Help for the Frazzled Mom!
Last week we talked about ignoring inappropriate behavior. That is not always an easy thing to do, but it becomes easier if it can be replaced with praising positive behavior. We have all heard the phrase, "catch em' doing something good". If we want to reinforce the good behavior in our children then it is so important to acknowledge it. Remember behavior that is given attention will be repeated. That includes both inappropriate and appropriate behavior. Unfortunately, we as parents tend to focus on the not so good things our children do, mainly because we see it as our job to fix it. If we can change our mindset to focus on the good things they do and ignore the other, we will be amazed at the amount of positive interactions we will begin to have with our children. It is human nature to take the path of least resistance and so we usually just tell them what they are doing wrong instead of what they are doing right. Why? Because it is how our society has trained us. It is much harder at times to stop and evaluate what positive things they are doing, because behaving well is just expected. But, if we want to see more of that good stuff, then we need to start praising it. It takes effort to acknowledge our children when they are behaving appropriately. Sometimes it's just easier to leave things well enough alone. Why get involved if there isn't a problem? The answer to that is simple...behavior that is given attention will be repeated. Repeat that to yourself over and over.
Virtually all children, in the course of the day, will do or say something that is worth selecting out for reinforcement. Soon, selectively reinforcing appropriate behavior will become second nature to you. It might seem a little awkward at first, but in time it will be as natural as driving a car, dialing a telephone, playing the piano, or whatever else a person does fluently. Dr. Latham has said, "The more parents scold, spank, and scream to control their children's behavior, the worse the children behave. You can be certain of it. Behavior that receives parents' attention is behavior that is strengthened."
Praise is the way to go. This of course works on all ages. People never outgrow their need for positive verbal praise. It doesn't seem like such a big deal to tell our children how happy it makes us when they are playing nicely. But when we do, it becomes a big deal to them. They will want to whatever it is that we are noticing. Whatever is getting the attention. They want attention and will do whatever it takes to get it. Whether it is positive behavior or negative behavior. As long as it gets attention, it doesn't matter. It WILL be repeated.
This week challenge yourself to stop each time you are about to give attention to negative behavior and stop and redirect it towards something positive. It takes practice, but so well worth the effort. The feelings that are generated when the focus is on the positive, are so rewarding that you will want to continue. That will be motivation enough. Good luck, and as Dr. Latham used to say: