kids in a circle smilingIf you’d like your child to build their emotional and social skills, but they seem to be too busy getting into trouble, take heart: Here are five things you can do to set kids up for good behavior — and help boost their emotional intelligence in the process.

Catch them being good. See your child sharing, taking turns, helping a friend pick up their toys or walking away when another kid gets aggressive? Get down on your kid’s level, give them a big smile and tell them you’re proud of them for [insert positive behavior here]. Your praise goes a long way to reinforcing the good stuff your kid’s already doing.

Stick to a routine. Kids feel happiest and safest when they know what to expect. So do yourself and them a favor and stick to a regular bedtime and regular meal and snack times. Bonus: A fed, rested kid is much less likely to lose it than a hungry, tired one.

Pay attention to triggers and minimize them when you can. Does your kid freak anytime another kid tries to play with their soccer ball? Then quit bringing it (and other prized possessions) to the park.

Limit screen time. More than two hours of electronic media a day has been linked to increased aggression. When kids do have screen time, make sure it’s age appropriate — check commonsensemedia.org, which rates shows, games and more on Violence & Scariness as well as Educational Value and Positive Messages.

Schedule special time every day. Just as kids need daily play time (preferably outside), they also need daily quiet time with you. Even a few minutes at the end of the day where you give your kid your undivided attention, cuddle and talk about whatever your kid wants is precious for a small child. Make a big deal of it (even if it’s only five minutes): Announce it’s Hayden’s Special Time and make a point of doing it every evening. Even better if you can spare a few more minutes: Let them decide on an activity to do together — a game of Q’s Race to the Top, maybe, or making up a story together and having their stuffed animals act it out. Have fun — and enjoy building positive behavior with your kid!