At our church the other day, my five-year-old son was on the altar with a group of other children for a Children’s Moment with the pastor. He started fooling around with another child and ignoring the pastor. He had to be corrected in front of the congregation. Needless to say, my wife and I were not thrilled with his antics and made sure that he knew about it after the service.

We are all creatures of routine. From morning to night, our lives are guided by patterns of behavior and action. These routines keep us grounded and give us a roadmap on how to handle various social and interpersonal situations that arise in our lives.

In a similar way, it is imperative that parents teach children the benchmarks for acceptable behavior from an early age. When children learn and adopt these behaviors, it becomes second nature for children to understand how they’re supposed to act in certain social situations. It provides a foundation for them to grow from.

This behavior changes as our children grow up but from the time that they can understand, it’s important that you set the boundaries and standards for how they should act whether in school, at the park, or in church. There may be different settings, but the ways that they should conduct themselves remains largely the same.

Also, it’s critical that parents model the behavior they want their children to follow and to point out behavior that is not acceptable.

Here are a few tips to reinforce the behavior you want to see out of your children:

1. Be Consistent

No matter where you are or what you’re doing, if you’re child’s behavior does not meet your expectations, correct it in the moment. Waiting to handle it at a later time will rob you of the impact of your words. Also, remind your children that their poor behavior has consequences and follow through with a punishment, if necessary.

2. Make it Clear 

Children need to be told EXACTLY what is expected of them and why. They will push back and question your motives and instructions and it’s not enough to say, “Because I told you so!” Take the time to explain to your daughter why she needs to show respect to her coach and she will likely internalize it and take it to heart.

3. Don’t Backslide

If you want your kids to behave a certain way, they need to know that that is the expectation all the time. If you begin giving them a pass, they will see an opening and run right through it, refusing to follow your directives. This has the dual negative effect of allowing them to ignore your wishes and undercutting your ability to deal with similar behavior in the future.

4. Reward Them

If your children respond and do as they’re told, reward them. They will not only appreciate it, but a small act of kindness will hopefully convince them to continue acting the way you’ve taught them.

5. Give Them Room

Once you give your children the instructions on how you want them to behave, give them room to show you that they’ve learned. In other words, try not to harp on them constantly about what to do and how to do it. Your kids are smart. They know what you’ve told them. If they don’t get it, offer a gentle reminder and see if they can put it into practice without micromanaging.