Believe it or not, every child – even the brattiest among them – does something good everyday. Admittedly, it may be difficult to see in some children but as loving, conscientious parents we must look until we find it.
Catch your child doing good. It is such a simple concept, and yet, in our attempt to be “good” parents, we are likely focused on catching the negative. Dr. Jeffrey Kelly in Solving Your Childs Behavior Problem says, “The best way to motivate a child to good behavior is to develop a plan to reinforce or reward the good actions we want to see.” Praise and attention are powerful motivators. Children learn that they will get noticed and praised when they behave well which, in turn, strengthens their good behavior patterns.
Be specific in praising your children. Don’t just say, “You were good today.” Find specific incidences that define good behavior for your children. “You played nicely with your sister and took turns” and “Thank you for remembering to pick up your toys” describe the behavior you want and expect from your children. Defining good behavior helps them understand the goal.
Offer occasional rewards. There is a difference between reward and bribery. Reward is offered when you catch him doing something good, after the good deed is completed. “You didn’t run up and down the aisles in the store today; I think I’ll buy you some candy.” Bribery occurs before the fact: “If you’re good in the store today I’ll buy you some candy.” Can you see the difference? Reward helps the child be self-motivated to do well. Bribery teaches him to be object-motivated to do well. And remember, object-motivated children won’t perform the behavior without the promise of a treat. Children whose parents use reward-based systems tend to be more secure, more confident, more responsible, and more creative.
Utilize self-fulfilling prophesy. Dr. James Dobson addresses this concept in his book, Hide or Seek. In essence, children become what you tell them they are.
They’ll get your attention one way or another. It’s hard to understand, but to some children, negative attention and even punishment are better than no attention at all. You know that saying, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease”? If children don’t get what they want, your attention, by being good, they will get your attention by being bad. So the key is, don’t make them fight for your attention. Catch them doing something good every day.