Choosing Wise Actions

  Practical activities and resources for promoting an understanding that:-



Build a warm relationship with our children as the foundation for talking about and dealing with matters of behaviour.  Ideally this needs to be well established before the adolescent years.

Seek to be respectful, calm, patient, fair and all the other qualities we would like to see in our children.  They look to us as a model of behaviour.

We can ensure that they know that they are always loved, even when their behaviour has not been good and needs to change.  The focus is on the behaviour and not the child.  Their basic worth is not in question. Focus on what flows from the behaviour and avoid labelling the child as bad.

Promote the aim of doing no harm and the aim of being helpful as the principles to apply to all behaviour and ethical questions.

Encourage our children to take responsibility for themselves and their actions.  Ensure that they come to see clearly the link between their actions and the consequences that follow and that there are always positive or negative consequences. Children are not likely to be looking very far ahead in considering consequences. They may be unaware of the consequences of actions particularly the longer term consequences.

Keep in mind that children are very likely to disregard risks when there is something that they want to do.  While accepting this reality it falls to parents to foster focussing on risks.

Keep in mind that adolescents in particular are naturally inclined to risky behaviour and tend to push aside considerations of risk when pursuing fun activities.  We need to be aware that adolescence continues well into the twenties as brain development is still happening.

Adolescents need guidance and guidelines.  Society has put in place laws to protect children including adolescents.  In particular laws concerning drugs, alcohol and cars protect young people and respect for them needs to be calmly insisted on.


  • Establish behaviour rules and expectations and apply them consistently, but ensure that over time understanding replaces the need for rules.
  • Encourage reflection on whether their attitudes produce actions contributing to positive results for everyone.
  • We can tell our children that it is all right to make mistakes -that it is part of the way we learn how to act.  Also that we probably won’t get things right the first time and that we will need to keep trying.
  • Find time to talk about things that happen each day. If conflicts and difficulties have arisen, discuss them after emotions have calmed.  Consider them to be opportunities for learning and growth.
  • Spend time with your child discussing and reflecting on events, incidents, experiences: What happened? -Facts, feelings, outcomes. How can we understand what happened better? -Interpreting, explaining. What have we learned? -Insights, new awareness.
  • Specifically discuss how to handle anger should it arise and help them to understand that actions when in an emotional state often do not have good consequences.
  • We can assist our children to be aware of the more “obvious” negative action > consequence connections. E.g. Stay up late > tired and grumpy the next day, can’t concentrate at school.  Eat junk food > poor health and fitness.  Drink alcohol > tendency to irresponsible behaviour.  Smoking > ill health. Keep bad company > grow like the company you keep.  Drugs and alcohol > addiction risks.
  • But it’s not all bad! We can make our children aware of the positive action > consequence connections. E.g.  Be nice to people > have lots of friends.  Plenty of sleep and good diet > plenty of energy for school and sport.  Apply yourself to school > achievement and self confidence.
  • We need to seriously consider how “mental inputs” might be affecting actions.  We can put limits on exposure to television, internet, social networking websites, computer games and mobile phone use.  See that they aren’t taking time from other worthwhile activities and face to face interaction with friends.  Discuss internet use.  We can spend time online with our children.
  • Talk about cyber bullying.  We need to ensure that our children are not participating in cyber bullying and have strategies for dealing with it should they become a victim.  Stress that online behaviour standards need to be the same as for face to face interaction.
  • We can model and promote good listening skills. Some suggestions:-
    We can make eye contact and give full attention while listening patiently and respectfully without interrupting. Then reflect back what has been said.
    We can watch our tone of voice and facial expression.
    We can avoid criticising what has been said and recognise when it is best to not say anything.
    We can read stories regularly and enjoy discussing them.
  • When behaviour is negative: We can consider attention-seeking behaviour as an indication that the child is actually needing attention. We can seek to ignore attention-seeking misbehaviour as much as possible and give lots of attention and encouragement at other times.
    We can avoid getting trapped into arguing or fighting or any form of power struggle by remaining firm but kindly. Misbehaviour should be dealt with privately rather than in public situations. Always we can seek to keep the focus on the behaviour while maintaining trust in the child’s potential. We can create appropriate logical consequences following misbehaviour and apply them as training rather than as punishment.
    If a child has become withdrawn or depressed we can work to build their inner confidence by  avoiding criticising failures and instead focussing on encouraging positive efforts. We can acknowledge the difficulties they are facing.


Look for books, songs and movies about: Actions, Consequences, Goodwill, Courtesy, Thoughtfulness, Consideration, Helpfulness, Kindness, Care, Compassion, Altruism, Responsibility, Reliability, Intention, Patience, Difficulties, Self-control, Self-discipline, Reflection, Character.

Here are some suggestions:-

SONGS  about Actions and Consequences

  • “The Oompa Loompa Song” -Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Video

MOVIES about Actions and Consequences

  • “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” Things work out for the good kids but not for the naughty kids.
  • “It’s a Wonderful Life” (classic b&w 1947) starring James Stewart:  A man realises how significant his life has been after all -that he has changed for the better the lives of many people.
  • “Gandhi” starring Ben Kingsley.  The story of the champion of non-violent action.

STORIES AND BOOKS about Actions and Consequences

  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf.  Aesop’s Fables.