesn’t always have to be a hug, a simple touch on a child’s back, shoulder or head,” Dr. Rink said. “It makes children feel loved and supported.”


Remember, practice makes perfect. It takes work for parents to get in the habit of doing as they say, describing their feelings and complimenting their children’s good behaviors.

“Time and attention are what kids ultimately want from their parents,” Dr. Rink added, “The best way to get that good behavior is spending time with them when they are doing good and limit your time with them when they’re doing something that you disapprove.”