It is easy to notice when a child is doing something wrong, or not following through on what has been asked of him. As a result, parents often find themselves reminding or correcting their children, or maybe even nagging or criticizing.
But when children are acting in a constructive, positive way, it tends to go unmentioned.
Children love attention, and sometimes it may seem to them that the strong responses only come when they have misbehaved in some way. A child may learn to act out just to get a reaction from her parent.
The best way to encourage positive behaviour and attitudes is to take the time to comment on what you see your child doing well.
Think about the type of person you want your child to grow up to be. You may hope that he will be kind, responsible and considerate of others. Watch for occasions when you see him demonstrating these qualities, and recognize his efforts.
Be specific in describing what your child has done. "I like the way you put all your books back on the shelf." From this, she knows that she has been helpful, and that she is appreciated.
"That was very nice of you to share your toys with your sister. Look how happy she is! " She can see that her actions have made someone else feel good, and in turn she can feel good about herself.
Broad statements like, "You are such a good boy!" don’t have the same impact, especially if overused. By giving direct feedback about a particular situation, it is easy for your child to make the connection between his actions and your response.
When you see your child behaving in a positive way, let her know what you see, and reward her with a smile, a hug, and your sincere appreciation. Try to avoid offering money or treats as a prize for good behaviour.
By letting your child experience the good feelings that come with being capable and thoughtful, she is learning the basics of self-discipline. When she knows you are proud of her, she learns to be proud of herself.
Of course, it is not necessary or effective to point out every positive effort your child makes. The key is to spend more time recognizing positive behaviour than you spend criticizing the negative.
As this type of communication becomes a habit, you may be surprised to realize your child’s behaviour is not what you thought it to be. We tend to find what we look for; if you are only aware of what your child is doing wrong, you are likely to see more of it.
By focusing on all the wonderful, responsible, considerate things your child is capable of, you are better able to help him feel good about himself so he can continue to develop these attributes.
Shawna Munro works at the Elspeth Reid Family Resource Centre, a facility of Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba that offers parenting information and support.
» 255 Ninth St., Brandon