Practice makes perfect … well, maybe not quite perfect, but it sure helps! You wouldn’t send your child into a soccer game, tennis match, or ballet recital without first learning the skills of the game or rehearsing the part.

Similarly, it is important to remember not to expect a child knows how to behave appropriately or use calm (not fearful) behavior for new or difficult situations, especially those that he or she has not encountered before or not previously performed well in.

The solution: Practice! One of the best ways to reduce negative or unwanted behaviors is to role-play or practice appropriate behaviors in advance when the situation is less threatening.

Prior to actually attempting the real situation, “practicing” getting into a car seat, saying hello to a neighbor, riding in a grocery cart, eating in a restaurant, demonstrating good sportsmanship in a game, or even making a mistake can give a child a script for what is supposed to happen and how to react. This can in turn build confidence.

Practice can also be fun and creative and feel more like a game than a requirement. The key is that it occurs before the actual situation and the child knows that it is happening; therefore, pressure for performance is reduced.

An incentive may also be a good idea (based on participation and appropriate behavior) to make practices more enticing. So the next time that something feels difficult or does not go as planned, take the pressure off and practice first before you play.