Remember that a basic human need is to be recognized. As outlined in Children: The Challenge by Rudolph Driekers, if children don't receive a healthy dose of positive reinforcement (8:1) per day, they will resort to any kind of recognition, even negative, or give up.
This is a sign of a discouraged child
Rather than wait until he misbehaves to correct him, "catch" your child being good. It's the difference between raging at red lights or being grateful for the greens. It takes more effort because you have to be conscious of the good and put energy into recognizing what is going right. But it pays off in the long run with more well behaved children.
It's a universal law: we get more of what we focus on. And it's universally practiced in raising good kids and kids who want to be good.
To help you catch your child being good, I've listed the first letter of the word "CATCH" in an easy to remember acronym:
C - Call kids by their name
Not their full name you trot out when they're in trouble ("Andrew Scott McFarland!") but their name in regular conversations to recognize who they are. I love to use endearing pet names. "Muffin Cakes," "Buddy," or "Baby Girl" can turn a child to putty in your hands. What pet nicknames did your parents use that made you feel uniquely loved? Our name is the key to our identity. When we speak another person's name with love and respect, we acknowledge their core worth.
A - Ask questions about what they are doing/feeling
Try open-ended questions that invite longer conversations. Don't be discouraged if your child just grunts. Ask at different times of day and in different ways. "What was your best and worst part of today?" "If your day was a movie, what would the title be?" My kids tend to clam up right after school but as I tuck them into bed, they are bursting with information. But don't force or interrogate. If they really don't want to talk, respect that.
Thank them for what they have done, are doing or will do. In other words, "Thank you for picking up your socks," you might note, and if they haven't done so yet, say the same thing. They might question, "I didn't pick them up." And you get to respond with a smile, "But I know you were going to so I wanted to thank you in advance." This really works. It's shaping behavior through what you expect with positives. People respond much better with positives and the potential you see in them.
C - Compliment them
In private and in public. In most cases, children swell with pride to hear adults sing their praises in public. Compliment what they have done, but also who they are...the lasting characteristics. And compliment what they are working towards, not just accomplished. This uses encouragementand praise, the dynamic duo.
Offer to give them support when they are floundering. But don't do it all for them. Show your confidence in their ability. Just support or scaffold what they need help with and let them do what they can.
Catch your child being good at least 8 times for every 1 correction. Start counting today to see how much you notice the good over the bad. The more you focus on the good, you'll be amazed at how many green lights you and your child will sail through in life.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on the blog, A Spoonful Of Parenting. It has been republished here with permission.
JULIE K. NELSON is a mother, wife, professor, author of "Keep It Real and Grab a Plunger: 25 tips for surviving parenthood" and "Parenting With Spiritual Power," and is a contributor on radio and TV. Her website is www.aspoonfulofparenting.com.