Many parents (me included) fall into the habit of noticing our child’s bad behavior long before noticing their good behavior. It’s understandable…it’s probably how our parents dealt with us, and to be perfectly honest it’s the bad behavior that really pushes our buttons. It’s almost as if parents are programed to home in on bad behavior.
Maybe there’s a better way. Maybe it requires a paradigm shift in the way our parenting brain functions. What if, to change bad behavior, we don’t take notice of it? Taking the argument one step further, what if to change bad behavior, we notice the good behavior?
If we can challenge ourselves as parents, to change this up (in other words to notice the good behavior, and ease up on noticing the bad behavior), we may just find ourselves amazed at the regularity of the good behaviors and actions that our kids show.
How do we notice these good behaviors?
- The obvious first. Simply spend more time watching your kids.This doesn’t mean that we need to sit and watch our kids for hours on end, but taking time out to observe your kids doing what kids do, can give us some great insights into how our children occupy themselves and how they interact with others. This in turn can give us some great opportunities to really focus on the positive behaviors that our children exhibit.
- Be prepared to let bad behavior slide.Now this is a real challenge to most parents, but try to surrender your impulse to pick your kid up on every bad, inappropriate, or contrary behavior. This is not to say that you should completely ignore highly offensive or even dangerous behavior, but give your kids the space to turn around their behavior, and make their “wrong”…”right”
- Motivate yourself.Find the motivation to look for the good behaviors. Set yourself a goal of recognizing and acknowledging a certain number of good actions your child takes part in, or good deeds they do, or kind words they say. If finding the right motivation in times of struggle is proving difficult, offer yourself a reward. A favorite ice-cream at the end of the day can work wonders. You may even be unexpectedly charmed by the behaviors your child exhibits which can often be rewarding in and of itself.
Being a parent requires that we should notice the bad, inappropriate, or even dangerous behaviors in our children. Let’s face it that’s our job, and it fuels the responsibility we have to guide our children. But while it can be exceedingly easy to highlight bad behavior, it can also be exceedingly easy the ignore the good behavior.
Why?…Because bad behavior is inherently more noticeable. It’s usually louder, more brass, ruder, cruder, more problematic, and definitely more disruptive. On the other hand good behavior can all too often slip by unnoticed. It may be politeness, spontaneous acts of kindness, sharing in quiet times of play, showing respect for another’s property, a kind word to a friend, or some other act of thoughtfulness. Often these are quiet, almost introspective acts, and can very easily slip away unrecognized.
It’s in these moments that we can truly connect with our kids, and offer them a differently delivered guidance, but guidance nonetheless.
The way that I see it is that we need to be balanced in how we respond to our kids. If we so easily admonish a child for speaking badly, then we should make every effort to acknowledge them for speaking kindly.
I once read (and I think I have remembered correctly) that it takes seven positive comments to a child, to counteract one bad or critical comment. With this in mind it would seem more important then ever to notice the good behaviors in our children. It’s an extremely powerful action we can take as parents, and the results in terms of less bad behavior, more positive behavior, and greater levels of self-esteem in our children can be stunning.