Feed me and I will grow.
Close your eyes.
Imagine that someone is standing in front of you with a balloon in each hand. One balloon is large and full of air. You cannot help but notice it. This balloon represents your child’s difficult behavior. The other balloon has hardly any air and is very small. You can hardly see it. This balloon is the good behavior.
Which balloon are you going to focus on?
Often when there is a lot of difficult behavior it is that negative behavior that gets all the attention. Parents (and I am guilty) often think that they need to be more proactive with this behavior. So, they add a myriad of arrows to their quill to be ready to manage and hopefully conquer this behavior.
No one will argue that knowing how to manage difficult behavior is critically important. However, parents must also understand that of equal importance is the emphasis, the time, and the effort made using parenting strategies that will encourage and motivate positive behavior in children. Lean into the positive behavior. Lay on the praise within context.
You will soon find that you are spending less time giving attention to the negative behavior, and the negative behavior will become less common.
The best part? In the meantime, the positive behavior that you have been ‘feeding’ will increase.
The little balloon will get bigger and you won’t be able to miss it.
The Ultimate Tip to Improve Negative Behavior
Use Descriptive Praise
Most parents realize that it is important to praise their children within context. By focusing on the effort within context, children make the positive connections. Many parents don’t often understand is just how useful this simple strategy can be when it comes to encouraging good behavior. Furthermore, many parents will often use praise in a rather vague or exaggerated way, and say things like: ‘Well done’, ‘That was great’, ‘Fantastic’ or ‘Good boy’. This gives your child the message that you are pleased with them, but does not tell them exactly what it is you are pleased with.
Instead of praising in a rather vague or exaggerated way by saying things like: ‘Well done’, ‘That was great’, ‘Fantastic’ or ‘Good boy’, use description praise. This gives your child the message that you are pleased with him, and he knows exactly the reasons why.
9 Examples of Descriptive Praise
- ‘I noticed you listened and did as I asked straight away, thank you’
- ‘You have put all your toys in the toy box, good tidying’
- ‘You got on with your homework today without being reminded, well done.’
- ‘I saw you two sharing and taking turns‘
- Even if your child is not quite demonstrating the behavior you want, praise every step of the way.
- ‘That’s great, I see you have tidied up some of your toys.’
- ‘Thank you for doing as I asked’ (even though your child may have moaned and complained while doing it)
- ‘Good, you have started to get ready’
- ‘Well done for taking turns’ (even though this was done grudgingly)
Use descriptive praise and you will be communicating with your child exactly what it is you are pleased with. Children generally thrive on positive attention and want their parent’s approval, if you spend time with them and praise them every day, this can have a positive effect on behavior, and for children with low level difficult or challenging behavior, this will often be all that is needed to turn things around.
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