Have you ever been going about your day peacefully, when suddenly your child does or says something that is completely unacceptable? You quickly jump into action to catch them in the act, pointing out the deed, making sure your child knows what they have committed will not be tolerated. You may even wag your finger, raise your voice, and threaten punishment if said behavior is ever exhibited again. This is what we call discipline, and it’s a must. Children need to know when they’re out of line.
Sooo why then do we find ourselves in this cycle over and over again concerning the same exact behaviors?
Doesn’t it seem like the very things we concentrate on changing in others are the exact ones that get perpetuated? We think if we harp on a child’s messy room long enough, they will innately respond by becoming neat freaks. Maybe in some alternate universe that happens, but usually children’s rooms get even messier. Point out a child’s attitude, and we believe they will shape up into joyful, loving, prompt-to-do-it kiddos. Do they? I’m willing to bet the attitude shows up more often than before.
You see, children – like all living beings, need positive reinforcement. They like to be appreciated, they need attention, and they love to be encouraged. There is nothing wrong with letting your child know when an action is not permissible. Where it goes wrong is that we then become hyper vigilant about it, notice it every single time it happens, and feel compelled to speak up. By doing this, we are reinforcing the negative behavior, appreciating it by taking notice every instance, giving attention to it with our words, and unknowingly encouraging them to do it more often.
We should make it our daily goal as parents to become hyper vigilant about catching them in the act of doing something good. By default, most of us are human emergency alarms. WARNING WARNING SOMETHING IS WRONG HERE BEEP BEEP BEEP. We need to become goodness alarms. When things are peaceful, and our children are behaving the way we’d like, we say nothing. Those are the times we need to direct ourselves to verbalize. Catch them in the act!
Animal trainers figured this out a long time ago. There is a teaching out there about how they use positive reinforcement to train dolphins. Managers, coaches, and other leaders caught on and have been employing this method on their teams. We parents need to jump on board ourselves.
Think about it, when was the last time you yielded a positive result from someone repeatedly pointing out a flaw in you? Whether it be a behavior, shortcoming, bad habit, or attitude, I’m willing to bet that criticism has not caused you to change your ways. It just doesn’t work. If what we want is to hear ourselves talk, then we are doing a marvelous job. If our desired outcome is to raise our children in the way they should go, then we need to start paying attention to all the awesome things they do and purposely acknowledge it to them.
(Pssst…this works for your spouse and other adults in your life as well).
Don’t take my word for it, there have been plenty of studies done on the subject. Just from doing it in my own home I can tell you it works wonders, and promotes such a sweet environment. So let’s go catch our loved ones in the act of awesomeness today!