Good Kids in A Week
Well, better kids anyway!
Being a parent can be stressful. Any information you can get to make the experience easier is always welcome. Well, Positive Re-enforcement works for pretty much all children.
I used this with my own children before I knew it had such a grand title – or any title at all! It is based on such a simple idea that I did not expect anything so straight forward to work. But it worked for me and I’m sure it will work for you.
What is this magical idea? It is that children want attention. Think about it this way - it is a bit like the saying about ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ – any attention is better than no attention.
When children want your attention they will do anything to get it, even doing something they know is wrong. The child misbehaves, you tell them off = attention. Children want their parent’s attention any way possible, even by doing things they know will get them into trouble. Guess what? This has a fancy title too – A Negative Attention Cycle.
A lot of children’s misbehaviour is rewarded with some sort of attention. Often they have been well behaved and this has not been noticed.
From a parent’s point of view this makes for a stressful life. However you can change this bad behaviour to good, or at least better, behaviour surprisingly easily.
Watch until your child is being good. This does not have to be anything special – sharing toys, taking their dirty dishes to the sink, coming when you call them. Once you see them being good - praise them. I know you probably do not believe this can work, but it does. The trick is to continue to notice good behaviour and praise them for it. You have to keep up the positive praise and attention.
Once they get over the shock of you remarking on them being good, they will try and be good to get this positive attention again. As you will have guessed this is the Positive Attention Cycle. It will really make life a lot easier and more pleasant for everyone.
What kind of praise?
Well, for younger children it can be a smile and a pat on the head. However for older children it needs to be more specific, clear and personal - “Oh good, I’m pleased you’ve started your homework”. Make eye contact and use a warm tone of voice.
Praising the child in front of other people also reinforces how happy you are with their good behaviour and gives them extra attention for being good.
Research shows that children who are praised for simple, ordinary things turn out to be the most confident, successful and independent adults. It is important to only praise when the praise is deserved so that the appropriate behaviour is encouraged.
When your child does misbehave (I said this was good, not a miracle) give him as little attention as possible. Do not make any eye contact, turn your body away, and remain calm. Target any behaviour you particularly want to reduce, for example tantrums, whining, or insolence. It is important to be consistent. Try to return to praising him for any good behaviour as soon as possible.
It is important that your child realises that it is the behaviour you dislike, not the child.
Break the habit of the Negative Attention Cycle – excessive criticism is bad for a child’s self confidence too. Also you do not need this stress in your life!
This will make you and your child’s lives much easier. It will also make you more confident in your parenting skills – Encourage yourself too. Focus on what you do right as a parent – there are no perfect parents just ‘good enough’ ones.
Further information on this topic can be found in Part Three of Success begins at Home, A Parent's Guide to Education. This Parenting e-course is available at the Learn and Do eBay store Practical, common sense parenting tips that Work!